From Page to Scream: Spine-Chilling Listens that Inspired Horror Movies

Looking for the perfect listen to queue up for Halloween night? These terrifying tales—all of which were adapted for the big screen—offer plenty of frights.

There’s nothing better than preparing for the arrival of Halloween by turning off all the lights, grabbing a cozy blanket, and settling in with a good horror flick. Even though your popcorn might end up on the floor at the first jump scare, there’s something inherently satisfying about scary movies. They get your pulse racing, gratifying that human desire for thrills and chills while remaining comfortably in the realm of fiction. 

But the very best horror movies are the ones that nevertheless seem all too feasible and are impossible to shake, keeping you up all night glancing at the dark corners of your bedroom ceiling. Many of those standout suspenseful flicks have distinguished literary roots—based on books written by some of the most masterful authors in the genre. Here’s a spotlight on the books behind exceptional horror movies—a few of our favorite spooky or terrifying tales that will no doubt have you sleeping with the lights on.   

Misery

Misery

There is nothing out there like Misery. The movie is an exceptional work of psychological horror that dwells on the anxiety wrought by captivity and the sheer terror of knowing you might not make it out alive. It also happens to be the only adaptation of a Stephen King novel that won an Academy Award. If you’ve seen the film, it’s clear why Kathy Bates won the Oscar for Best Actress: she crafted a fascinating and truly menacing portrayal of Annie Wilkes. Wilkes is best-selling romance novelist Paul Sheldon’s number one fan, and at first, it seems she’s just being kind in taking him in and caring for him after a car accident renders him immobile. But Sheldon soon realizes that the circumstances are far more dire. Narrator Lindsay Crouse expertly voices both characters, nailing each unhinged twist with a sense of dread that will leave a knot in your stomach.

American Psycho

American Psycho

Patrick Bateman is a villain far more frightening than any fanged vampire or looming cryptid. Bateman is a narcissist, a monstrously egotistical investment banker who cares for little save his appearance, his finances, and his musings on pop music. But beneath the veneer of 1980s superficiality, he is also a madman capable of unspeakable violence. Bret Easton Ellis’s sharply satirical and viciously dark novel doesn’t skimp on disturbing, graphic details—and as it’s narrated from the vantage of Bateman himself, it’s all the more unsettling. In the 2000 black comedy based on the novel, Christian Bale delivered an extremely well-reviewed performance that’s so spot-on, it’s scary—but in his narration, actor Pablo Schreiber brings the perfect mix of droll disinterest and hair-raising lunacy to capture Bateman’s horrific inner monologue.

Jaws

Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 masterpiece Jaws is not your conventional horror film: the so-called monster is merely an animal in its natural habitat, and much of the terror and bloodshed was easily preventable if not for the conflicting interests of human beings. Nevertheless, it had hordes of viewers canceling their beach vacations and staying as close to land as possible. The shark thriller was based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, which follows the same characters—Chief of Police Brody, oceanographer Hooper, and shark hunter Quint—as they set out to sea to put an end to the reign of terror wreaked by a man-eating great white. Despite its substantial differences from the film in characterization and subplots, this listen packs the same thrilling punch as the cinematic classic.

The Exorcist

The Exorcist

The first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Exorcist is not just a terrific horror movie—it’s a terrific movie, period. The same can be said for its inspiration, the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty (who, it should be mentioned, also produced and wrote the screenplay for the big screen adaptation). When sweet little 11-year-old Regan MacNeil is possessed by a demonic entity, her mother Chris calls on Father Damian Karras to expel the darkness and save her daughter’s life. So much more than a simple made-you-jump shocker, this listen is also a thoughtful meditation on crises of faith and what it means to be human. And if that endorsement isn’t enough to convince you, trust on this: you’re going to want to hear Blatty’s absolutely impeccable performance of his own triumph. Not only is this the scariest author narration of all time—there, we said it—it’s also among the best ever.

