Back to IndieWire

Best Books on Horror Movies: Directors, Iconic Characters, and Special Effects

A list of literary must-haves for readers who are gearing up to celebrate Halloween.

Bill Skarsgård Pennywise the Clown It

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Clown in “It”

Warner Bros./Youtube

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Indiewire may receive an affiliate commission.

There’s something exhilaratingly terrifying about horror movies that keep audiences coming back for more, no matter how gory or how scary they may be. If you love horror films, or really anything related to Halloween and the dark arts, then you’ll want to dive into our list of spine-chilling books that share the details behind iconic characters, directors, writers, and special effects of the creeptastic films that have shaped the genre.

The first supernatural work to be classified as a horror film was an 1896 short film, “Manoir du Diable” (“The House of the Devil”). Since then, horror has brought us petrifying classics such as “Halloween,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Psycho,” “It,” “The Blair Witch Project,”Hellraiser,” “The Amityville Horror,” “The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Conjuring,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Besides having a love for horror, some filmmakers may be drawn to the genre because the films don’t typically require huge production budgets. But the financial return can be astronomical. In fact, the most successful horror films of all time were made under relatively modest budgets in comparison to their box office gross. To learn more about some of these films, see below for eight of the best books on horror movies. For additional reading recommendations, check out our picks for the best screenwriting books, and this year’s list of TV to movie book adaptations.

“Behind the Horror: True Stories That Inspired Horror Movies (True Crime Uncovered)”

From the alleged demonic possession that birthed “The Exorcist” to the horrifying story that inspired “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” unearth the terrifying true tales of the hauntings, abductions, disappearances, murders, and more gore behind fan-favorite horror movies in “Behind the Horror: True Stories That Inspire Horror Movies.” The book features spooky original stories behind a fascinating roll call of horror films, that includes the poltergeist case from “The Conjuring 2,” and the serial killers who inspired Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

 “Stephen King at the Movies: A Complete History of the Film and Television Adaptations of the Master of Horror”

A comprehensive ode to Stephen King, the purveyor of fright. King has probably had more books adapted into movies and TV shows than any other author in America, many of which are outlined in “Stephen King at the Movies.” This guide to King’s catalog of iconic horror films includes “Carrie,” “Salem’s Lot,” “The Shining,” “Cujo,”  “Misery,” “Pet Cemetery,” “It: Chapters One and Two,” and “Doctor Sleep.”

“Wes Craven: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series)”

“Wes Craven: Interviews” takes a look the filmmaker’s life and career as told through a collection of 29 interviews spanning from 1980 until Craven’s final interview before his death in 2015. A trailblazer of the horror genre, Craven became known for legendary films such as “Scream,” “The Last House on the Left,” “The Hills Have Eyes,” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

“My Favorite Horror Movie: 48 Essays by Horror Creators on the Film That Shaped Them”

In “My Favorite Horror Movie” over two dozen horror filmmakers, actors, writers, directors, painters, musicians, journalists, and film festival directors open up about the films that inspired their work and fed their obsession with the dark arts. The list of films include “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein,” “Alien,” “An American Werewolf in London,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Creature From The Black Lagoon,” “Day of the Dead, “Drag Me To Hell,” “The Exorcist,” “Friday The 13th: Part 2,” “Fright Night,” “Halloween,” “It,” “Jaws,” “Night Of The Living Dead,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” “Poltergeist,” and “The Shining.”

“Analog Nightmares: The Shot on Video Horror Films 1982-1995”

If you love shot-on-video horror films you’re likely to enjoy “Analog Nightmares.” Written by Richard Mogg, the book serves up an all-inclusive look into the niche technique by way of films such as “Boardinghouse” (the first shot on video feature-length horror film ever made), “Bloodcult,” and “Sledgehammer.”

“The Science of Women in Horror: The Special Effects Stunts, and Stories Behind Your Favorite Fright”

Let’s hear it for the scream queens! Horror isn’t a genre just for the boys, which is where “The Science of Women in Horror” comes into play. Authors Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence gives readers a guide to the feminist horror movies, TV shows, and characters we all know and love. The book explores outdated tropes involving female characters and delves deeper into women-centered TV shows including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Teeth,” and the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”

“Horror Film Directors 1931-1990”

Published in 1991 and authored by Dennis Fischer this spooky read offers an extensive look at directors from horror film that have spanned nearly 60 years. The book is perfect for horror movie buffs who want to learn about lesser-known trailblazers along with some of the more popular names of the genre. Included among the list of 50 directors are John Gilling, Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Wes Craven, and Brian De Palma.

“The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History”

Horror is as much a genre as it is an art form. “The Art of Horror” collection features a trio of books, including this illustrated celebration of horror photos, along with showing how the horror world has expanded since the days of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. The book explores dust jackets, book illustrations, pulp magazines, movie posters, comic books, paintings, and filmmakers who bring the horror genre into the digital space.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Shop and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox