Not only am I ranking my Top 20 Horror Movies for you this October, but I'm doing likewise with the scary books that I hold near and dear. As with the movies that I'm discussing in that Top 20, I'm not attempting to rank these novels based on their place in pop culture, but rather their place in my heart. Isn't that sweet? Seriously, there are some fine books that didn't make the cut here because there just wasn't room, and there are definitely some well-regarded books that didn't make the cut because I don't really like them. That also means there are some personal favorites of mine on this list that you may not have heard of. If that's the case, I promise that I'll reward your trust with a gnarly tale if you give one of them a spin. Finally, I may have shortchanged some of the titans in the genre (hey there, Stephen King) as I didn't want to overload this list with titles by the same author, though Uncle Stevie did manage to score three direct hits on my list.
The list thus far:
#20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980)
#19) Manstopper by Douglas Borton (from 1988)
#18) Intensity by Dean Koontz (from 1995)
#17) The Terror by Dan Simmons (from 2007)
#16) The Snake by John Godey (from 1978)
#15) Son of the Endless Night by John Farris (from 1985)
#14) Rockinghorse by William W. Johnstone (from 1986)
#13) Vampire$ by John Steakley (from 1990)
#12) Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (from 1978)
#11) Christine by Stephen King (from 1983)
#10) The Manitou by Graham Masterton (from 1975)
#9) At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (from 1936)
#8) All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By by John Farris (from 1977)
#7) Hell House by Richard Matheson (from 1971)
Top 20 Horror Novels - #6) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty (from 1971)
It's common knowledge that the book is always better than the movie, and this remains the case even if a film based on a book is a startling success. In fact, this holds true even if the movie is a legitimate classic, as is the case with William Peter Blatty's defining achievement, The Exorcist. The movie is a faithful adaptation, so readers who have never experienced the novel won't find any shocking differences. They will find greater depth and stronger characterizations, and a greater sense of dread that grows steadily until the horrifying conclusion. One subplot, which concerns the demon that has possessed young Reagan MacNeil toying with Father Karras by making it clear that darkest evil is at work while neglecting to provide him with the necessary proof to clear an exorcism with the church, plays a much larger role in the book. Yet I think it is safe to say that William Friedkin did an excellent job of translating this powerful chiller to the screen, and both the novel and the movie tell the same story. It's just that books allow for a more immersive experience, and forging a greater bond with Chris MacNeil and Father Karras only serves to escalate the mind-numbing terror that the author generates with his bold and fearsome story. The prose is exceptional, with Blatty's gift for crafting compelling characters and his loving descriptions of grotesque developments elevating this classic tale of good versus evil to immortality. It has often been stated that the film based on this text is the scariest movie of them all, and I happen to agree with that sentiment. By placing The Exorcist at #6 on my list, I'm letting everyone know that William Peter Blatty's book is worthy of the same sort of praise, and it is a far richer experience than its cinematic counterpart.
Bonus Points: Blatty's sequel, Legion, is also an impressive novel, and anyone who enjoys The Exorcist should take the time to read it as well.