Horror Movies You Didn't Realize Were Based on Books

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Angel Heart

Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
© Open Road Media

Movie: Angel Heart (1987)
Book: Falling Angel (1978) by William Hjortsberg

Even if you didn't realize it, it makes sense that the movie about a New York private eye becoming involved in voodoo and murder in New Orleans would be based on a pulpy, hard-boiled detective novel. Hjortsberg would go on to write the screenplay for the Tom Cruise fantasy flick Legend.

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Audition by Ryu Murakami
© W.W. Norton & Co.

Movie: Audition (1999)
Book: Audition (1997) by Ryu Murakami

It's easy to see why you might not realize this inspiration for Takashi Miike's cult film about a Japanese widower and his psychotic new girlfriend existed; it wasn't translated into English until 2009.

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Cape Fear

The Executioners by John D. MacDonald
© Fawcett Gold Medal

Movie: Cape Fear (1962)
Book: The Executioners (1957) by John D. MacDonald

Perhaps the biggest difference between the novel and the movie is apparent in the title; the Cape Fear River that served as the climactic setting in the film (and its 1991 remake) is nowhere to be found in the book. Instead of a houseboat, the final showdown between the heroic lawyer and the obsessive ex-con in The Executioners takes place in a hum-drum landlocked house.

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Carnosaur by Harry Adam Knight
© Bart

Movie: Carnosaur (1993)
Book: Carnosaur (1984) by Harry Adam Knight (pseudonym for John Brosnan)

Although the novel about cloned dinosaurs escaping from a zoo and running amok was released in the mid-'80s, it wasn't until the similarly plotted 1990 novel was optioned as a movie that B-movie maven Roger Corman commissioned a low-budget film adaptation, timed to open less than a month before its blockbuster competition.

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Dead Calm

Dead Calm by Charles Williams
© Viking Press

Movie: Dead Calm (1989)
Book: Dead Calm (1963) by Charles Williams

The movie Dead Calm was an acclaimed Australian thriller, but its source material was an American novel from two decades earlier. Orson Welles actually began filming an adaptation of the book in the late '60s under the title The Deep, but sadly the movie was never finished.

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Dead Ringers

Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland
© Putnam

Movie: Dead Ringers (1988)
Book: Twins (1977) by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland

Not to be confused with the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny DeVito comedy, Twins (and later, David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers) was based on a true story about twin gynecologists found dead in their shared apartment in 1975.

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The Fiends by Boileau-Narcejac
© Arrow Books

Movie: Diabolique (1955)
Book: The Fiends (1952) by Boileau-Narcejac

The French writing duo of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac contributed to three classic films in the '50s/'60s: Diabolique (by way of their novel The Fiends), Vertigo (by way of their novel The Living and the Dead) and Eyes Without a Face, for which they wrote the screenplay based on the Jean Redon book of the same name.

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer book by Lois Duncan
© Archway

Movie: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Book: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973) by Lois Duncan

Long before young adult novels became the craze for Hollywood adaptations, this YA book spun a mystery that would take nearly 25 years to hit the big screen. As young adult fare, it is far from the bloody slasher the movie version turned out to be, with no deaths other than the accidental one that propels the events in the story. Needless to say, Duncan had no involvement in the making if the film.

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John Carpenter's Vampires

Vampire$ by John Steakley
© Roc

Movie: John Carpenter's Vampires (1998)
Book: Vampire$ (1990) by John Steakley

John Carpenter's western vampire tale began as a novel about a company called Vampire$, Inc. that kills vampires for profit.

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Night of the Lepus

The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon
© Heinemann

Movie: Night of the Lepus (1972)
Book: The Year of the Angry Rabbit (1964) by Russell Braddon

When this tongue-in-cheek Australian novel about giant rabbits wreaking havoc was adapted by Hollywood, the setting shifted from Down Under to Arizona and the sense of humor was dropped -- at least, the intentional humor was dropped, as the film's unintentionally funny campiness has made it a cult favorite over the years.

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The Ninth Gate

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
© Mariner Books

Movie: The Ninth Gate (1999)
Book: The Club Dumas (1993) by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Roman Polanski's adaptation of the tale of a book dealer's adventures trying to authenticate a rare manuscript diverges from the original Spanish novel in the final portion of the film -- especially when Johnny Depp hops onto the Black Pearl with Charlie Bucket.

