Top 10 Chainsaw Horror Movies

Categories
Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

10 Killer Chainsaw Horror Movies

Horror movies have given us some of the most menacing and violent on-screen villains since the dawn of cinema, though these masked maniacs are nothing without a trusty weapon with which to do their dirty work. The chainsaw is one of the most iconic weapons in horror next to Michael Myers’ kitchen knife, Jason Voorhees’ machete and Freddy Krueger’s knifed glove, and one particular Ed Gein inspired psychopath is the first to come to mind when this grisly, tree-felling tool is mentioned: Leatherface. Aside from Leatherface, there are probably more chainsaw horror movies than you might think out there.

The chainsaw has no particular style or grace, it is the choice of weapon for when your target must absolutely come to the utmost harm you can possibly befall them. It won’t just cut, it’ll carve, grind and mangle. Think you can hide indoors? Those doors better not be made of wood, or whoever’s wielding that snarling, toothed engine won’t be held back for long. Even the most hyperviolent video games aren’t complete without allowing their players to wield the chainsaw, with titles such as DOOM, Gears of War, Manhunt, Left 4 Dead and a good amount of other zombie games on the market including the weapon. That being said, the first exposure most audiences had to the flesh-ripping nature of the chainsaw was through film, so please enjoy the most heinous, violent and barbaric depictions of on-screen chainsaw violence in history.

The Wizard of Gore (1970) 

The Wizard of Gore (1970) horror movie poster featuring a drawing of a body in a top hat

Herschell Gordon Lewis’ The Wizard of Gore is arguably one of the first horror movies to bring a chainsaw to proceedings, and this early 70s forerunner to post-9/11 torture porn does so with gusto. Deranged magician Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) invites women onto his stage show where he performs grisly illusions upon them, usually by dismembering them in some way, before having them return to their seats magically unharmed. Later, when the women begin dying for real in ways identical to their ‘deaths’ on stage, people begin to suspect there is more to Montag than simple magician’s tricks. Featuring plenty of over the top gore and an ending likely to confuse as much as it does enthral, fans of classic cult horrors should take note.

The Last House on The Left (1972)

The Last House on The Left (1972) horror movie poster featuring a woman leaning on a tree

Wes Craven, who would later carve his own legacy in the annals of American Horror, first directed a harrowing and highly sexualised revenge horror in 1972. Other than a previous adult film, this was Craven’s directorial debut and it is clear he was out to shock from the start. Later re-releases dub The Last House on The Left as “The Original Chainsaw Massacre”, though the weapon is not actually featured until the film’s final act. Rather than wince when the snarling saw is finally brandished, however, audiences will shout encouragement at its wielder as he sets it upon the man who raped and killed his daughter. This shock revenge flick has as satisfying an ending as any that came after it, and the loud, intense edge of the chainsaw is partly to thank for that.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

blank

This is the big one, folks. Directed by Tobe Hooper and unleashed to shock unsuspecting audiences around the globe in 1974, Texas Chainsaw is not only the ultimate exercise in chainsaw-based carnage, but still remains one of the most unsettling and intense horror movies to this day. Advertised and being based on a true story it was all too real for some audience members. With a whole family of antagonists including the instantly recognizable, Ed Gein-inspired Leatherface, Hooper’s classic brings a specific flavor of nastiness that is often imitated, though never quite perfected.

Motel Hell (1980)

Motel Hell (1980) horror movie poster with a spooky motel and screaming faces

Kevin Connor’s 80s black comedy/horror centers around siblings Vincent and Ida Smith (Rory Calhoun & Nancy Parsons) who run a motel along with a food stand selling their world famous sausages. After some investigation it is revealed that the origin of their meat surplus has a gruesome connection to the disappearance of a few guests, and farmer Vincent must do everything he can to protect their secret. Featuring darkly comical gore, lively performances all round and the pig-masked Vincent brandishing a huge chainsaw, this early 80’s cult classic is perfect for those who want a good laugh with their gore. 

The Evil Dead (1981)

Evil Dead Movie Poster from 1981 featuring a hand coming from the ground grabbing a woman

The Evil Dead might not have been the first use of the chainsaw in horror history, though it is easily one of the most recognizable. It is used by protagonist Ash Williams to cut off his own possessed hand in Evil Dead 2 (1987), before he fits the tool to his dismembered stump as a gruesome prosthetic, making it all the easier to hack through the forces of darkness. It was also used to great effect in reboot Evil Dead (2013) where it is shoved down the antichrist’s throat mid-blood rain in one of the most insane climax shots ever. While the chainsaw would later become Ash’s signature in the later films, it was first introduced in the original The Evil Dead (1981) when Ash tries to slice his beloved Linda in half and can’t bring himself to, opting to bury her instead, which goes as well as one would expect. 

Pieces (1982)

Pieces (1982) Horror Movie Poster featuring a man with a chainsaw and a woman crawling away

Pieces is about as campy and scattershot an affair as one would expect from an early 80’s slasher. A group of college co-eds in Boston are stalked by a mysterious killer wielding a chainsaw, who steals body parts from each victim for a bloody jigsaw puzzle. Like many of its era, Pieces displays gratuitous gore, even more gratuitous nudity and a knowing edge that stops it from taking itself too seriously. What it also includes, however, are many absurd and almost random scenes that seemingly have no purpose other than to divert from an otherwise very standard and conventional plot. It is an absolute mess of a movie, but maybe that’s just your kind of thing. 

American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho Movie Poster with a Man holding a knife

Directed by Mary Harron and adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name, American Psycho is a humorous, horrifying and intriguing look at the life of Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale). Bateman, a wealthy investment banker from New York, is also a serial killer who moves from departing the homeless, to colleagues who annoy him, and then to random members of the public, seemingly unable to contain his psychotic urges. The film employs plenty of good humor alongside its visceral brutality, playing with the fragile ego of the unreliable narrator Bateman on such subjects as music, sex and even the business cards of his fellow bankers. One particularly harrowing scene shows Bateman chasing a prostitute around his apartment complex, completely naked and brandishing a chainsaw. As his victim descends the spiral staircase to escape, Bateman smugly allows the chainsaw to fall towards her rather than chasing her himself. The energy and menace Bale brings to his role is enough to make any lumberjack look twice at his trusted power saw.

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Tokyo Gore Police (2008) horror movie poster with a woman holding a sword

Next up is a fantastic Japanese splatter action directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura which features, true to its name, buckets of blood and guts along with some truly bizarre weapons and mutations. Think Power Rangers but with more cybernetic body modification and gore-soaked mayhem than you can shake a severed tendon at. Rather than anyone running the the woodshed for their trusty tree-feller, the creatures that vengeful police officer Ruka (Eihi Shiina) must fight have the things coming from every orifice of their mutated bodies! Like some overblown cyberpunk nightmare, TGP comes through with some of the weirdest gore-based spectacle on offer. With raving critical and audience reviews, this serves as a perfect introduction to Japan’s infinitely obscure splatter scene, and gore movies in general, keeping things funny, interesting and completely unexpected until the final frame.

Dead Snow (2009) 

Dead Snow (2009) Horror Film Poster featuring a man with a chainsaw and a Nazi soldiers head in the snow

If there’s one thing more morally fogiveable than killing Nazis, it’s killing zombies. This 2009 Norwegian horror/comedy combines the two, along with a healthy splattering of references to the greats (Evil Dead mainly), for an end result which is as hilarious as it is gruesome. Naturally, a homage to Raimi’s classic would have been nothing without that famous buzzing blade being used to dismember a few fascist undead, and director Tommy Wirkola took great pleasure in crafting an epic battle scene between our chainsaw-wielding heroes and a horde of the rotting horrors on a snowy mountain plane. The scene in question could be placed with the likes of the famous lawnmower scene in Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992) as one of the most fun pieces of brutal mass-killing to watch on screen. Be sure to also check out the sequel.

Mandy (2018)

Mandy (2018) Horror Movie Poster with fantasy man and woman with red clouds around them

In terms of 80’s soaked grindhouse violence, Mandy has everything. A revenge plot from the deepest fever dream of the cinema obsessed Panos Cosmatos, Mandy serves to scratch an itch for all lovers of overblown gore and gut-wrenching storytelling. And if these fanatics are anything like me, then near the top of their list of hopeful scenes is the conceptually legendary, yet criminally underused, chainsaw fight. Cosmatos didn’t only decide to craft one of the greatest face-offs in recent memory, but was so proud of it that he included it on the film’s cover art. This kind of boldness and confidence is what draws me to projects such as these, and I for one am waiting with bated breath for whatever darkness Cosmatos casts over us next.

Chainsaws in Horror Movies

Well that’s a wrap on some must see chainsaw wielding maniacs. If you need more you can always dig into the iconic Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, makes for a nice binge weekend if you can stomach it. With that said we are promised a new film from the franchise in 2022. Will you be there with proper ear and eye protection as we witness the revival of Leatherface?