The Birds

The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock sure had a knack for adapting the works of Daphne du Maurier; over the course of his career, he based three of his films on her stories. But even if you’ve already seen the suspenseful horror classic, you’ll want to check out du Maurier’s original, part of a collection that includes five more chilling tales. Far different from the film sharing its name, the short story centers on a farm worker and war veteran named Nat Hocken who is determined to protect his family from a sudden onslaught of aggressive, violent birds. Set in Cornwall in lieu of Hitchcock’s California, du Maurier’s The Birds is eerie, stark, atmospheric, and a stirring ode to the deep traumas left by WWII.

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night

In Barrow, Alaska—the northernmost town in the United States—the city stays dark for weeks on end, with citizens sometimes waiting more than a month to feel the warmth or see the light of the sun again. This makes it a perfect place for vampires to feast without fear of death by daylight. That’s the central conceit of Steve Niles’s classic graphic novel 30 Days of Night and the film adaptation of the same name. In this Audible Original reimagining of Niles’s comics, a full cast and strong sound effects and production come together to craft a deeply immersive, truly heart-pounding experience. Listen in as Barrow’s very own husband-and-wife sheriff team bring the town together to fend off the vampiric threat and ensure the safety of survivors—before the sun sets on their town forever.

The Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart

There’s no doubt about it: Clive Barker is one of the most iconic names in horror writing. He’s a Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and his distinctive mix of frights and fantasy make for some truly memorable stories. His novella The Hellbound Heart offered a glimpse into a sadistic and shocking world inhabited by demonic beings called Cenobites, dimensional portals, and gruesome repercussions. The first installment of three set in the universe, The Hellbound Heart served as the inspiration for a major horror franchise spanning films, comics, and more. It’s the first film, Hellraiser, however, that captured our attention and, at times, turned our stomachs—and it’s no wonder, since Barker himself wrote and directed it for the screen.

Psycho

Psycho

No film in history had a media tour quite like that of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in that, well, there was no media tour. Stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins were prohibited from making the usual rounds, and with no advance screenings, critics had to wait until the film’s general release. Hitchcock’s reasoning for the unusual rollout? He wanted to avoid letting the film’s big twist—a twist it shares with its literary inspiration of the same name—out of the bag before it could shock audiences. Whether you’ve seen the film, heard the big reveal, or are just looking for your next great horror listen, be sure to check out the audio edition of the original novel by Robert Bloch. Narrator Richard Powers brings every eek and shriek of the Bates Motel to vivid life.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last Summer

There’s something especially irresistible about coming-of-age horror stories. Life as a teenager can already be a nightmare—from the demands of high school to the highs and lows of young love—so when these trials collide with murder and mayhem, things are bound to get interesting. Like the 1997 slasher film it inspired, Lois Duncan’s young adult favorite follows Julie James and her friends after a fatal hit-and-run accident that they elect to cover up and keep to themselves. But when letters arrive boasting, I know what you did last summer, it appears their secret is out—a revelation that has fatal consequences. You won’t want to pause this listen until it reaches its twisty, nail-biter of a conclusion.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein

No work on the pitfalls of playing god has captured the anguish wrought by unchecked ambition like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The sci-fi horror masterpiece was first published in 1818 but remains every bit as relevant and fascinating today as it was centuries ago. The audio edition brings the classic tale to life like never before, as Dan Stevens of Downtown Abbey delivers an Audie-nominated performance that soars over the highs of Victor Frankenstein’s remarkable scientific breakthrough—and dives to the depths of the unintended fallout. Shelley’s prescient work on life, death, and isolation has been brought to stage and screen a number of times—but it’s Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the Monster in Universal’s 1931 adaptation that cemented the character as the stuff of horror legend.

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby

Have you ever given much thought to your neighbors or the unspoken agreement that, as inhabitants of the same place, you are to prevent harm from befalling one another? What if those living just a door away, or perhaps even sharing a wall, were not as benevolent as they seem? Horror is as close to home as ever in Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, a tale that follows the strange happenings in the lives of Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy, after they move into a new apartment and are immediately forewarned of the building’s freaky history—a warning they disastrously choose to ignore. Fans of the landmark 1968 film will be surprised by how much it owes to Levin’s brilliant novel. The audio version is voiced by lead actress Mia Farrow, who gives an equally outstanding performance in her narration.

Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary

Over the course of his career, Stephen King has written story after story that leave listeners shaking with fright. But what scares the master of horror himself? The answer is his 1983 novel Pet Sematary, a truly disturbing musing on grief, inspired by King’s fear of losing his own children. It follows Dr. Louis Creed as unthinkable tragedy lures him to the unearthly promises of the creepy burial ground in the woods behind his family’s home, kickstarting a truly terrifying series of events. This novel got two quite excellent film adaptations—one in 1989 and another in 2019—but we recommend listening before you watch. Michael C. Hall (of Dexter fame) delivers an unmissable performance that expertly captures a father’s desperation, a sinister supernatural threat, and the slow realization that, sometimes, dead is better.

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname - Buffalo Bill - is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states....

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House

There’s no doubt that the late Shirley Jackson was a genius: her inventive prose, incredibly human characters, and nearly tangible settings make her work particularly outstanding—and all the scarier for it. Her 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House was adapted into two films (one in 1963 and another in 1999) and, more recently, served as the basis for a widely adored Netflix series that premiered in 2018. Jackson’s spooky classic follows a researcher and his companions as they investigate the mysteries that abound in the seemingly haunted, ghastly Hill House estate. But when night falls on Hill House, things become more far unearthly than what could be perceived during the light and hope of day.

The Books of Blood: Volume 5

The Books of Blood: Volume 5

Another Clive Barker installment on our list, The Forbidden—a short story housed in Volume 5 of his The Books of Blood anthology series—served as the inspiration for one of the most inventive horror films of all time. The 1992 supernatural slasher Candyman did what horror is meant to do: sure, it served up gore and thrills, but it also crafted a lingering sense of unease with the help of its truly unnerving premise. And though the film is also incisively focused on race in the United States, Barker’s original short story, set in a dilapidated housing district in Liverpool, England, explores similar themes of classism and appropriation. At the heart of both tellings is the Candyman himself: a ghastly urban legend who is summoned by mere doubt in his existence. And in a world ruled by rationality, it doesn’t get more terrifying than that. (Oh, and we recommend you listen to this short story before next summer when Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta’s highly anticipated spiritual sequel to the original film will be released.)

The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned ghost story and to that end, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black delivers tremendously. Though released in 1983, Hill’s story mirrors the traditions and tropes of classic Gothic fiction, whose influence makes for a uniquely absorbing story. Enlisted to settle the affairs of the late Alice Drablow, a recluse, junior solicitor Arthur Kipps travels to the foreboding Eel Marsh House, where, during his stay, he encounters a variety of inexplicable apparitions coupled with the chilling sounds of bloodcurdling screams. The most mystifying of these spirits is the shadowy figure known as The Woman in Black. As Kipps begins to uncover the mystery of her haunting, he finds himself in a dark world full of sorrows. This ghostly tale was adapted for film twice: once for a television movie in 1989, then again for a big-budget, big-screen movie starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2012.

Interview with the Vampire

Interview with the Vampire

When you think vampire, you think Anne Rice. The bonafide queen of bloodthirsty literature, Rice is perhaps best known for The Vampire Chronicles, a first-class horror series that has enthralled listeners since it debuted more than 40 years ago. In the first installment, Interview with the Vampire, Rice introduced Louis de Pointe du Lac and Lestat de Lioncourt, exploring the intricacies of their relationship and the dark, brooding setting of 18th-century New Orleans. Driven by an undercurrent of melancholy and sensuality, this is a story unlike any other, and it’s best heard in the melodic, entrancing voice of Audie winner Simon Vance. Afterward, queue up the 1994 film starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst—the grim epic captures the aches of immortality detailed so beautifully in the source material.

