8 Horror Novels That Need a Film Adaptation ASAP

Book-to-film adaptations are nothing new, especially in genres like science fiction and horror. Many of our classics are based on horror novels: The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Dracula, too many Stephen King tales to count…

But we can always have more. With the horror literary scene constantly growing, there’s plenty of source material for movies that are compelling and scary as hell.

Studios need to compensate and treat the writers behind these adaptations fairly, though.

On May 2, 2023, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers declined to meet the terms and demands that the Writers Guild of America presented when negotiating contracts. Subsequently, thousands of screenwriters went on strike.

Productions have been disrupted and public support for writers is strong. The strike has also brought attention to looming existential issues that pose serious threats to everyone.

The WGA’s demands include better compensation for writers, improved staffing requirements, and regulations regarding the use of AI. The AMPTP has outright refused to meet some demands and for others, it presented counter-offers that were unacceptable.

Writers deserve to be treated and paid fairly, no matter what field or industry they work in. Writers—all artists, really—are the backbone of the human race. Without art, communities suffer and civilizations crumble.

Just as artists need adequate compensation, everyone else needs art. With any luck, the AMPTP will come to grips with this indisputable fact and meet the demands of the WGA. When they do and screenwriters resume work and start new projects, we have some suggestions on some horror novels that would make great films.

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn (2017)

Paperback copy of the horror novel The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

In Ania Ahlborn’s book, a boy named Jude disappears in the woods of a small Oregonian town called Deer Valley. His younger cousin Stevie desperately searches for answers, even when the adults around him have lost all hope that he’s alive. Stevie is overjoyed when Jude returns. But that happiness doesn’t last. There’s something seriously wrong with Jude. His family chalks it up to trauma, but Stevie, who suffers from what seems like early onset schizophrenia, is sure that it goes way beyond that…and he’s going to get to the bottom of it.

A creepy small town, miles of woods, troubled kids from broken homes, maybe-maybe not supernatural interference…all hallmarks of a solid horror movie.

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin (2022)

A paperback copy of the horror novel Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

In her debut horror novel, Gretchen Felker-Martin presents a gang of trans and queer survivors in a world ravaged by a virus that turns testosterone-heavy people into bloodthirsty, cannibalistic rapists. The disease-ridden aren’t their only—or biggest—threat, though. Central characters Fran, Beth, Robbie, and Indy must also contend with ill-intentioned other survivors, a murderous militia of TERFs, and their own demons.

Manhunt would be an original and twisted addition to the post-apocalyptic survivor horror film subgenre. Not only is it a terrifying story that will spike your heart rate, but there are tons of action-packed sequences that are sure to satisfy anyone’s craving for some gore-splattered cinematic violence.

Near the Bone by Christina Henry (2021)

A paperback copy of Near the Bone by Christina Henry

An isolated cabin on a mountain in the dead of winter. A young woman trapped and brainwashed by her abusive, religious zealot husband. A monster on the hunt and a trio of cryptid enthusiasts investigating.

For the longest time, Mattie couldn’t remember anything about her life before she lived with William. Her existence revolves around domestic labor and submitting to his every demand. She has not seen nor spoken to another person in years. But now, snippets of memory are coming back to her…and the arrival of three strangers at her door is awakening more. Mattie knows she needs to escape. The problem is, William is mercilessly violent and keeps a close watch on everything that goes on inside the cabin. Plus, there’s also a mysterious, shrieking creature in the woods with a penchant for mutilating animals.

Christina Henry’s horror novel is part psychological thriller and part classic monster tale—definitely fit for the big screen.

Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite (1993)

A well-loved paperback copy of Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite

The story begins in the town of Missing Mile, North Carolina in 1972. Washed-up and depressed comic book artist Bobby McGee, after a year of artist’s block and sliding into alcoholism, murders his wife and toddler son with a clawhammer before hanging himself in the bathroom. For reasons unknown, he spares his other son, five-year-old Trevor, leaving him to discover the bodies of his dead family.

Twenty years later, Trevor has grown up to be a nomadic loner, traveling around the country without plans to settle anywhere or form any lasting relationships. An artist like his father, Trevor returns to Missing Mile, and he once again takes up residence in his old house, which has remained unoccupied since the murders. Meanwhile, 19-year-old computer hacker Zachary Bosch learns that the feds are coming for him. He goes on the lam, fleeing his hometown of New Orleans, ending up in Missing Mile.

Trevor and Zach meet and sparks fly. Zach moves in with Trevor and their romance starts to blossom. It’s sweet and it’s messy. And the house is definitely haunted. But so are they. Zach and Trevor confront their own ghosts in a desperate attempt to move forward and, in Trevor’s case, avoid repeating the past.

