Halloween is right around the corner, so here are 13 frightful tales to get you in the spooky spirit.
Afterlife with Archie vol 1: “Escape from Riverdale” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla, and Jack Morelli
When Jughead’s beloved pup Hot Dog is tragically killed, Juggie enlists Sabrina the Teenage Witch for necromancy help. They revive Hot Dog, but at a terrible cost. Jughead is the first to turn and soon the zombie plague spreads throughout Riverdale. Archie, Betty, Veronica, and a handful of other Riverdalians must make terrible moral and ethical choices and decide where the lines lie between loyalty, friendship, survival, and murder.
Verdict: Zombies and Lovecraft. What more can you ask for?
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
After his father’s gruesome death, Cas took over the family profession of hunting ghosts. He, his kitchen-witch mother, and his ghost-sniffing cat track down local legends and stop spirits from killing people. Cas arrives in a town to chase down a story about a ghost known only as Anna Dressed in Blood. What should be an easy job becomes a complicated mystery of vengeance, curses, and wrath. Anna spares his life but her reasons may cost Cas everything he holds dear.
Verdict: Creepy teenagers being creepy.
Aura by Carlos Fuentes
A young scholar, employed by an aged widow to edit her husband’s memoirs, falls in love with her niece in this novella of horror and beauty.
Verdict: Transformation, transmogrification, transmutation
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Explores an apocalyptic near-future world, where a mother and her two small children must make their way down a river, blindfolded. One wrong choice and they will die. And something is following them – but is it man, animal, or monster?
Verdict: Apocalyptic fiction crossed with the horror of human behavior.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The tale of the vampire Dracula: his journey from Transylvania to London, his search for the blood he needs to stay alive, the men and women who are his victims, and the enemies who seek to destroy him.
Verdict: The first vampire novel was published in 1748, but Stoker’s 1897 novel is the basis for most modern vamp fiction. Be prepared to sift through a lot of detailed description to get to the drama, but it’s worth it.
The Fall by Bethany Griffin
In this contemporary retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, Madeline Usher has been buried alive. She awakes in a coffin, put there by her own twin brother. The house itself is alive around Madeline, and it will never let her escape, driving her to the madness just as it has all of her ancestors. Can she escape her fate or will she succumb to the madness?
Verdict: A spooky story about a murderous house full of murderers.
Fledgling by Octavia Butler
Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods she appears to be a young Black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds, but is in fact a fifty-three year old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near immortals who live in a dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots – or all bigots are human…
Verdict: Semi-futuristic vampires with a heaping helping of social commentary as only Octavia Butler could do.
Both starring the great Boris Karloff and Colin Clive, these black-and-white classic films aren’t the first made about Frankenstein’s monster – that’d be J. Searle Dawley’s 1910 silent short, produced by Edison Studios – but they are some of the earliest. In “Frankenstein,” the good doctor reanimates his man-man creation to disastrous results. “Bride of Frankenstein” is a sequel in which Dr. Frankenstein builds a bride for his monster.
Verdict: These are classics all film and horror buffs should see.
Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
For centuries Okiku has wandered the world, rescuing the spirits of murdered children and taking the lives of their killers. Although she cannot exact revenge on her own killer, she has devoted her afterlife to do so for others. Okiku is a force of vengeance for the innocent, but she meets her match in Tark, a moody teenager. Tark is possessed by a demonic force and his intricate tattoos are the only things keeping it at bay.
Verdict: J-Horror in YA book form.
Hellboy: Masks and Monsters by Mike Mignola
In “Hellboy/Batman/Starman” Hellboy teams up with DC superheroes Batman and Starman to rescue Ted Knight, the first Starman from an underground group of Nazis who want to use him to raise a dead god. In “Ghost/Hellboy” Hellboy works with Ghost, the superhero name of the dead vigilante Elisa Cameron, to stop Alal the Destroyer from bringing about the apocalypse.
Verdict: Not especially scary, but my blending grotesque horror with caped crusaders, Mignola tells old stories with fresh twists.
Horns by Joe Hill
After the violent murder of his childhood sweetheart, Merrin Williams, everyone in his hometown believes Ignatius Parrish is guilty even though the court let him off. One night he goes on a drinking binge, and when he wakes the next morning, he has grown a pair of devil horns. The horns induce people to reveal their deepest, darkest desires, and Ig discovers he can compel people to act on them as well. Ig uses his newfound power to mete out revenge on those who betrayed him and to uncover the true killer of his girlfriend. This book takes a harsh, critical look at the nature of the good and evil.
Verdict: A crackling story about salvation and damnation and the people caught in the middle.
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Weird things are going down at the Cleveland, Ohio, branch of Orsk, an Ikea-like superstore. Furniture is being broken over night and the security cameras don’t show what’s causing the damage. Three employees volunteer to work the graveyard shift to determine who or what is behind the vandalism, and the situation soon devolves. Part haunted house horror and part comedy, the book comes in the form of a mail-order catalogue, complete with a store map, home delivery forms, and product illustrations.
Verdict: A traditional haunted house tale with a modern Big Box store twist.
The Shining by Stephen King
Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son Danny move into the Overlook Hotel, where Jack has been hired as the winter caretaker. Cut off from civilization for months, Jack hopes to battle alcoholism and uncontrolled rage while writing a play. Evil forces residing in the Overlook – which has a long and violent history – covet young Danny for his precognitive powers and exploit Jack’s weaknesses to try to claim the boy.
Verdict: If you’ve never read Stephen King, this is a great place to start. A twisted horror novel and twisting psychological thriller. The movie doesn’t do the book justice.