Let Me In

Let Me In

Speaking of vampires, Let Me In (originally Let the Right One In) by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist is essential listening for any fan of darker, serious takes on the genre. The vampire tale (in which 12-year-old Oskar befriends his new neighbor Eli, who turns out to be a vampire trapped in a child’s body and mindset) is set alongside cruel, inhumane acts perpetrated by human beings, making for an audiobook that is at times difficult to stomach but ultimately well worth the ride. Lindqvist’s take on the vampire myth is entirely inventive—an effective, stirring character study wrapped in a dismal landscape and the brutality of mortals and immortals alike. Though the novel has been adapted for film twice—2008’s Swedish release and 2010’s Matt Reeves-directed American version—it’s well worth listening to the audiobook, which meditates on difficult themes and elements impossible to bring to the big screen.

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Jack Finney’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers inspired a staggering quartet of film adaptations: one in 1956, one in 1978 (starring Donald Sutherland, and with one of the most famously shocking endings of all time!), one in 1993, and the most recent one in 2007. Finney’s sci-fi horror gem has served as the basis for so many movies because of its impeccable blend of extraterrestrial lore and run-of-the-mill paranoia. When a small town is invaded by nearly imperceptible alien spores, its citizens are converted into shells for the creatures. Whether a nod towards McCarthyism or the perceived menace of Communism during the time of the book’s release, the story’s look at what it means when you can’t believe your eyes or trust those you love most remains as chilling as it did more than half a century ago. Fun fact about the audiobook: the narrator is Kristoffer Tabori, an Audie winner who also happens to be the son of Don Siegel, who directed the 1956 big screen rendition.

World War Z: The Complete Edition (Movie Tie-in Edition)

World War Z: The Complete Edition (Movie Tie-in Edition)

To say that Max Brooks’s World War Z is unique hardly captures what makes it truly remarkable. Told from the perspective of a series of survivors and victims across the globe, this listen focuses not only on the existential threat of zombies but also the failures of government and society that elevate an unthinkable menace to a worldwide crisis. What’s even more fascinating—though perhaps a little unnerving at present—is that the zombie threat in Brooks’s universe never feels farfetched and instead operates as any other pandemic might. The film adaptation hit theaters in 2012, and though the action-filled apocalypse brought to life by Brad Pitt in that version is captivating, we’re partial to the all-star audiobook, which features performances from Hollywood greats Mark Hamill, Rob Reiner, and Martin Scorsese.

I Am Legend

I Am Legend

Yet another plague-driven tale that’s truly dismal, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend follows Robert Neville, the last man on Earth, as he struggles to stay alive and stay sane in the midst of the world’s newfound population: infected former human beings who have transformed into bloodthirsty monsters. Despite the ever-looming presence of vampires, this story is focused on the crushing despondency that results from such extreme isolation and on what exactly distinguishes human from monster. It has been adapted into film three times, with leads ranging from Vincent Price to Will Smith. In audio, it’s Earphones Award-winning actor Robertson Dean at the helm, delivering a thoughtful performance that echoes the endless anguish of being alone.

The Shining

The Shining

The final Stephen King novel on this list (though it was a tough job narrowing down all the great King adaptations to just three!), The Shining was the basis for one of the most iconic horror films of all time. Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie, starring a brilliantly unhinged Jack Nicholson as the rapidly unraveling Jack Torrance, is in some ways removed from the novel that inspired it: from substantial differences in characterization to themes of addiction and the significance of supernatural factors on human behavior. Even if you, like us, have watched Kubrick’s film over and over, don’t miss out on King’s brilliant tale of a family trapped in a snowbound hotel who are torn apart by lingering ghosts—both literal and metaphorical. Between little Danny Torrance’s struggle with his clairvoyant abilities and the incredibly nuanced description of mounting marital discord between Jack and Wendy, it’s not only the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel that will stay with you long after you’re done listening—it’s the living residents too.

The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror

Inspired by a supposedly real haunting, Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror has served as the muse for a sprawling film franchise. Though the novel’s claims of veracity have been challenged time and again, this listen stands the test of time as a work that explores the feeling of never truly being safe while in your own home and the ominous pit-of-your-stomach feeling that accompanies every creak and chill. After the Lutz family moves into their house in Amityville—the site of a horrific murder—they encounter a series of alarming events, ranging from the feeling of being grabbed by unseen hands to a mysterious ooze running down the walls. Listen in to this one, expertly narrated by Audie winner Ray Porter, and decide for yourself whether this terrifying ghost story is fact or fiction.