Drawing Blood is dark, grimy, horrifying…and is fantastic source material for filmmakers eager to challenge themselves with a Southern gothic ghost story.

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant (2017)

A paperback copy of Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Two words: killer mermaids. Five words: a scientific approach to mermaids. Seven years after their crew was lost at sea filming a mockumentary about mermaids, Imagine Entertainment sends a new team back to the ocean. Aboard the Melusine is a robust crew of experts including TV presenter for Imagine Network Olivia Sanderson; twins Holly and Heather Wilson—an organic chemist and a submersible operator, respectively—and their sister/ASL interpreter, acoustician and sign language expert Hallie; big game hunters Michi and Jacques Abney; Dr. Jillian Toth, a sirenologist; and Tory Stewart, a sonar specialist whose older sister was on the ill-fated mockumentary team.

Stationed at the Mariana Trench, the hired hands get to work, some conducting research they’ve been dreaming about for their entire careers, and others seeking an opportunity to claim other scientists’ findings as their own.

Of course, everyone’s personal goals capsize fairly quickly when a pod of creepy mermaid-esque sea creatures attacks the ship. What started as a research mission quickly turns into a desperate fight for survival against deep sea eldritch horrors.

Into the Drowning Deep is a smart, terrifying, and intensely claustrophobic creature feature. In addition to being a prime example of what a sci-fi horror novel can be, it’s a story with a diverse cast and has authentic representations of queer, autistic, Deaf, and disabled characters. Its novella prequel, Rolling in the Deep, was optioned for a film adaptation in 2018 with Mary Lambert attached as the director, but there haven’t been any updates on that so far.

Beverly Kills by Sean McDonough (2014)

A paperback copy of Beverly Kills by Sean McDonough

Meet Beverly Kilbourne. She’s a beautiful, popular, and smart high school senior with a bright future ahead of her. The thing is, though, Beverly has no interest in a bright future. Not the one her parents envision for her anyway. No, the future Beverly wants is decidedly darker.

Bev is a murderer. A stone-cold, remorseless killer. Her post-high school goal is to pursue her passion full-time. She’s been practicing for years.

This horror novel by Sean McDonough is a fast-paced, self-aware, and tongue-in-cheek satire of the slasher genre. It’s funny, it’s outrageous, and it’s gory as hell. Who doesn’t love watching a horror-comedy?

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth (2020)

A paperback copy of Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

In 1902, Flo Hartshorn and Clara Broward, two students at Brookhants School for Girls, become obsessed with a scandalous young author named Mary MacLane. They form a secret club devoted to her called the Plain Bad Heroine Society, attracting a few more girls. That year, Flo and Clara, who are infatuated with each other, are stung to death by a swarm of yellow jackets. Soon after, there are three more disturbing deaths, and Brookhants shuts down.

Fast-forward to the present day. The young writer Merritt Emmons has made her literary debut with a deep dive into Brookhants’ feminist and queer history. It rockets to the top of the bestseller lists. It also gets the attention of a filmmaker who wants to adapt her book into a horror movie. His vision involves leaning into the story of Flo and Clara. He casts former child actor Audrey Wells as Clara and Hollywood’s newest lesbian It Girl Harper Harper as Flo.

Production begins…and they’re filming in the actual Brookhants School. The creepy spookiness starts immediately. As they make the film, the three women become increasingly entangled with one another…and with the macabre history of the school.

Critics have described Plain Bad Heroines as “gothic horror meets Hollywood satire”. With its dual timelines explored through the perspectives of five smart and sapphic women, it has so much potential for a film adaptation. Maybe even a limited series. It would be pretty meta: a film adaptation of a book about the production of a film adaptation of a book…

The Return by Rachel Harrison (2020)

A paperback copy of The Return by Rachel Harrison

Elise’s best friend Julie goes missing while hiking in Acadia National Park. Their friends Mae and Molly, along with Julie’s husband Tristan, believe she’s dead when the search teams can’t find her. Elise isn’t convinced. She knows Julie will come back to them.

And she does. After exactly two years, Julie returns home, wearing the same clothes she went missing in. She has no memory of the last twenty-four months. When Julie is cleared by her doctors, Elise, Molly, and Mae decide to get together for a weekend getaway at the remote Red Honey Inn.

As soon as they reunite with their friend, they know that something is very, very wrong. She looks…well, she looks like she’s decomposing. She’s emaciated, her skin looks flaky, her hair is thin, and her teeth are a yellowed, chipped mess. And her eating habits have changed significantly.

As the weekend sours, Elise begins to wonder if her friend really did return, or if something else did instead.

The Return is a tale that weaves together folk and body horror, features an all-women ensemble cast, and has plenty of quippy dialogue to provide some much-needed comic relief. A film adaptation of a horror novel about intense and consuming friendships? Yes, please.



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