Why Reading Horror Novels Is So Much More Terrifying Than Watching Scary Movies

I would be lying if I said I was never truly terrified by a scary film, but ask any bookworm and they will tell you that horror novels are way scarier than movies. Sure, Friday the 13th and Halloween have the ability to make moviegoers scream out loud in the theaters, but reading The Shining will give you nightmares for life.

I can still remember the very first scary story I ever read. I was in the third grade, and on my favorite day of the school week, Library Day, I was perusing through the new selection counter when a creepy cover caught my eye. On the front of a book I had never seen before called simply Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was a mostly black and white drawing featuring a sinister looking clown smoking a pipe and glaring at the reader with what I can only describe as a chilling side-eye.

Sure, I knew never to trust a book by its cover, but something about those spooky images made it impossible to put down. I checked it out, took it home, and read through each terrifying tale over and over again. There was something about the way the stories got my heart racing and made my skin crawl that was equally addicting and unsettling. Needless to say, I was hooked on horror books from that moment on.

Since discovering the genre, I have been obsessed all things spooky, including haunted houses, real-life ghost sightings, and, of course, scary movies. But no matter how many times I watch a thrasher film or horror flick, I can't help but thinking: this would be so much scarier as a book.

Why, you may ask, are horror novels way scarier than movies? These five reasons will help you understand why books will always be the true champions of horror.

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Your imagination takes you to terrifying places.

When you watch a scary movie, you are seeing horror interpreted by someone else's imagination. The filmmakers, directors, costume and set designers, and even the actors in scary movies create the terrifying scenes you see unfold on screen, leaving very little for you to imagine on your own.

Horror novels, however, let the reader use their own imagination to interpret what they read on the page. Sure, the words are there to describe the action and environment of the story, but your mind takes those descriptions and really runs with them — sometimes, in the direction of something truly terrifying. Because your imagination knows your deepest and darkest fears, it has the ability to scare you way more than a simple scene on screen.

It feels like you're a part of the story.

Horror movies can give you goosebumps, make you jump, and even get you to scream out loud. They scare you with graphic images, ominous music, and surprise endings you never saw coming. You watch terror unfold on screen, but once the credits roll, you walk away knowing you are safe and sound outside of the theater.

Horror novels, however, go a step further by pulling you into the story you're reading. You aren't just seeing something scary on a screen, you're imagining the scenario yourself, and actually feeling the terror alongside the characters who are being chased, haunted, murdered, or otherwise tortured by the dark and sinister powers at be. Just like reading literature can make you more empathetic by focusing on the psychology, relationships, and motivations of the characters in the story, horror novels can make you feel more terrified by drawing you into those intense emotions felt by the characters in the book. You aren't just watching someone else experience something scary, you are experiencing something scary.

The experience lasts days, not hours.

Typical horror films last anywhere between 90 and 120 minutes, which means for nearly two hours, moviegoers are getting spooked and scared non-stop. Once the film is over, though, the scares stop.

Reading a horror novel, on the other hand, takes a lot more than two hours. For days, weeks, or even months, readers of horror books are immersed in terrifying tales throughout the entire day: on their way to work in the morning while they read on the subway, while they eat lunch or stop for a coffee and book break, at home reading in bed. Unlike movies that only give you a short dose of scares, horror novels are in it for the long haul.

It's a solo experience.

When you watch a scary movie, chances are you aren't doing it alone. You are either in a theater surrounded by other moviegoers, or at home curled up on the couch and clutching someone's hand during the really scary parts.

When you read a horror novel, however, you're all on your own. When you sit down to crack open a scary story, you are reading it alone and without the comfort of someone else seeing the twists and turns unfold as you do. Even if you read a horror novel as part of a book club, the actual act of reading is one you must shoulder alone, and sometimes, that is the scariest part.

You can't close your eyes when a scary part is happening.

Nearly everyone is guilty of looking away when something really scary happens in a horror movie. When the murderer jumps out from behind the curtain, when the supposedly dead vampire opens his eyes unexpectedly, when the ominous music starts to play and you just know something bad is happening, it's almost second nature to cover your eyes and avoid actually seeing the fearful scene on screen.

When you're reading a books, closing your eyes isn't an option — that is, unless you want to stop reading all together. No matter how spooky a story gets, no matter how scary a scene in a book may seem, readers are forced to power through, eyes wide open and imagination at work, if they have any hope of ever finishing the novel. Readers can't look away from the scenes their minds are creating from the words they read on the page.

Trust me when I say, there is nothing scarier than that.