Halloween is coming up and everywhere you look is decisively spooky. If you’re literarily inclined, one way to indulge this seasonal atmosphere is to curl up with a good horror book.
Creative Writing students Kenzie Clarke and Erika Parsons are both huge horror buffs, and are happy to share their favourites.
Clarke has a broad taste in horror, from classic literature and 1920s silent films to modern-day Netflix series.
“I’m a big fan of atmosphere in horror, so some of my favourites are gothic horror, like [Bram Stoker’s] Dracula and The Turn of the Screw [by Henry James],” Clarke said. “It feels like a lot of horror today is filled with jump scares and gore, but I prefer the ones that rely more on the story.”
“If you’re looking for a film adaptation of these stories,” Clarke continued, “I would recommend the 1931 Dracula or the 1922 silent film Nosferatu for a less empathetic version of the character. For Turn of the Screw, 1961’s The Innocents is a beautifully told ghost story. I’d also check out The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix for a more modern update.”
It’s hard to talk about horror without bringing up Stephen King. Parsons’ personal favourite is Misery.
“The book falls under the psychological horror subgenre,” she explained. “It’s a story that follows a more realistic narrative than many of King’s other novels, and it’s the plausibility of the main antagonist’s depravity plus the slow burn of the terror that the protagonist experiences that makes this such a horrifying yet captivating read.”
Looking for atmospheric horror? This may be the one for you. “I’m a huge fan of books that are able to make me feel a tangible sense of dread, something that Misery achieves wonderfully,” Parsons said.
If you prefer bite-sized horror, check out Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, edited by Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward. The anthology has Parsons’ endorsement.
The collection contains “short horror stories and poems by a variety of authors, both new and well-established,” Parsons explained.
“Many of the stories and poems fall into what I would consider literary horror rather than traditional genre horror, but this anthology is full of hauntingly beautiful, gut-wrenchingly horrifying, and sometimes downright repulsive narratives that I feel any horror fan can enjoy,” she said. “I love how the detailed imagery, both through words and actual pictures, really brings each story to life.”
Nervous about dipping your toes into horror fiction? If you’re a newbie to the genre, or just have a weaker stomach, Madeleine Roux’s Asylum could be just right.
“This book falls into the more lighthearted side of genre horror while still maintaining a creepy feel,” Parsons reviewed. “I would consider this novel to be more of a classic ghost story that has your run-of-the-mill possession and antagonistic ghostly antics and is mostly intended for a YA audience, but it’s the imagery that is included in each chapter that really makes it a more unsettling read. Sometimes I don’t really feel like reading something that is explicitly graphic or intense, so this is a go-to for me when I want to read something spooky, yet simple.”
Whether you take up residence in a fort of blankets and arm yourself with popcorn to watch a horror flick or brave the genre with a well-known King book, there’s no better time of year to give horror a chance. Hopefully the tricks don’t outweigh the treats.