The Book Club: Screams on Screen (and on Page)

As Halloween closes in and costumes are frantically bought and designed, the need for media that’s as equally ghoulish and scary is quickly ramping up. That being said, it’s hard sometimes to figure out where to start when it comes to picking out a horror novel, show or film. So, in order to get you started on your horrifying journey, I’m going to discuss some of my favorite horror book-to-screen adaptations so far in this scarily good edition of “The Book Club.” 

First up, we have what is most likely my favorite out of all of the adaptations I’m going to mention in this edition, and that is “The Haunting of Hill House,” based on the book of the same name by Shirley Jackson. However, the show is vastly different from the book; and honestly, though it may seem like an unpopular or even strange opinion, I’m glad that they were so incredibly different. The book is good for when you’re in the mood for a quick read that still satisfies you with an unsettling atmosphere and a plethora of plot twists and turns. The plot focuses on a group of people investigating a supposedly haunted house where countless deaths have occurred, though it appears to heavily rely on psychological horror rather than ghosts, depending on how you read it. Meanwhile, the show follows a family trying to forget and move on from their traumatic history with the titular Hill House from their childhood. While it takes on a very similar theme and intense atmosphere, and even gives a few nods to some of the characters in the novel, the plot differs in one major way: the undeniable presence of ghosts. Director Mike Flanagan cleverly crafts horrifying jump scares and plants hidden spirits in each episode for viewers to spot, and I must say that he does an exceptional job at doing so. Ultimately, while both works do a great job at developing the psychological horror, I give Flanagan credit for turning this gothic novel into a modern-day ghost story of a family haunted by their trauma.  

One of the other adaptations that I think flourished both on page and on screen is Netflix’s “1922,” based on a short story of the same name by the King of Horror himself, Stephen King. Unlike most of King’s screen adaptations, this one actually stays pretty loyal to the original work it’s based on; granted, that may be because there was less content to work with. Both follow a man who, with the help of his son, murders his wife in order to prevent her from not only selling their family farm and home, but from also taking their son away.  After the deed is done, their lives fall apart as the guilt haunts them – but whether it’s as a ghost or a guilt-driven hallucination is up for interpretation. Though they had limited material to work with, I think the directors did a great job at bringing the graphic gore of the apparitions to life, as well as capturing the hopeless atmosphere King designs in the story.  

A few more honorable mentions are King’s “Cujo,” which focuses on a rabid dog terrorizing a small town, as well as King’s “Gerald’s Games,” which follows a wife trying to survive in an isolated cabin as she’s chained to a bedpost. Both follow the original texts rather well, and they perfectly encompass the mood – namely, intense dread.  

Whether you’re in the mood for something horrifying to read or to watch, these adaptations have got you covered for both.