Florence Pugh as Dani in Midsommar

Which Short Horror Story You Need to Read, Based on Your Favorite Horror Movie

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Horror movies and haunted houses get all the hype during Halloween. You know what is scarier than both of these? Your imagination. In celebration of the spooky season, I’ve compiled a short list of short stories (and novellas) to read based on some of your favorite horror movies.

Why short stories? Well, all of these can be finished in a sitting, and some take as long to read as it would to watch your favorite horror flick. Also, there is an under-appreciation of short stories. Because I didn’t want to pick something that might ruin a twist or ending, these selections were chosen based on different things like sub-genre, pacing, and more.

If you like Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (2010), try The Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Creepy hand on the cover of a book. (Image: Tordotcom.)

Perfect for those looking for something creepy and campy is this novella by the critically acclaimed horror writer Stephen Graham Jones. A glance at the title, you might think that something from the Child’s Play series might be a better fit. However, looks can be deceiving.

After a group of friends uses a mannequin to prank residents of their town one summer, they set out to complete one final prank at their local movie theater. However, in this instance, the mannequin appears to not only walk out of the theater at the end of the show, but also begins killing off each member of the group one by one. The Night of the Mannequins short story doesn’t beat out his critically acclaimed novel The Only Good Indians, but it is a gory fun ride.

If you like The Omen (1976), try The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Eye with a skull house in the iris. (Image: Bantam.)

(Image: Bantam.)

Chosen for the presence of a creepy child, mansion setting ,and blurred ethical lines, this thrilling short story from the author of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects will leave you eeked out with a lot of questions. The main plot follows a palm reader and sex worker as she dupes a rich woman into paying her to cleanse her mansion from the evil spirits the wealthy woman believes are coming from her creepy AF stepson.

Because this story was a part of George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology, it’s hard to purchase as a standalone. If your local library doesn’t have The Grownup, many ebook and audiobook sellers carry it. Like many titles on this list, I read Flynn’s story on Libby.

If you like Overlord (2018), try Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

KKK monster on cover of book. (Creepy hand on the cover of a book. (Image: Tordotcom.)

(Image: Tordotcom.)

This would also be a good pick if you really liked Jordan Peele’s Get Out because of the Black historical foundation, but I went with Overlord because this book is more horror-action rather than thriller and because of the demon-inspired science fiction elements. Right under 200 pages, this novel is a bloody, fast-paced adventure that follows a group of Black fighters (many of whom are WWI vets) armed against the Klu Kluxes. In addition to fighting general white supremacist forces, they find that something is different about the latest round of Kluxes they encounter.

This book is also unlikely to be like anything you have ever read because it’s written like the oral histories of the Gullah people. A creole Black population in the Georgia area of the United States, the language used employs their specific vernacular, and the story is set in the state.

If you like Midsommar (2019), try The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Book cover with faces broken up. (Image: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)

(Image: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)

You didn’t think I would end this list without a Jackson short story, did you? One of the founders of the modern horror genre (up there with Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe) is Shirley Jackson. Like Midsommar, this 30-ish-page story follows a community dynamic and anthropological interests. If you haven’t read this, it is a must. After you read the story, check out this retrospective on the loads of hate mail The New Yorker received for publishing it back in the 1940s.

While famous for her short stories, Jackson is probably equally well known for her full novels. These include The Haunting of Hill House (yes, like the Netflix show) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

(featured image: a24)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.