Friday, 30 October 2015

My Favourite Scary Books and Films, with Casper!

At the beginning of October I found out the people at Casper wanted to know which books are the ones that keep me awake at night. Also, how beautifully fitting is the name Casper for a mattress-maker? Any tiny ghosts hiding under their beds? Anyway, it was the perfect question to be asked this time of year, so I've been thinking this whole month.

I wouldn't consider myself a scaredy cat because I love watching and reading thrillers (especially psychological ones) and actually slightly revel in the little chill running down my spine when something jumps out. So, check out my list of novels, short stories and even films below. If you read or watch even one of these on Halloween you'll have a great time.
Books & Short Stories:

One of my favourite reads last year was Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler.
An original thriller from bestselling author Christopher Fowler that reinventing the haunted house story.
There are two things you need to know about haunted houses. One, there's never been an actual authenticated haunted house. Two, it's not the house that's haunted, but the person.  
Callie is a young architectural student who marries Mateo, a wine importer, and moves to a grand old house in Southern Spain. Hyperion House is flooded with light, it also has a mute gardener, a sinister housekeeper and a sealed, dark servants' quarters that nobody has the keys for. And although initially happy, and taking care of Mateo's daughter, Callie can't help being drawn to the dark empty rooms at the back of the house, and becomes convinced that someone is living in there. 
Uncovering the house's history, she discovers the shocking truth. As Callie's fear of the darkness returns, she comes to understand the true nature of evil.
FrankensteinThis book was utterly terrifying in a beautiful way. With stunning prose and fascinating story, I whole-heartedly recommend this one!

Up next is Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus by the brilliant Mary Shelley.
Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature's hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.
Frankenstein is a kind of ur-horror book, even bringing in some sci-fi elements in the creation of the Creature. You can't not read this one!!

The LotteryHere's a scary short story for you: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery is a memorable and terrifying masterpiece, fueled by a tension that creeps up on you slowly without any clear indication of why. This is just a townful of people, after all, choosing their numbers for the annual lottery. What's there to be scared of?
The Lottery was the first short story I ever read and Jackson's masterly build-up of suspense and the uncanny makes this a must-read for those wanting a quick and scary fix. Because what could be scary about something this mundane and simple as a lottery? If it's Jackson describing it, then everything!

I have another scary short story for you, one which may not be 'in your face' scary but definitely makes you think. It's The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
The Yellow Wallpaper
Presented in first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose husband has rented an old mansion for the summer. Foregoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment she is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency," a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. Because it's a nursery the room's windows are barred, to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate. The story depicts the effect of understimulation on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. In the end, she imagines there are women creeping around behind the patterns of the wallpaper and comes to believe she is one of them. She locks herself in the room, now the only place she feels safe, refusing to leave when the summer rental is up. "For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way."
Although a relatively simple story, I found The Yellow Wallpaper to be rather claustrophobia-inducing. And to think that this story actually isn't that far away from some women's actual experiences... *shudders*

The Woman in Black
Next up, another great book by a female writer (I swear this is not on purpose), The Woman in Black by Susan Hill! I could've put this one on the movie list, but the book is just so good!
Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story has as its hero Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north from London to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and most dreadfully--and for Kipps most tragically--The Woman In Black.
The Woman In Black is both a brilliant exercise in atmosphere and controlled horror and a delicious spine-tingler--proof positive that this neglected genre, the ghost story, isn't dead after all.
Susan Hill just has a way with words that will leave you extremely unsettled for most of the time you spend reading her books, but she does it so well that you can't even complain about it!
The Fall of the House of Usher
Finally there's The Fall of the House of Usher, one of Edgar Allan Poe's most fascinating and capturing short stories.
Dive into this classic from the singular mind of Edgar Allan Poe, who is widely regarded as the master of short horror fiction. "The Fall of the House of Usher" recounts the terrible events that befall the last remaining members of the once-illustrious Usher clan before it is -- quite literally -- rent asunder. With amazing economy, Poe plunges the reader into a state of deliciously agonizing suspense. It's a must-read for fans of the golden era of horror writing

This story is about as typically Poe-ish as you can get. It's got some dreadfully scary images and Poe's build-up to them is great.

I'm celebrating this Halloween by having a scary movie night with my friends. Nothing quite like a group of girls in pyjamas, screaming at their television! So, below is a simple list of some of the films you simply have to watch if you want to call yourself a scary film pro!

The Grudge and The Ring, I'm pretty sure, are the two thrillers that every single 90s kid was both terrified and excited to see. I still love them, with The Ring being probably my favourite out of the two since it's so clever. The Shining is a classic, a must-see. Kubrick does suspense like no other. The one here that really scared me the most was The Strangers. I'm never rewatching that one, ever!   
The Cabin in the Woods is ridiculously fun in how it turns the horror genre on its head. It brings everything a scary film should. Scream is a classic, in my eyes. It doesn't quite have the strength of The Shining but it brought something new to the table and is simply unforgettable. Trick r Treat is almost like an anthology of scary films, mixing different story elements together. It's again quite fun while being scary. No thriller collection is complete without The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant in it and night-vision has forever been ruined for me.

The Company of Wolves is actually a film I only recently watched and some of the scenes are horrible but the story-telling is amazing. I'm a Guillermo del Torro fangirl, so there had to be a films on here h worked on. He was a producer for El Orfanato, which is both scary and beautiful. The Skeleton Key is a film I have very fond memories of since I watched it with my sister and every scary movie list needs some voodoo or hoodoo on it. Finally, The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I really like this film, it's both complex and scary while not going the easy road.

Finally, as a scary TV suggestion I'd seriously recommend to all Brits to check our the documentary Fear Itself on BBC IPlayer by Charlie Lyne which explored the art behind scary films while being terrifying itself as well.

So, which stories keep you awake at night? And are you rereading one on Halloween?

1 comment:

  1. I definitely feel like we have similar tastes in horror! I LOVE The Shining, The Ring, Cabin in the Woods, and The Orphanage! Such amazing scary movies!! I really loved The Lottery too! Nyctophobia is on my TBR list, so maybe I should get to that one soon...

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds