Monday, October 20, 2014

My Favorite Horror Stories - 2014 version

In honor of Halloween, I'll revisit my list of my all time favorite horror stories.

10.  "The Playground." Ray Bradbury. I struggled to include a Bradbury piece. Certainly, "A Sound of Thunder" is classic sci fi. "The Crowd" is a great horror story, but it didn't thump me over the head with horror - as the other stories here do. A horror list just needs to include a Bradbury piece. But most of his work is mild . . . even among the mildest of horror writers. Then I remembered this little gem in the original hardcover copy of Farhenheit 451 that I read in high school. Now this is not mild. It's horror and it's Bradbury at his best. It involves a father who so loves his son - who is bullied at school, especially on the playground - that he is willing to switch spots with him. Even if it means going back to that most awful of places - if you've ever been picked on - the playground. That last scene in the final paragraph has stuck with me at least 25 years since I've read this. 

9.  "The Gentleman's Hotel" by Joe R. Lansdale.  Several, I bought the anthology, Curse of the Full Moon at the Georgia Tech bookstore in Atlanta.  However, it wasn't until this fall that I finally read this story from the collection.  I have not read anything by Lansdale since his phenomenal The Nightrunners when I was 16.  That novel has stood out as one of the most violent and brilliant horror books of my youth (right up there with the work of Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) and Clive Barker (The Books of Blood).  This is actually one of the better werewolf stories I've come across.  And the main character, Reverend Jebediah Mercer, who is one of the most interesting protagonists I've come across in some time.  This both made me think twice about going down stairs in the middle of the night and made me laugh out loud.

8.  "Re-Animator" by HP Lovecraft.  Probably not Lovecraft's best story.  That likely would go to "The Rats in the Walls" or "The Color out of Space."  But this, for my money, is his most horrifying.  And if you get a chance to see the campy B grade movie, see it.  It's that great.  I saw it on KBRR when I was still in junior high and it freaked the hell out of me.  I'll never forget it.  And the story is even better.  This is a staple of my Sci Fi class.

7.  "The Signal Man" by Charles Dickens. I'm not a huge Dickens fan, but this one is creepy all the way around.  A classic ghost story.

6.  "The Pattern" by Rasmey Campbell.  This has the most disturbing resolution I've ever seen since I saw the movie version of Stephen King's The Mist.  Every time I read it, the most disturbing I find it. But the slow build up to that resolution is amazing.  Don't read it alone.  Or in the woods.  Or at your cabin.  In fact, if you're faint of heart, you might want to avoid this story all together.

5.  "Crouch End" by Stephen King.  This is King's ode to one of the greatest in the field of horror: HP Lovecraft.  When our husband and wife cross over to the "other" side where the elder gods hold sway, this story is one of the most vividly horrifying I have ever read.  This one is an absolute staple of my Sci Fi class.

4. "N." by Stephen King.  This was directly influenced by the #3 horror story.  King takes the concept of the evil elder gods made popular by HP Lovecraft and blended it with a patient's OCD for one of my all time favorite King stories.  And I think it's his most frightening, which is saying something.

3.  "The Great God Pan" by Arthur Machen.   Stephen King calls this work the greatest work in the genre of horror.  I have to agree.  It's not so much overt horror that makes this story so powerful.  Rather it's the horror that is suggested or occurs "off screen" (so to speak) that leaves such an impression on the reader.

2.  "Pig Blood Blues" by Clive Barker.  Up until I read Martin's "Skin Trade," this was my consistently ranked #1 horror story of all time.  I still remember the first time I ever read it, way back in 10th grade in high school when the Red Lake Falls library final got a copy of The Books of Blood for me through the inter-library loan system.  It has stayed with me all of these years. It's just as haunting (and horrifying) as ever.

1.  "Skin Trade" by George R. R. Martin. I read this a few months ago after seeing it mentioned in one of my favorite werewolf anthologies.  I Googled it, and, sure enough, I found a free on line version.  It didn't disappoint. It might be the best werewolf story (or novella) I have ever read.  It has everything - humor, horror, and great details.  I've read it three times now, and it gets better each time.

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