Best Essays and Books About Horror Movies – MovieWeb

Learn more about your favorite frightening films, or film theories of horror itself, with this list of creepy books and essays.
You’ve probably wondered about the inspiration behind your favorite scary movies and the background of some of those horrifying stories. Sometimes the origins of a horror movie are as simple as an author telling a scary story, and at other times films are based on more sinister, true events. You might also be interested in the making of certain horror movies or the impact they have on the audience or the cast. Maybe you're into film theory and want to study the gender dynamics, cultural and political significance, and philosophy of horror, like in Carol Clover's seminal book Men, Women, and Chainsaws. Luckily, there are plenty of resources that explore these exact topics and the development of horror movies in general.
You might be interested in why people are attracted to horror movies and the act of feeling fear. In which case, you might want to read Stephen King’s essay Why We Crave Horror Movies. Digging even deeper, you might notice horror films can help us examine fears around eating, sexuality, religion, and more. You might even wonder about the characters that often die first and why, which is explained by Lindsay King-Miller in her essay A Love Letter to the Girls Who Die First in Horror Movies. Whatever it may be, in addition to the aforementioned texts, here are the best essays and books about horror movies.
Director John Landis (American Werewolf in London, Twilight Zone: The Movie) wrote a book on movie monsters covers some of cinema’s most terrifying creatures and their development. Landis explores the design of movie monsters and special effects, both in high and low-budget films. Monsters in the Movies includes interviews with the minds behind the monsters, their historical origins, and tricks behind bringing these ghouls to life.
Sarah Kurchak’s essay examines a subject people might not consider in horror movies. The truth is that many scary films express beliefs about women and their experiences via horror and gore. Kurchak dissects how Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 features female stereotypes in hot pants but also explores women facing the threats of men and emerging from adolescence completely altered. Kurchak argues that this horror comedy can teach female viewers about what to expect from the world and adolescence.
The chilling stories of author Stephen King have made both startling reads and frightening films. King’s works have established more than 60 horror movies and 30 television series. This book covers the making of all of them, including behind-the-scenes material and King’s opinion on some adaptations. If you’re looking to dive deeper into some iconic films based on King’s stories, consider picking up Stephen King at the Movies.
Remember how we said that horror movies can contain messages that don’t appear obvious on the surface? Laura Maw notices how in many horror movies there is always a scene of a ravenous woman eating, and her fascinating essay considers the meaning behind that.
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Maw writes that “horror invites us to sit with this disgust, this anxiety, and to acknowledge our appetite and refuse to suppress it.” Maw presents a feminist analysis of hungry women in well-known horror movies in a way which both explores and challenges preconceptions about women.
Dr. Lee Miller’s research into the origin stories of movies like The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street are compiled in this handy book. Miller details the true accounts of disappearances, murders, and hauntings that inspired these hit movies.
Behind the Horror explains the history of the serial killers featured in Silence of the Lambs and takes a good look at the possessions that motivated the making of The Exorcist and The Conjuring 2.
Arguably one of the best books to read if you are curious about the makers behind famous horror movies. My Favorite Horror Movie features over 20 essays from filmmakers, actors, set designers, musicians, and more about the dark works that solidified their careers.
The films discussed include It, Halloween, The Shining, and others. It’s a good book for looking at horror movies from different angles and recognizing the many minds that contributed to these iconic works.
Yet another great book for establishing a rounded perspective of horror movies, this time in a much more visual way. The Art of Horror sorts through famous illustrations, movie posters, cover art, comics, paintings, photos, and filmmakers since the beginning of horror with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s infamous Frankenstein. Learn about these talented artists, their chilling work, and their impact on the direction of horror.
If you’re trying to hear from the best horror directors themselves, the Wes Craven interviews are a great place to start. Craven is responsible for films like Scream, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Last House on the Left, and is often considered one of the greatest horror filmmakers of all time.
Related: The Best Scream Queens of All Time, Ranked
Craven established a particular style in his films that changed the way horror movies are made, and this book pulls information from the master himself. Wes Craven: Interviews includes almost 30 interviews with the director ranging from the 1980s until Craven passed away in 2015.
Ever wonder if you’re missing a great horror film from your spooky collection? This is the book for you. 101 Horror Movies You Should See Before You Die covers the absolute essentials of every kind of horror film, from gothic to slasher and international horror classics as well. Horror can take on so many different forms and this book is one of the best for finding horror films you might have missed.
Authors Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence examine women in horror movies in this book that explores feminist horror films, and more misogynistic ones from the standpoint of feminist film theory. The Science of Women in Horror recalls the history of women in horror movies and goes on to analyze more recent, women-centered horror flicks and series such as The Haunting of Hill House and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you want to know more about the women on and off-screen in horror movies, check out this book!


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