Who Goes There?

Who Goes There?

From Halloween to The Fog to They Live, John Carpenter is a true legend in horror filmmaking. His 1982 sci-fi cult classic The Thing is no exception; starring Kurt Russell, the film follows a team of researchers in Antarctica who are infiltrated by a parasitic alien lifeform. The story has its roots in John W. Campbell’s novella Who Goes There?, which captures the same sense of paranoia, doubt, and delusions that plague the crew in Carpenter’s adaptation. And with a being that can imitate any organism and blend in seamlessly on the loose, it’s only a matter of time before tensions mount and consequences abound. Along with Steve Cooper’s gripping narration, this audio edition features an introduction by author William F. Nolan, delving into the story’s background as well as the process of adapting it on film for both Carpenter’s version and 1951’s The Thing from Another World.

Evil Eye

Evil Eye

Recently adapted for a Blumhouse-produced Amazon Studios film now streaming on Prime, Audible Original Evil Eye is a thrill ride that defies conventional boundaries of genre and audience expectations alike. The dramedy-turned-psychological horror listen focuses on the budding relationship between Pallavi, a young woman bound by her mother’s expectations, and Sandeep, the seemingly-charming young entrepreneur she meets by chance. When Pallavi’s mother Usha begins to grow concerned about her daughter’s new beau, she uncovers shocking truths about his identity and his intentions that have terrifying implications. Just trust us: you won’t see the ending of this one coming.

Audition

Audition

If your favorite horror stories consist of slow burn thrillers mounting to a brutal, truly twisted finale, Audition is the film for you. Disturbing with a sense of dread that develops gradually before hurtling into scenes of watch-from-between-your-fingers violence, the Japanese horror shocker from director Takashi Miike is highly regarded in the world of horror filmmaking. But before it was a silver screen hit capturing the attention of future gore icons like Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, Audition was a novel by author Ryu Murakami. The story follows Aoyama, a lonely widower, who, nearly a decade after his wife’s death, finally decides it’s time to remarry. He and his best friend devise a plan to host auditions for a purely fabricated film, with their true purpose being to find Aoyama a suitable new wife—and it’s not long before Aoyama falls for the breathtaking Yamasaki Asami. Beneath her veneer of perfection, however, is an unthinkable secret.

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts

A zombie story with a bite, The Girl with All the Gifts is a twisty, unique listen that we’re reticent to give too much detail about lest we spoil what makes it so special. Like the 2016 film adaptation starring newcomer Sennia Nanua and industry icon Glenn Close, M.R. Carey’s post-apocalyptic tale centers on a little girl named Melanie living in a future world plunged into fear and uncertainty by a fungus that has transformed most of humanity into empty, flesh-hungry creatures. But Melanie is not your average child. With a nonstop thrill ride of a plot and a cast of thoughtfully written, multidimensional characters, this listen will surprise you at every possible turn. Narrator Finty Williams’s crisp, polished accent is equal parts melodic and dynamic, making for the perfect performance to match this eerie, dystopian story.

The Ritual

The Ritual

If you thought being lost in the woods was excellent nightmare fuel, just wait until you hear what author Adam Nevill does to this classic horror trope. Adapted into a 2017 British horror film directed by David Bruckner, The Ritual follows four middle-aged men, in various states of aching and bickering, on a remote getaway in the Scandinavian wilderness. When the men decide to ignore every horror red flag ever and take a shortcut, the proceedings turn steadily more harrowing, starting with a freshly killed corpse in the forest, a mysterious cabin, and the distinct sense that the men are being hunted... With pitch-perfect reading from narrator Matthew Lloyd Davies, The Ritual puts an uncommonly imaginative, creepy spin on the classic cabin-in-the-woods tale.

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