Scare my socks off!
May 20, 2016 9:19 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for horror novels that will really scare me. I mean, lingering-two-days-later, don't-read-after-sunset, check-under-the-bed kind of scary. Please recommend me some. Preferences (but not requirements) under the cut.

Cosmic horror and body horror are subgenres that tend to work particularly well at creeping me out. I really like it when authors use a good bit of non-visual imagery (how things sound/smell/feel) in their scary stuff because I don't visualize well when I read.

Please assume that I am fairly well read in the horror genre. (So I have read House of Leaves, a lot of the classics of the genre, etc.)

posted by darchildre to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this thread?
posted by phunniemee at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2016

I am not a horror person. However, the vagaries of podcasting and friendships with writers occasionally push me that direction. I've been enjoying The Black series from Paul Cooley, if you're into alien creature from the depths stalk humans in modern closed environments sorts of stories.
posted by straw at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2016

No One Gets Out Alive definitely gave me the creeps!
posted by cakelite at 9:24 AM on May 20, 2016

Head Full of Ghosts just won the Stoker, and scared me in a "spin around and look behind me" way at 2 in the afternoon.

Honestly, my primary complaint is that it's too short, but any longer and it might have lost its edge. It maintains its sharpness to the very end.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

Since you're well read already, I assume you've read Stephen King's It. If not—do it now! It's exactly up your alley.
posted by ejs at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you somehow missed it, Salem's Lot by Stephen King terrified me. I had to stop reading it at night because I couldn't sleep.
posted by COD at 10:05 AM on May 20, 2016

Everything by Brian Evenson, especially his short stories.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Intensity by Dean Koontz.
posted by fourpotatoes at 11:03 AM on May 20, 2016

If you want to go old-school, I literally had to give Charles Williams's War in Heaven away the minute I finished it, because I didn't want the book in my house. Now, Williams was an Inkling, so it's Christian horror, with a touch of English smugness about it all, but it's not like Left Behind or something that you must believe in in order to, uh, "appreciate." (I'm an agnostic.) For a pervasive atmosphere of spiritual decay leading to supernatural evil-doing, you won't beat it.
posted by praemunire at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Scott Smith's The Ruins. The movie based on it was tragically bad, but I read the book in one night because I was so scared I had to get to the end.

I don't know if I'd call it 100% horror, but The Southern Reach Trilogy has some deepy frightening and just plain weird stuff in it.
posted by ELind at 11:33 AM on May 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

The Ruins, by Scott Smith, and Breed, by Chase Novak. These are my go-to recos for horror fiction.
posted by scratch at 11:35 AM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two nearly simultaneous votes for The Ruins!
posted by scratch at 11:36 AM on May 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't know if it's genre horror, though it's definitely horrifying. And the Ass Saw the Angel by (yes, the) Nick Cave is about a monstrous fetal-alcohol-syndrome-Jesus, his incredibly abusive childhood, his army of three-legged dogs and um... that kind of thing.

It definitely sticks with you.
posted by cmoj at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2016

I feel like I spend a solid 50% of my time on the internet searching for well-written novels that will genuinely scare me. The quality drops off dramatically after you've made your way through the staples of the genre. There just aren't that many hidden gems. That said, most of the ones I have found I've found through AskMe - there are actually a fair number of questions on this subject if you work your way through the 'horror' tag.

My recs:

Thomas Tessier's Finishing Touches is both pure 80s pulp sleaze and genuinely nauseating. Full on body horror by the end. I think you'll like it.

I saw it recommended on AskMe first and I endorse Naomi's Room. Short but perfect.

Peter Watt's Blindsight is space horror and should scratch that cosmic itch. Probably the most genuinely scary book I've read in the past several years.

Laura Kasischke's The Raising isn't quite pure horror but it unnerved me. Very well written and gorgeously atmospheric.

It's been a while since I've read it, but I was also genuinely scared by Dan Simmons' The Terror.

I tore through Victor LaValle's Devil in Silver; he also has a new Lovecraftian novella out called The Ballad of Black Tom.

, by Ben H. Winter (of Last Policeman fame) is a fast-paced, itchy read.

Seconding Head Full of Ghosts and Annihilation. And though I know you asked for novels, I really, really can't recommend Jeff & Ann Vandermeer's anthology The Weird enough. So, so much good stuff.

Finally, if you're a hardcore horror reader and any of these are new to you, I ask that you return the favor and list your recs. I need moaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2016 [7 favorites]

@pretentious illiterate - have you read T E D Klein? The Ceremonies is a little hard to find these days, but it's great. Heavily Machen-inspired, great atmosphere. It's a shame Mr Klein only ever wrote the two books.
posted by darchildre at 12:36 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

An often overlooked author, who is a Grand Master of Horror, is Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. You might like these titles: 1. A Mortal Glamour; 2. Beastnights; 3. The Godforsaken.
posted by MovableBookLady at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can echo the rec for The Ballad of Black Tom; it's great, and you can read it in a single sitting.

I don't see Joe Hill on this list anywhere. I wasn't so great on NOS4A2, but Horns and Heart-Shaped Box were delightfully creepy to me.
posted by uberchet at 1:20 PM on May 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just read Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters, and loved it. Super-creepy.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

The visualization issue makes me wonder if you'd enjoy Uzumaki, an excellent manga that combines body horror and cosmic horror in a well-visualized and very creepy form. It's available as a single hardback volume.
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:04 PM on May 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another shout out for Dan Simmons' The Terror. That book scared the heck out of me.
posted by kbanas at 4:41 PM on May 20, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Troop by Nick Cutter was scary and full of the grossest descriptions ever of the bioterrorism/zombie/blood n guts variety
posted by nuclear_soup at 8:21 PM on May 20, 2016

Bob Leman's Feesters in the Lake is a collection of nasty and disconcerting horror stories – very hard to find so I collected them.
posted by nicwolff at 6:17 AM on May 21, 2016

Another vote for both The Ruins, which stayed with me for a long time, and Head Full of Ghosts.

Laird Barron's cosmic horror is influential for a lot of people currently working in the subgenre, including his short novel, The Croning.

Stephen King's novella, "N.," is arguably his finest cosmic horror work.

in re: Klein, he actually published three books. The wonderful Ceremonies, the wonderful Dark Gods, and Reassuring Tales, a somewhat uneven short story collection that came out a few years back in a limited edition from Subterranean Press. If you've never read "Poroth Farm," from which Ceremonies sprang, you might hunt it down. Also, "Growing Things," which is maybe my favorite Klein story.
posted by cupcakeninja at 10:10 AM on May 21, 2016

Also, I'm assuming you've read Caitlín R. Kiernan? Among my favorite living writers. The Red Tree vies with The Haunting of Hill House for me, in terms of books about haunting. Her Threshold is among the most innovative takes I've read on cosmic horror. I recommend the first edition, as opposed to the more recent version, which makes stylistic changes that substantially alter the experience of reading the book.
posted by cupcakeninja at 10:14 AM on May 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

One by Conrad Williams hits all your requirements. One of my favourite books.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:31 PM on May 21, 2016

Adam Nevill is an English author of some of the scariest books I've ever read. I'm not easily spooked, but some of his stuff shouldn't be read at night. He specialises in people in (relatively) normal situations where things suddenly take a turn into nasty supernatural occurrences.

Last Days. A film maker is recruited to make a documentary about a cult that imploded in the 70s. Things don't go well. This is one of only two books in the last 20 years that had me sleeping with the lights on.

The Ritual. A hike in Sweden takes a (very literal) turn for the worse when some friends decide to take a short cut through an ancient forest. A study in how personalities disintegrate under (supernatural) pressure.

Apartment 16. A young American woman inherits an apartment in a posh London building. It turns out that there is a reason why there aren't any mirrors.

House of Small Shadows. A woman with a past stays at a house stuffed full of the creations of a dead taxidermist. Things go bump in the night.

No One Gets Out Alive. A young woman, down on her luck, is stuck with living in a house that has some very unpleasant goings on.
posted by veedubya at 4:43 PM on May 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Also, you might like Mo Hayder. Her Jack Cafferey series starts out as police procedurals, albeit with some weird characters. Later in the series, when Jack moves from London to Bristol, a vague supernatural element is introduced. I've read them all, and I'm still not sure if they would count as 'horror' but they're still scary.

Start with Birdman. If you like that, then you'll have 6 others to read that are just as good, and then some other non-series books.
posted by veedubya at 4:53 PM on May 24, 2016

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