We all know the old adage: “The movie is never as good as the book.” Well sometimes that’s just not true! Sometimes the movie version can actually fix a lot of the novel’s mistakes, especially if the book isn’t exactly classic literature (looking at you Jaws). I’ve put together a list of some horror films that actually improved upon the books they were based on (or at least did the book justice)! “But Trace,” you ask, “didn’t you already write a post extremely similar to this one but with a much more click bait-y title last year?” And the answer is yes. Yes I did, but this has a much less click bait-y title and I’m taking a different angle, so ha! Anyway, now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, here we go:
Ira Levin’s novel is one of the greatest novels ever written (though I’m partial to The Stepford Wives), but Roman Polanski’s film adaptation does a wonderful job of enhancing the atmosphere and dread that Levin so masterfully described. Let’s just forget the TV miniseries ever happened, alright?
If you ever want to read something truly horrifying, simply read William Peter Blatty’s description of a Black Mass in The Exorcist. The novel is a fascinating read, but the film, written by Blatty and directed by William Friedkin, surpasses the novel in every way imaginable. It’s almost difficult to believe that, like many films now considered classics, it had a mixed reception upon its initial release!
As I mentioned above, Jaws fixes a lot of Peter Benchley’s novel’s mistakes. Gone is the subplot involving Ellen’s affair with Matt (as well as Matt’s death in the shark cage) and some other superfluous subplots. Steven Spielberg injected some humanity into the characters, something the novel was sorely lacking. Also, the ending is a bit more cathartic. In the novel, the shark merely drowns. Spielberg thought the audience deserved something a little more explosive, so that’s what he gave us!
Truthfully, I have not read Gary Brandner’s The Howling, but I have seen the movie, and I can’t imagine the novel would be much better! If anything the ending of the film, in which Karen (Dee Wallace) turns into a werewolf on live television, certainly beats the ending of the novel, in which Karen just escapes the burning mountain village while hearing the sound of howling in the distance.
John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella has been adapted quite a few times, but the best adaptation is
arguably John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing, a horror film so masterful that it still sets the standard for practical effects today. Hell, a lot of movies made today can’t match the practical effects in The Thing. It’s almost hard to believe it was reviled upon its initial release, but The Thing is the level of quality all adaptations (and remakes) should strive to achieve.
Unfilmable shmunfilmable! Mary Harron took Bret Easton Ellis’ novel and transformed it into something special (and a little bit easier to swallow). Ellis’ novel is fantastic and a scathing critique on capitalism, but it can get bogged down by the endless (and I mean endless) lists of brand names (I get the point, but it did make the book difficult to get through). The book may have the gore, but Harron’s film has the style. It is a worthy adaptation of Ellis’ controversial novel.
Asami sure does look a lot more innocent as an anime cartoon, doesn’t she? Ryu Murakami’s novel is good, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that Takashi Miike’s direction is simply more impressive when it comes to Audition. It is not a film for everyone (it took me about three viewings to fully appreciate it), but you can’t deny the visceral impact the films has on its viewers.
Truthfully, The Ruins is not better than Scott Smith’s novel (which is odd considering that Smith wrote the screenplay for the film), but I will defend this movie about evil vines until the day I die. What played so well on the page could have easily come across as silly on film (comparisons to Little Shop of Horrors were abundant when the film was initially released) and The Ruins thankfully manages to avoid delving into campy territory. These plants are vicious. While the film may not surpass the novel in terms of quality, it is still a shining example of a novel adapted correctly.
Which horror movie do you think improved upon the book it was based on? Let us know in the comments below!