Hi ghouls! 👋🏻 I am the kind of book lover who doesn’t really care about reading the book before watching the movie. Books and movies tell stories in different ways so I can never really say that I think one is better than the other just because a screenwriter or director’s vision is different to my own.
Something that I find curious is that I have come across a lot of horror movies that I didn’t know were based on books. Maybe it’s because horror continues to be more of a niche genre but horror movies don’t really get advertised as adaptations outside of those based on classics or Stephen King novels. That can be a good thing for me, however, because finding out that a movie is based on a book provides me with new reading material and I’m never going to turn that down.
THE THING (1982)
Based on Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
The Thing is not only one of my favourite horror movies, but one of my favourite movies ever. When I watched it for the first time a couple of years ago it was the first movie to scare me for a long time, and that means that it’s one of the best in my eyes. I don’t want to call this version of The Thing a remake because while it sort of shares a title with The Thing from Another World, it’s more accurate to say that it’s a readaptation of the original book and one that is more faithful.
I think that I left this movie out on my list of movies I took off my blacklist but this falls into the body horror subgenre of horror and the practical effects in this movie are just top tier. Almost 40 years later, the effects still look absolutely horrifying and are better than a lot of CGI that gets used these days.
I watched the original The Thing from Another World earlier this year and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Thing, it is interesting to see how the two differ considering that they came out at different points in the Cold War. The 50s movie was produced by Howard Hawks and has very fast, overlapping dialogue, sharp quips, and has a very clear cut happy ending with no blood or gore to please the Hays Code. The 80s movie, however, is a pretty bleak movie with blood, gore, body horror, and a very ambiguous ending that lead to it being absolutely slaughtered by critics when it came out because they wanted an alien movie more like E.T. It’s now considered one of the best horror movies ever made and I can’t argue with that. Just more reason for me to ignore critics because I know what I like.
Would I read the book?: Probably! I definitely wouldn’t say no to this one.
Based on Psycho by Robert Bloch
Has this movie aged well? In terms of society, no it hasn’t since it depicts a cis man dressing as his mother when he commits his murders because his mother is now an alternate personality which is problematic on so many levels today. But in terms of story and atmosphere, I’d say it’s aged very well. Hitchcock isn’t one of my favourite directors for many reasons that I won’t go into, but Psycho is his only movie that I keep coming back to. No matter how many times I watch it, I still get shivers from the shower scene.
Would I read the book?: I’ve owned the book for years but still haven’t gotten around to it. It’s not very long but I keep putting it off.
THE FLY (1986)
Based on The Fly by George Langelaan
As I’d said in my post about movies I said I wouldn’t watch and then did, I was terrified of this movie for the longest time because I wasn’t a fan of body horror when I first got into the genre. These days, body horror is one of my favourite subgenres of horror because nothing makes me squirm quite like imagining something absolutely grotesque happening to me. Jeff Goldblum is an actor whose movies I tend to avoid because I don’t enjoy his style but this is probably the only movie where his acting style suits the character. And besides, we really watch this movie for the incredible special effects (which won an Oscar, by the way). No wonder they chose to credit Chris Walas before anyone else.
I haven’t seen the original Vincent Price movie from 1958, but I think that when I get around to it, I’ll like it for different reasons to this one. The 50’s movie looks more campy and silly since the character is a man with a fly’s head, whereas this movie goes for full-on metamorphosis and has an incredibly tragic story.
Would I read the book?: The original is actually a short story so I could find it and read it no problem.
Based on Herbert West-Reanimator by H.P. Lovecraft
I first watched this movie in March of 2020 before the world shut down and although I wasn’t too sure about it at first, the more it sat in my mind, the more I began to appreciate it. Stuart Gordon’s movies can be difficult to recommend to people because while they have a dark sense of humour, they’re also very gory and have some of the most bizarre instances of sexual violence I’ve seen that go from being awful to funny.
While the effects in this movie are incredible, this is one of those horror movies that I watch for pretty much every part of it: the effects, the story, the characters, and the acting are all top-notch. I’m not familiar with the original Herbert West short stories so I think that this movie works better as a parody of Frankenstein than of a Lovecraft adaptation. This is one of my favourite movies now and I definitely recommend it to people who can handle gore.
Would I read the book?: I have very complex feelings towards Lovecraft thanks to his horrific racism and lack of women in his stories so it’s very likely that I won’t.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1992)
Based on The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
No matter how many times film critics try to call this movie a “psychological thriller”, that doesn’t stop it from being a horror movie. Yes, the story focuses on the police investigation rather than the murderer carrying out their crimes, but “psychological thriller” is often a word thrown onto a piece of work to make it seem more sophisticated just like how “elevated horror” is the new buzzword. Horror is often seen as a lowbrow form of art which is a shame because horror isn’t always about fake blood and cheap scares.
Anyway, I like to think that I’m familiar with Hannibal Lecter because I’ve read Red Dragon and watched the first three series of Hannibal. Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Lecter is what makes this movie. This movie won the Big Five Oscars (film, actor, actress, director, and adapted screenplay) for a reason. There are some aspects that don’t hold up today but that’s a nuanced conversation that I am not capable of leading.
Would I read the book?: I own the book and I’ve read the first book in the series, I’m just still waiting for the right time for me to pick it up.
Based on Misery by Stephen King
Misery is another horror movie that gets called a “psychological thriller” to make it sound more sophisticated when it’s really another horror movie that won an Oscar. Kathy Bates acted her socks off as Annie Wilkes and really deserved to win that Oscar because she carries the movie. James Caan isn’t a terrible actor and the story isn’t poorly written, but it just wouldn’t be the same without her.
My opinion on Stephen King movies varies from movie to movie and I think that this one is probably my favourite. I always appreciate supernatural elements in stories, but I also love it when a human monster is a metaphor for something else, like how Annie is a personification of King’s drug addiction.
Would I read the book?: Probably not. Stephen King isn’t really the author for me since I have yet to finish a single one of his books.
CANDYMAN (1992 & 2021)
Based on The Forbidden by Clive Barker
Something I think is very interesting about Candyman is how changing the title character’s race changed the meaning of the story. The original short story is set in England and features a white Candyman, while the movie is set in Chicago and changed Candyman to be black. One is about class and one is about race and I think that the Candyman movie from 1992 does that very well even though the director is white.
I enjoy both Candyman movies for very different reasons. The first one is a beautiful Gothic romance that has a conversation about race that wasn’t really being had in mainstream media at the time (as far as I know, I wasn’t born yet) and the second one makes a lot of strong points about police brutality and cultural appropriation and it utilises its Black talent perfectly. Just don’t try to say that it’s a Jordan Peel movie. This is Nia DaCosta’s movie, don’t forget that.
Would I read the book?: I’ve never read any of Clive Barker’s stories but they do interest me so maybe I will.
talk to me!
What’s a movie you like that’s based on a book you haven’t read? Do you always read the book first or does it not matter?