What’s Scarier? Books vs. Films


I started reading It last week- the movie version helped restart my interest in the horror genre. Unsurprisingly like most of the King books I’ve read from that era I can’t put it down.

And reading it while awaiting the final chapter and thinking on some of the other scary movies I’ve watched or am interested in made me wonder about the age old question: What’s scarier in the horror genre: books or films?

Growing up my parents and family always went with the age old chestnut there’s nothing scarier than your imagination. Which I do find mine to be pretty wicked. Yet on the other hand my brain does an okay job of blocking out the things it can’t handle pretty well.

You would think I’d fall on the side of books being scarier.


Yet I do consider myself to be highly suspectible to visual images- although there’s limits. Like an alien ripping through someone might get an ew, yuck out of me but I can also shrug that off more easily than something (slightly) more low-key.

The quick beginning image of the twisted pretzel of a body in It Follows still makes me shudder. Even knowing what was coming with Georgie I had to turn away at him trying to crawl away after his arm was torn off. There’s a scene in Black Swan where her legs suddenly break and I have to turn away every single time. Nothing in the recent Alien films bothered me (or annoyed me honestly) so much as Elizabeth’s fate and what happened to her body.

So in that regard I’d give it to films. I can’t block a visual image as easily. But then again that’s probably a personal response and everyone has a threshold.

Film is scary because it puts you on the scene and makes you a witness but books- at least the ones that really get to me put you into the minds of the victims. Be it a woman being stalked by a deranged lunatic, a child’s last minutes as a terrifying clown kills him, etc.

Georgie meets his fate

You’re actually in their heads. Which is one of the reasons I always agreed with the Red Wedding chapter in A Storm of Swords being horror as well as the epilogue and Brienne’s chapter when she’s brought before you know who…

Of course there’s also a pull to a good horror book where you can’t put it down until you finish. Or at least I can’t stop reading until I know how and why the monster was defeated or the bad guy went to jail. At least movies are quicker or you can fast forward (I can never read ahead in a book) but you have to know how it ends because you have to know how to beat them!

A Storm of Swords

So for that reason I come down on the line of books, at least the good ones, being scarier than films for me.

Although I think the case by case test comes into play after you’ve read the book or watched the film and are lying in bed in the dark and your imagination really starts to take over and you won’t get out of bed to make confirm that the crash you heard was really just the cats playing around and not some terrifying clown waiting for you.

Because obviously the bad guys aren’t going to get you if you just hide under the covers 🙂