Horror for Halloween

October 24, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 4 Comments

Being a horror fan has its drawbacks.  One of them is that, if horror actually scares you, you lose sleep every time you indulge.  So for the last few years I’ve limited myself to watching horror films only on Halloween.  As for reading horror, I make a point to read all of Stephen King’s books as soon as they come out, but otherwise I haven’t touched the genre much since high school.  Alas, this year Just After Sunset won’t be coming out until mid-November, not quite in time for the 31st.

My vote for Scariest Book Ever would have to go to Pet Sematary.  Next would be Thinner, with The Shining in third place.  (Note that these all go to the illustrious Mr. King).  I remember reading The Shining when I was maybe 12, lying on my bed, and suddenly leaping up (still holding the book in my hands), scooting down the hall (still reading), and wedging myself between my brothers on the couch.  We weren’t really on a touchy-feely basis, and they were none too thrilled, but… it was the topiary scene!  Come on!  (Now that we’re all grown up, we occasionally see horror films together, though I’ve lived at least 300 miles away for years.  We saw The Ring, Gothika, and Signs, and I screamed in all of them; everyone else in the theatre laughed – at me.

Probably I’m too sensitive to read scary things.  I don’t know why I keep subjecting myself to it, though I know, like eating garlicky pizza for dinner, that I’ll regret it at bedtime.  One of the big things I have a problem with is the book covers.  It’s easy to deal with a book cover while you’re reading it, because it’s pointing away from you.  But there have been a few books I’ve had to turn upside down on my night stand, because looking at them gave me the heebie-jeebies.  I particularly remember wishing I hadn’t seen one of the photographs in Jack the Ripper: Case Closed, and similarly giving myself a fright with another photo from a book on bog bodies.

If you like this sort of thing, here are some other horror novels I thought were actually scary.  Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and In the Cut by Susanna Moore were all great, and far better than the movies they inspired.  On the other hand, I Am Legend  the movie was both scarier and better than the book – not to mention almost unrecognizably different.  I also thought Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk did all right as a horror novel, though his Haunted was mostly just gross.

For Halloween this year I plan to read Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box.  This year he published 20th Century Ghosts, which I think was an absolutely terrific, exemplary, and highly original collection of horror short stories.  I’m hoping his earlier work was consistent with this.  We’ll see when I review it next week.

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