Ever had the bejesus scared out of you?

In this posting, I discuss some scary books that were made into movies. What are some of the scariest books you have read or movies you have seen?

I have frequently observed that there is a great deal of difference between reading a book and seeing a movie based on a book. When it comes to “scary” books, there is all the difference in the world.

Here are some books that, if you have the patience, will creep you out unlike any  of the movies that were made of them.

The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty

You’ve either heard about or seen the 1973 movie with its rotating heads and levitational hijinks–and it was a scary film. But the thrills were quick and made you jump out of your seat. Reading the 1971 novel by Blatty, a former Jesuit, as I did, late at night, left me with the slowly realized yet oppressive sense of evil that accompanies a nightmare. The story is based on an occurrence in St. Louis, MO in 1949 that is still part of the local lore. Reading Blatty’s novel is truly a creepy experience, and if you dare give it a try some night when you are alone.

Oh, and as far as movies go, one of the most frightening scenes in any film I have seen occurs in Exorcist III, when something wicked appears suddenly out of nowhere in the background at an insane asylum with a pair of breastbone shears that are about to remove someone’s head off-camera. You don’t see the beheading: you don’t need to. Your pants have already been filled. Exorcist III is based on Blatty’s follow-up novel, Legion. 

Dracula, by Bram Stoker

This old saw? You have to be kidding me?

Frank Langella

Frank Langella’s portrayal of the Count probably most closely approximated the evil of Stoker’s bloodsucker–and the seductiveness.

No, actually I am not kidding. Ever since Bela Lugosi brought the character to life in black in white (1931), the horror of Dracula as envisioned by Stoker was lost. Even the 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula wasn’t Bram Stoker’s; nowhere in Stoker is the name Vlad the Impaler associated with the horror from Transylvania.

Dracula is an epistolary novel, i.e., one that is told through letters and journals of those involved. I first read it it when I was a sophomore in high school, and it chilled me as I read it at night. True evil doesn’t jump out at you, it seduces and eventually smothers you: it isn’t Jason or Freddy, it’s crystal meth.

We have become so inured to the evil in our world, I think, that we don’t recognize it any more and so we laugh at what we used to find frightening (or we romanticize it–don’t get me started on the Twilight series). Yet if you read Stoker’s original, in the quiet of your home, late at night, perhaps you will once again find that the absence of goodness leaves you with a chill somewhere deep down.

I’m not the only one who thinks Dracula is worth a second look: Another blogger, Peter Galen Massey, has taken a look at Dracula’s legacy this month, and it is worth a read!

Here’s a little video you might enjoy. It will relax you.

Happy Halloween!

Copyright 2012 Isaac Morris

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