Halloween is coming! 'Tis the season for horror reading, at least for me. So it seems appropriate that this latest roundup of book-to-TV/film adaptations focus on horror books.  Here's a handful of (mostly) unsettling horror stories that will not only satisfy your hunger for horror, but also prepare you for their upcoming film and television adaptations.

 

The Terror by Dan Simmons

The literary horror novel The Terror is about a scientific expedition aboard a steam-powered ship set to explore the Northwest Passage in 1845. But two years in, conditions are brutally and life-threateningly harsh. The cold weather won't let up – even through the Summer – and their rations of food and fuel are dwindling. Even worse, an unseen predator is lurking in the icy darkness and stalks the crew as the ship attempts to make a getaway to the south.

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This has all the making of a creepy television show, doesn't it? Earlier this year, AMC greenlit a limited television series adaptation of Simmons’ chilling novel. More specifically, the intention is to produce a 10-episode weekly anthology drama adaptation of the 2007 horror/suspense novel. It will be written by David Kajganich, who will also act as the show’s co-showrunner along with Soo Hugh. Executive producers include Ridley Scott, David W. Zucker, Alexandra Milchan, Scott Lambert, and Guymon Casady.

 

Shirley Jackson We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

You think your family is messed up? You should take a peek at the Blackwood family, the focus of this creepy classic from Shirley Jackson. Sisters Merricat and Constance live alone with their Uncle Julian at the family estate. The house used to be more crowded, but that was before Constance allegedly put arsenic in the sugar bowl and killed off her parents, her brother, and Julian's wife. After being acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, much to the unhappiness of the villagers. Their self-proclaimed isolation is threatened, however, when cousin Charles returns to the Blackwood home.

Shooting has already started for the film adaptation of Jackson's 1962 classic. (It was also adapted into a play in 966 by Hugh Wheeler.) Stars include Sebastian Stan (Bucky from the Captain America films), Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Joanne Crawford, and Willem Dafoe. It's being produced by Michael Douglas, Jared Goldman, Robert Mitas, and Robert Halmi, Jr.

 

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Described as a "post-horror horror" story, We Are All Completely Fine is about a group of people – survivors of events straight out of horror films – whose stories are only believed by the psychotherapist who brings them together to form a most unusual support group. In attempting to help her patients, the psychologist, Dr. Jan Sayer, unwittingly unleashes the evils of the past.

If award wins are any indication of a book's viability as a successful adaptation, then We Are All Completely Fine would be a perfect candidate; it won both the World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  Sadly, Wes Craven – the director behind the Nightmare on Elm Street films who was developing Gregory's chilling novella into a television series for the SyFy channel – passed away recently. However, his production company still has plans to adapt this into a show. 

 

Drinkslay Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Not all horror is dark.  Take, for example, Sarah Beth Durst's teen vampire novel Drink, Slay, Love. Pearl is your average sixteen-year-old vampire, generally evil and possessing a fondness for blood, as well as having a serious allergic reaction to sunlight. But then a unicorn stabs her through her heart. Rather than be killed, Pearl is transformed. She is unharmed by direct sunlight. This is good news for her vampire family. They are looking to win favor with the Vampire King of New England. When they are tagged to host a feast, they figure Pearl can use her newfound abilities to lure a whole cadre of human entrees to the table. The only problem is that Pearl is also growing a conscience.

This offbeat vampire novel – it's part horror, part romance – will be the basis for a television movie to be directed by Vanessa Parise (Perfect High). Stars include Bella Thorne (Scream: The TV Series, Perfect High), Gregg Sulkin (Faking It), Zack Peladeau (iZombie), Angelique Rivera (American Crime), McKaley Miller (Hart of Dixie), Sarah Desjardins (Van Helsing), and Jasmine Sky Sarin (Perfect High).

 

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

You don't like reading scary stories alone? Then share the fear with a younger reader by handing them Ursula Vernon's cute and witty Castle Hangnail. Featuring illustrations by the author, this is the story of a 12-year-old witch named Molly who shows up at the doorstep of Castle Hangnail to apply for the job of the castle's witch. The current residents of the castle are dubious of Molly's credentials; they are used to much scarier witches. But they need to fill the vacancy or they will lose their home when the Board of Magic decommissions it.

Ellen DeGeneres' production company, A Very Good Production, scooped up the rights to this quirky-but-adorable story. Bill Kunstler, a veteran in TV comedy, has been hired to write the script, adapting the book for Disney studios.

 

Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin

You likely know George R.R. Martin as the author of A Game of Thrones from the series A Song of Ice and Fire, the books that are the basis of the popular HBO television series, but he has many other books and short stories on his résumé. One of them is a werewolf novella written in 1988 and published in the horror anthologies Night Visions 5 and Quartet, and also in Martin's collection Dreamsongs: Volume II.  Described as "werewolf noir", it follows private investigator Randi Wade, her werewolf pal Willie Flambeaux, and their pursuit of a murderous beast who steals his victims' skin in a gothic urban jungle.

Cinemax optioned Martin's horror World Fantasy Award-winning story and ordered a pilot with Kalinda Vazquez (Once Upon a Time, Prison Break) hired on as screenwriter. This story has already been adapted into a comic written by Martin and Daniel Abraham, but a television series (should one be ordered if the pilot is aired and draws good ratings), would certainly bring this more attention.

John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.