Five cult classic horror movies inspired by books -- and available now!
The entertainment industry, with its long-established allergy to new ideas, often mines the bestseller list for source material. Studios are more likely to greenlight a scary story after it has been officially vetted by the reading public. They're also less likely to interfere with a proven earner, which is why the most interesting and distinctive films are usually literary adaptations. In horror cinema, however, the filmmaker's vision of a story so often becomes definitive in the minds of viewers that it overshadows the books that inspired that vision in the first place (unless of course, those books were written by Stephen King).
Edith Scob in Eyes Without a Face
With that in mind, the Westword Book Club has compiled a list of five cult classic horror movies that were inspired by novels and short stories, deliberately avoiding canonical works like Dracula and Frankenstein as well as blockbusters like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby in favor of slightly obscure titles that deserve more eyeballs. Then we Lars von Trier'ed ourselves into a corner by only selecting movies that are available to stream instantly, so readers can easily check out these great films before their Halloween spirit is buried beneath the snows of November. Read on, and enjoy your nightmares.
The Wicker Man
Based on the novel Ritual by David Pinner
Though the 1973 version of The Wicker Man has been eclipsed in the public consciousness by the bug-fuck crazy remake starring Nicolas Cage, the original, directed by Robin Hardy, is scarier, less misogynistic and more faithful to Ritual, David Pinner's 1967 novel that inspired it. The Wicker Man is a thoroughly British tale of a moralistic Scotland Yard detective who travels to a remote island in the Hebrides to search for a missing girl. The islanders deny the girl's very existence, and seem to be in the strange thrall of Lord Summerisle, a man whose absolute evil is made immediately evident by the fact that he is portrayed by Christopher Lee. Lee, who most viewers will recognize from his role as Saruman in the Lord of the Rings series, makes a meal of this sinister character, imbuing his every line with genteel menace and carrying off some rather on-the-nose dialogue with little more than his bone-chilling baritone. We won't spoil the end, but let's just say it involves sacrificial pagan rituals and not sleeping for days.
Available on Amazon Instant Video.
Let the Right One In
Based on the novel Låt den rätte komma in by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In isn't a horror movie in the traditional sense, though there are plenty of shocking scenes of violence in the film. The plot centers on the burgeoning relationship between Oskar, a twelve-year-old boy from a Stockholm suburb and Eli, the seemingly pre-adolescent vampire who moves in next door. While Oskar enjoys Eli's help when she's defending him from bullies, he soon realizes that caring for someone who feeds off of human blood is messy work fraught with moral compromises. The script, adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own 2004 novel, whittles down some of the backstory and supernatural world-building and instead focuses on the tentative friendship of his lead characters. Alfredson's film, steeped in the melancholy of a sunless Swedish winter, subverts the conventions of horror movies and vampire mythos, making Eli into one of the most relatable vampires in film history. A bloodthirsty monster lurking beneath a cute-kid exterior, Eli is all the more terrifying for being so sympathetic. It should be noted that we're discussing the 2008 Swedish film, and not its well-meaning but pointless American remake starring Carrie's Chloe Grace Moretz, cinema's poster child for well-meaning but pointless horror remakes.
Available on Netflix.