Guest Post: Courtney Summers on Essential Horror Books-Turned-Film

Our final post as part of horror Mondays at STACKED is from Courtney Summers. Courtney’s a bit of an expert on horror, having tackled real-life horrific events in Cracked Up to Be, Some Girls Are, and Fall for Anything, and, in her forthcoming June 2012 title This is Not a Test, she’ll be tackling what happens when real-life horror meets the things nightmares are made of: zombies.

Courtney has offered up her favorite horror films every year since 2009 on her blog, and this year, she’s also spotlighted a book as part of Nova Ren Suma’s “What Scares You” series that scared her into a fascination with horror as a kid (and, if you haven’t, you need to check out Nova’s series of posts). It seemed only natural to ask if she’d talk about a few of the horror novels-turned-film that have stuck with her for one reason or another.

The Amityville Horror

The thing the book and the movie both have in common is that they are not very good but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth watching or reading! The movie is pretty slow moving and not truly scary (unless you scare easily?), but there is something about watching James Brolin get angrier and angrier throughout that is quite compelling and unintentionally hilarious. The book reads a bit dry but there was one moment in it that kinda freaked me out, but I can’t tell you about it because it’s a spoiler. (Spoiler: The house is haunted!) In any case, you should check both out because you don’t want to be the only person at a cocktail party who HASN’T read or seen The Amityville Horror. I mean, really. How embarrassing.

The Haunting

Read. Watch. Now. That is all. Seriously. That is all. It is all I need to say. You must.


There’s a reason Kathy Bates won the Oscar for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes, an obsessed superfan who kidnaps her favourite author and holds him hostage in her remote cabin in the woods for such a long time it makes me want to cry just thinking about it (poor author). That reason is because she is seriously creepy. Damn. The movie is intense and claustrophobic and guess what? The book it is based on, by the master, Stephen King? The same. Except more. CAN YOU HANDLE IT?


In all honesty, it’s been a long time since I read the book. I was young when I first picked it up, but I remember being pretty devastated that Robert Bloch’s description of Norman Bates didn’t sound anything like Anthony Perkins, who I was obsessed with at the time. The other impression I had of this book was how creepy and skeevy I found Norman Bates, which is probably exactly how I’m supposed to find him. Anthony Perkins’s interpretation of the character is quite empathetic (in my opinion), which (in my opinion) makes him that much more terrifying. Look, I really shouldn’t have to sell you on Psycho. It’s a CLASSIC. It had an IMPACT. Go read it and then see it. I mean if you go to a cocktail party and you’re like, “I’ve never read or seen the Amityville Horror,” you better be able to immediately make up for it by saying, “But OF COURSE I have read and seen Psycho.”

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  1. says

    Nice list, Courtney. I enjoyed the commentary on the Amityville Horror – as with most things that have the names Ed and Lorraine Warren attached, I fear that the true story is probably even more boring than the movie or book. I also absolutely agree with the inclusion of Misery – Kathy Bates was absolutely outstanding in the movie role and gives one of the few performances in one of the few movies that really hits the point of the book and drives home the true terror of the book.

    It seems less and less like Hollywood draws upon the horror talent of these days (with the exception of Mr. King). The only movie I'd add to this list is the Exorcist, which provides the archetype for a lot of horror in both books and movies. You have definitely covered the other books that are still clearly influential today. If only Halloween was a book before it was a movie, I'd add that too.

  2. says

    I wonder if the book Psycho is good enough to be worth reading after having seen the film. I read sections from a book about the inspiration for Psycho while I was preparing a Hitchcock lesson once and it creeped me out. I really prefer my psycho killers to be fictional.

    On that note, I loved Misery. I'm pretty sure that is the only Stephen King novel that I ever made it through (started plenty of others – all in middle school or high school). And agreed, Kathy Bates is fantastic in the film.

    I'm not much of a horror fiction reader, though I did love The Passage by Justin Cronin and am excited to see how that translates to film.

  3. says

    Oh hey look! 4 movies I'm guaranteed to NOT see! But I had to comment here because hello Courtney + Kelly = not to be missed.

    I dunno. Perhaps I'll warm up at some point. The Walking Dead is kind of making me a lot more immune to the scariness of zombies, after all.

  4. says

    I am not a fan of big time horror (books or movies) but admit I'm really looking forward to Summers book! It sounds like it will be a lot less focused on the horror as the main point but just as an enhancement. That's more my style.

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