The horror! The horror! Quick, can anyone tell me where that line is from? And no, I’m not talking about one of the most famous movie lines muttered from Marlon Brando in the Francis Ford Coppola classic, Apocalypse Now.
It may seem unfortunate that most of the screams and thrills people find are in movies. I’m a true horror movie buff and I love having the ever loving shit scared out of me as I watch some poor sap die a horrible death from some maniac or supernatural monster. But it may come as a surprise that you can feel these same emotions in books. One of my favorite genres is horror. There has been many times where I have been sitting in my bedroom late at night all alone and scare myself to death by what I am reading.
There are hundreds of books I could recommend that can send chills up and down your spine but since I have limited space, I will give you some of my all time favorite tales of terror. You may find yourself surprised that these books will give you nightmares.
Many of the horror stories I have love are short tales of murder, mayhem and death. One of my all time favorite horror authors is Edgar Allen Poe. My appreciation for Poe began when I watched Vincent Price starring in many screen adaptations of Poe’s work. Two Poe stories that always give me the willies are The Tell-Tale Heart and The Masque of the Red Death. The Tell-Tale Heart is a chilling telling by the narrator as he tells about a murder he committed and how he got rid of the body. The police come to him to ask him questions about the missing person. They have no clue that he is the killer, and he is about to get away with the murder. But as the police interview him, he begins to hear a noise, a sound that won’t go away. The sound becomes louder to his ears, till he is near insanity, wanting it to stop:
"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"
The Masque of the Red Death takes place during a masquerade ball where the guests are murdered by some unknown killer. The question is, who is this killer and why is he targeting these people? The ways they die are very gruesome. But no one is safe because the Red Death is actually a terrible plague that has swept across the land.
Don’t Look Now by Daphne de Maurier is another short story that was made into a cult classic movie in 1973 with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. A married couple are on vacation, trying to get pass their grief over the death of their little girl who drowned. The husband begins to see a little blonde girl in a red coat everywhere. He starts to believe she is his daughter because his daughter had drowned in the same type of coat this strange little girl is wearing. When he finally catches up to the little girl, the twist will shock the ever loving crap out of you. The ending to the story gave me nightmares for weeks. And if you decide to see the movie, don’t be surprised if the last two minutes makes you piss your pants from fright.
The one type of creature, that makes me want to hide in a closet and pray for a quick death if they find me are zombies. I blame George Romero for that lifelong fear. But without Richard Matheson there would be no Night of the Living Dead. Matheson wrote a story in 1954 that has influenced many horror authors and Hollywood filmmakers. I Am Legend helped develop the vampire and zombie genre by building upon the idea of an apocalypse of disease that will destroy the world. This story is the reason Stephen King wanted to write horror and responsible for flesh eating zombies becoming such a cultural phenomenon in movies and literature. It is about the one soul survivor left on Earth after a virus has turned humans into undead mindless zombies. The reader goes through the experience alongside Robert as he tries not to go crazy because every night he is stalked by these creatures. Imagine if you were the last person on Earth with no where to turn to for help, only you own thoughts to keep you company as you try to stay alive or become food.
Speaking of Stephen King, he is my idol, my reason for reading and wanting to write like he does. He has shaped the horror, science fiction and fantasy genre alike. It is so hard to choose his best work. The three that come to mind are The Stand, It and The Shining. With The Shining, King is able to tap into a person’s inner demons and the eventual break down of a person’s mind because of those demons. Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, this is one of the finest books I have ever read. It gave me an intense dislike of clowns and the underground sewage system, and The Stand is my number one favorite book of all time. The Stand taps into the desolation and fear in people of what is right and wrong and how one would survive if an epidemic such as a virus wiping out the world did occur.
Many of the books I have listed are classics. There is one final book I would like to mention that was just released this year and you may come as a surprise because it is a Young Adult book written for the teen audience. The Forest of Hand and Teeth by Carrie Ryan is such a book that in my past twenty odd years of reading scared me to the point I was looking over my shoulder as I read, expecting the monsters from the book to be standing there. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a cross between M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. This book has tapped deep into my fears and psyche. Imagine the world filled with zombies who want to eat you. You have no where to turn, for they are all around you, crying in hunger, waiting for the right moment to attack. Imagine the only thing that keeps you from being infected by them and becoming one of them or becoming zombie food is a fence that keeps them out. What if that fence was breached and they were able to come through? This is a book not for the faint of heart. There is death and destruction, filled with violence and fear. The fear is not surviving from the monsters whose only goal is to consume the living. But is this truly surviving? (For more on The Forest of Hands and Teeth, you can read my review here: http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/2009/03/forest-of-hands-and-teeth-book-review.html)
I thank B-Sol for giving me this opportunity to talk about my favorite horror reads. What are some of your favorite horror books or authors you can recommend to fellow horror fans?
Katiebabs from Babbling About Books and More! http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @Katiebabs