It's not often that you can say a horror movie adaptation is scarier than the book, but every so often movie directors will just nail it with the power of make-up, set design, special effects and/or a stellar cast. For those who are looking for a great scare but don't feel like picking up a book, these rare cinematic unicorns exist entirely for you!
Bookworms, on the other hand, often prefer the frightening chasm of their own imagination, and some books within the genre simply cannot be eclipsed by the power of the silver screen. Here are 5 horror movies scarier than the book (and 5 books that are still more frightening).
10 Scarier than the book: The Exorcist
This isn't to say that William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel of the same name isn't scary in its own right, but could anything be more frightening than the picture above? Unlike many movie adaptations, The Exorcist was relatively faithful to the best-selling book, but the realistic make-up job they did on actress Linda Blair put a face on evil in a way that the written word couldn't.
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To make this movie even scarier, several freak accidents happened on set, causing many to believe that the movie was cursed from the beginning.
9 Scarier than the book: The Ring
Most Americans are aware that 2002's The Ring (starring Naomi Watts) is a remake of the Japanese version released in 1998, but many don't know that both movies were based on a novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki.
Yes, the book is scary, but both the American AND the Japanese adaptations terrified the world with their creepy visuals in a way that the book never managed to do. Given the storyline is about a cursed movie videotape, it stands to reason that it would need the power of film to bring it to life.
8 Scarier than the book: The Shining
Anything written by Stephen King is bound to be scary, but the 1980 adaptation of The Shining has its incredible cast to thank for it being one of the creepiest movies to ever hit the big screen. Not many people who read the book could imagine a Jack Torrance as frightening as the one portrayed by Jack Nicholson, with his insane facial expressions, erratic mannerisms, and incredible axe swinging skills.
Not only that, but his wife, played by Shelley Duvall, is quite possibly one of the strangest looking women to ever be cast opposite a lead role. Congratulations, casting directors, you nailed it.
7 Scarier than the book: Carrie
Let's be clear, this entry is referring to the 1976 original big screen adaptation of Carrie, adapted from Stephen King's 1974 epistolary novel of the same name. Although the 2013 version was pretty solid, only someone like Sissy Spacek could bring the book's titular character to life in a way that's even scarier than the book.
Sure, the storyline is creepy as hell, but it was nothing compared to watching Sissy Spacek use her telekinesis to kill every soul in the gymnasium while covered in pig's blood. Some things just have to be seen.
6 Scarier than the book: The Silence Of The Lambs
Released in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs was an iconic psychological horror-thriller adaptation from Thomas Harris's 1988 novel of the same name. The film, which features incredible performances by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, is the first film in the horror genre to win Academy Awards in all top five categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The performances in this film were so captivating that many of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's lines and antics have become well-known references in American culture.
5 Scarier than the movie: The Girl Next Door
Before it was adapted to the big screen back in 2007, The Girl Next Door was a crime novel by American writer Jack Ketchum in 1989. What makes this book even scarier is that it's based on the true story of the prolonged torture and murder of Sylvia Likens in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1965.
While film critics couldn't decide what to make of the film adaptation (it currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 67%), the book was a best-seller that was, and still is, NOT for the faint of heart. Seriously, it's disturbingly graphic in a way that few books are.
4 Scarier than the movie: Let The Right One In/Let Me In
Let the Right One In has been adapted for the big screen twice, but neither the 2008 Swedish version or the American remake (Let Me In) starring Chloë Grace Moretz could hold a candle to the 2004 novel by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Be aware, the novel is much darker than both of the film adaptations and includes details excluded from the movies that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Despite its macabre nature, the book was a bestseller in Sweden and was translated into several languages for wide distribution.
3 Scarier than the movie: The Woman In Black
The Woman in Black, a 1983 horror novel by Susan Hill, actually boasts two film adaptations, only one is much more popular than the other. The first adaptation was the 1989 British television horror film directed by Herbert Wise, and the second was the 2012 version directed by James Watkins starring Daniel Radcliffe.
The latter could definitely be considered a success by Hollywood's standards, but the original novel is creepy in a way only words can express (and has an arguably better ending). The book was also adapted into a stage play, and is currently the second longest-running play in the history of the West End.
2 Scarier than the movie: It
It fever hit America a couple of years ago with the 2017 adaptation of the 1986 novel by Stephen King, but we've got news for you--the book is waaaaay better. For those who are fans of the movie, the biggest thing you're missing is the important backstory and character development that exists in the bulk of the book.
In the end, events are made all the more frightening when readers have more context to go on. The movie, while good, hollowly plays up the big, scary parts that the novel slowly builds up to.
1 Scarier than the movie: Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary's Baby was made into a movie starring Mia Farrow back in 1968, but even famed director Roman Polanski couldn't pull off the sheer terror depicted in Ira Levin's 1967 horror novel of the same name. Rosemary's Baby was the top bestselling horror novel of the 1960s, and its success helped launch the "horror boom," an era in which horror fiction would achieve enormous commercial success.
As the title suggests, the titular character becomes pregnant with a demon's baby and the tension and dread during the length of her pregnancy is palpable. In the end, the disturbing circumstances surrounding the birth will keep you awake for days.