It’s Halloween season again. If you’re like me, I hope this means you’re taking this time to indulge in all your favorite horror stories, both on-screen and in print. I thought I’d share my all-time favorite scary stories. My criteria? Not merely whether they kept me up for a night or two. No, these are the tales that have haunted my dreams ever after, that have irrevocably altered the landscape of my imagination. For me, it's not the usual suspects -- it's not the vampires, werewolves, Frankensteins or zombies -- that do the trick. From the all-too plausible (post-apocalypse scenarios) to the outre (extradimensional forces battling for the fate of mankind), I'm always fascinated with what new ways authors come up with to terrify and entertain us.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy - One of my all-time favorite novels, period. McCarthy is known for being a master stylist, and I found his prose in The Road to be a revelation. It’s stark and fragmented, which perfectly reflects a stark, fragmented world. The first time I read this book, I got about 15 pages in and had to set it aside for a day or so because it was so unrelentingly bleak. A beautiful and devastating work, which also happens to include post-apocalyptic cannibal hordes. Walking Dead, eat your heart out. Ah, zombie humor. That’s good stuff.
"Feeders and Eaters" by Neil Gaiman - A short story from Gaiman's collection, Fragile Things. I've long been of the opinion that Gaiman is at his best in the short story medium, and this tale sort of clinches it for me. F&E is the tale of a man whose little old lady neighbor has a peculiar craving for raw meat. The ending made me feel physically sick. That, my friends, is some very effective horror.
Insomnia by Stephen King - It was a close tie for me between this and It. Don’t get me wrong, the Turtle and the deadlights really fuck with my head. But it was Insomnia's little bald doctors with their scalpels and scissors that-- well, gave me insomnia. Plan to sleep with the lights on with this one.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - Much has been made over this anything-but-quaint and curious volume, and deservedly so. Is it horror? A love story? A scathing send-up of academic writing? Whatever it is, Danielewski’s minotaur of a tale features some thrillingly original horror imagery. To this day, I still eye walls and spaces suspiciously, not entirely convinced that the rooms in my home aren’t misbehaving.
The Entity by Frank De Filetta - I first read this one when I was about 11 years old. (I know, I know. Too young. My mother didn’t censor my reading material at all, which was something of a mixed blessing.) I remember how disturbed I was by the violence and hopelessness depicted in this book, and the leering “based on a true story” tagline. I'm not into torture porn, but I found a woman being kept in physical agony by a demon to be viscerally affecting.
What are your favorite horror reads?