Hollywood loves a remake, and the latest reimagining of a classic comes out this week, with the release of Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist , about a family whose suburban home is haunted by evil spirits that inhabit their clown dolls and their flat-screen TV.
The original Poltergeist was written by Steven Spielberg (who knows a thing or two about entertaining the masses) and directed by Tobe Hooper, who was behind horror classics like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Salem’s Lot. It made things like TV static, swimming pools, big old trees, kitchen chairs, and clown dolls seem terrifying. I had a clown doll as a kid and after I saw Poltergeist I’d toss it out into the hallway every night before bed, just in case it decided to come alive and try to eat me as I slept, like in the movies.
If you’re cynical about Hollywood remakes and are boycotting this new Poltergeist, just take a second and think about Mad Max: Fury Road . Have you seen it? Have you witnessed what a badass action hero Charlize Theron (aka FURIOSA) is? Do you understand the hotness of Tom Hardy? That film is a reboot of an original and it’s one of the best action movies to come out in, oh, maybe forever. That’s not to say that this new Poltergeist will blow the original out of the water, but we can dream.
And so, if you need a little motivation before you check out the new Poltergeist, here are twelve horror novels that might just inspire you.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
A novelist and a young kid have to battle vampires and evil forces in a small New England town in this Stephen King book that’s a hell of a lot scarier than it sounds. Tobe Hooper directed it, and there was also a lame TV movie version in 2004 starring Rob Lowe and Andre Braugher, which you can skip. The book will definitely give you the creeps, though.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The original film version of this one with Mia Farrow is a cinema classic, and the book is worth checking out too if you’re into demonic possession and mysterious, nosy neighbors. The recent TV version with Zoe Saldana was more campy than scary, so stick to the book and the original Polanski film for a good scare.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The puking! The head spinning! The levitating bed! Anything about possession is terrifying, and Blatty’s The Exorcist is probably the most terrifying tale of them all. You might want to get yourself a nightlight.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
A classic ghost story about creepy, sinister children – and we all know creepy children are the worst. But it’s not the kids’ fault this time – they’re being controlled by vengeful ghosts. It’s supernatural horror at its best.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
This title is pretty straightforward. Four older men in a small town are haunted by something they did in the past, but a pissed off ghost doesn’t want them to forget it, and so they’re hunted and haunted, one by one. If you’re into psychological horror and supernatural revenge, take a peek.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Dr. Montague, Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke head to spooky, crumbling Hill House, a supposedly haunted manse that turns out to be much more evil than any of them suspected, and their grip on reality slowly starts to unravel. The 1963 movie version The Haunting is pretty scary, too.
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
How many Amityville Horror movies have been made? A lot. Based on a true story (which makes it all the more frightening), this 1977 book is based on one family’s experiences with the paranormal, and for this one, you might want to invest in about four nightlights.
Incarnate by Ramsey Campbell
Five people who can dream the future agree to undergo a psychological experiment. A decade later, each person starts having horrific visions, and the terror and suspense builds from there. It’s an eerie, unnerving read.
The Other by Thomas Tryon
Twins plus New England plus a funeral – you know this is going to get sinister, real fast. The twins’ father dies in a gruesome accident, and their mother can’t bring herself to leave the house. One twin handles it as best as he can, and the other slowly moves to the dark side – pulling sinister pranks and terrifying the town.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
This one has it all – angry ghosts, haunted houses, and zombie-like skeletons roaming the earth. Read it out loud with your friends, in the dark. Good for anyone who is into folklore.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Clarice! She was so intelligent but she still let Hannibal Lecter get inside her head. Lecter is one of the most chilling villains to ever appear on the page – and Anthony’s Hopkins’ movie version of the character is equally terrifying. You might need a few days to recover from this one before you’re ready to see Poltergeist.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
Poe was a master of the macabre, and this is one of his best stories. An unnamed murderer tries to convince the reader that he’s innocent of the crime, but the eerie sound of a heartbeat underneath the floorboards is a haunting reminder of his crime. It’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
We’ll see if the new Poltergeist is half as creepy as the first. If not — we’ll always have the original.
Image: 20th Cenutry Fox