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Orca by Arthur Herzog
© Pocket Books

Movie: Orca (1977)
Book: Orca (1977) by Arthur Herzog

An obvious cash grab to ride on the coattails of Jaws, Orca the book and the film arrived in the same year, the movie eventually achieving a cult following over the years. A year after Orca, author Arthur Herzog's 1974 debut novel The Swarm would be turned into another noteworthy "killer animal" feature film.

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Psycho by Robert Bloch
© Tor Horror

Movie: Psycho (1960)
Book: Psycho (1959) by Robert Bloch

Bloch sold the screen rights to Psycho for less than $10,000 without knowing it was Alfred Hitchcock buying them. He had no involvement in the making of the movie, but when Universal was planning a sequel in the early '80s, he wrote a satirical script that the studio rejected and he later published as a novel entitled...Psycho II.

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The Ring

Ring by Koji Suzuki
© Vertical

Movie: The Ring (2002)
Book: Ring (1991) by Koji Suzuki

The Japanese horror novel Ring inspired not only the American hit, but also a preceding Korean film and an ongoing series of movies in Japan. There were many differences between the film(s) and the book, the most instantly noticeable being that the book has a male protagonist, while the movie's is female. Suzuki also wrote the novel that would become the Japanese and American films Dark Water.

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The Rite

The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio
© Image

Movie: The Rite (2011)
Book: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist (2010) by Matt Baglio

Like The Serpent and the Rainbow in the '80s, is a fictionalized story based on a non-fiction book, in this case an exploration of Catholic Church-sanctioned exorcisms. Baglio would go on to write another non-fiction book upon which a major motion picture would be based: Argo.

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Straw Dogs

The Siege of Trencher's Farm
© Dell

Movie: Straw Dogs (1971)
Book: The Siege of Trencher's Farm (1969) by Gordon Williams

The classic home invasion thriller Straw Dogs began as a Scottish novel whose author hated the film adaptation because of the significant alteration of writer-director Sam Peckinpah (who in turn seemed to hate the book), most notably a controversial -- and now infamous -- rape scene.

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The Thing from Another World

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
© Shasta

Movie: The Thing from Another World (1951)
Book: Who Goes There? (1938) by John W. Campbell, Jr.

Although the novella Who Goes There? served as inspiration for The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter's 1982 remake The Thing actually follows the book's plot of a shapeshifting alien in an Antarctic research facility much more closely.

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Valentine by Tom Savage
© Cliffhanger Press

Movie: Valentine (2001)
Book: Valentine (1996) by Tom Savage

You wouldn't think a by-the-numbers slasher like Valentine would originate from a novel, but indeed it did. The book received infinitely better reviews than the film did, so it should come as no surprise that they bear little resemblance to each other. The book is more of a methodical thriller told in flashbacks, while the movie is standard slasher stuff.

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Village of the Damned

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
© Ballantine Books Classic

Movie: Village of the Damned (1960)
Book: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham

The title of this novel refers to the English town taken over by alien-bred children and to the cuckoo bird, which lays eggs in other birds' nests so they will raise the baby cuckoos as their own. Wyndham also penned the novel The Day of the Triffids, which has been filmed several times since its publication in 1951.

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The Wicker Man

Ritual by David Pinner
© New Authors Limited

Movie: The Wicker Man (1973)
Book: Ritual (1967) by David Pinner

The story of a devout Christian police officer investigating the disappearance of a child in an isolated Cornish village (not a Scottish isle, as in the film), Ritual is more lighthearted than The Wicker Man and reportedly was the direct inspiration for the ill-fated 2006 remake with Nicolas Cage.

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Harris, Mark H. "Horror Movies You Didn't Realize Were Based on Books." ThoughtCo, Apr. 27, 2016, thoughtco.com/horror-movies-you-didnt-realize-were-based-on-books-1873241. Harris, Mark H. (2016, April 27). Horror Movies You Didn't Realize Were Based on Books. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/horror-movies-you-didnt-realize-were-based-on-books-1873241 Harris, Mark H. "Horror Movies You Didn't Realize Were Based on Books." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/horror-movies-you-didnt-realize-were-based-on-books-1873241 (accessed November 19, 2017).