Under the Sea with Leviathan, Underwater and More

Categories
Best of Movies Scary Movies and Series
Underwater horror movie poster 2020

Oceans are believed to be one of the most stunning places in the world – and they are. But like most beautiful things, these bodies of water have a dark side. They cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and go thousands of feet in depth, to places that no human could even dream of going. What lurks on the ocean floors? Are there an underwater species we know nothing about? These are the frightening questions that plenty of horror movies have asked.

You may have heard about Underwater, the recently released science fiction/horror film starring Kristen Stewart. It follows a group of scientists who delve into the depths of the ocean, only to encounter a mysterious group of creatures who are out to destroy them. If this plot sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. The movie has drawn comparisons to everything from sci-fi horror classic Alien to Black Sea, as the sea monster genre has been prevalent in cinema for decades. Underwater is especially similar to a group of underwater films released right before the 90’s, featuring a few names you may remember and a giant crab that still haunts your dreams. Do you remember these sea monster films?

Leviathan – 1989

If you thought the Mosasaurus sea serpent in Jurassic World was terrifying, just wait until you meet the Leviathan. This biblical creature is referenced in a variety of ancient Hebrew literature one of the most frightening sea monsters known to man, lurking at the depths of the ocean and coming up to the surface to cause mass destruction to passing ships. While there are many interpretations on the appearance of the Leviathan, it is commonly believed to be gigantic in size and take on the appearance of a serpent – compared certain reptiles such as snakes, dragons, and crocodiles. 

Of course, Hollywood always has its own adaptations. The 1989 film Leviathan follows a group of scientists terrorized by a mutant underwater creature that’s not exactly what the Old Testament describes. The beast in the film resembles a gigantic, hideous and scaly fish rather than a serpent – with multiple tentacles and a randomly-placed human head on its lower back. It enjoys stalking and killing due to chemical mutations by the Russians, giving this film a more modern, science-fiction take on the Leviathan found in the bible. While the creature effects were designed by critically acclaimed special effects artist Stan Winston, the action in the 1989 film is a bit outdated today. Would you be interested in seeing a Leviathan remake? 

DeepStar Six – 1989

Released in 1989 mere months before Leviathan, one of the greatest lessons to take from DeepStar Six is that no good comes from humans living underwater. A group of military and civilians join together in DeepStar Six – an experimental deep sea US Naval facility where they plan to test underwater colonization methods. With the crew already starting to grow tired of each other – and you know, the whole “living underwater with no fresh air or sunlight” scenario – they come across a man-eating sea monster out to destroy both their project and their lives. 

One Google search will bring you countless “Leviathan vs. DeepStar Six” articles, breaking down the similar plot, characters and ending scene. While neither films were box office hits, it was DeepStar Six that took a much bigger hit from the critics. It has a 0% (yes, you read that correctly) rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics looking down on everything from the film’s vision to the design of the monster. They’re not exaggerating, by the way… the thing looks like a gigantic blend of a crab and a frog. 

The Abyss – 1989

After the mediocre releases above, horror enthusiasts of the 80’s were thrilled when The Abyss made its way into theaters in August 1989. Since everything James Cameron touches turns to Oscar gold, it’s no surprise that the film was a box office hit and commercial success. The Abyss received an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a number of Academy Awards, even winning in the Best Visual Effects category. 

While this film gravitates away from horror and more towards science fiction, it’s still a gorgeous film that deserves a watch. It strays away from sea monsters and towards sea aliens who are friendly in nature. It emphasizes both the frightening and stunning aspects of the ocean, while reminding you that James Cameron is a seriously incredible filmmaker. 

Deep-Sea Scares 

Let’s be honest… Underwater, Leviathan, even The Abyss – none of these films have a completely foreign concept. The sea monster genre is one of the most famous in the history of film, with a creature arriving uninvited into society and seeking to destroy our lives. The sea monster and underwater horror genres combine this concept with another that’s even more terrifying – the unknown. From classics like Jaws to the modern monsters from Underwater… these films aren’t bound to become a sinking ship anytime soon. With so much still unknown the deep abyss of the ocean you better prepare your escape pod as you prepare to outrun the next sea monster from the depths.

Werewolves Through Years of Books and Film

Categories
Best Horror Books Best Of Best of Movies Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series
Aggressive wolf snarling
Photography by Philip Pilz

Myths and Legends of Werewolves have been popular throughout their history, not only as a source of inspiration for writers of fiction but as the fiery spark of terror that haunts the dreams of those who believe–their origin story from Petronius Arbiter’s The Satyricon has been built upon for almost two millennia has resulted in an enthusiastic following in the last century. Within medieval folklore, there are numerous tales of villages in rural areas being ripped apart by werewolves–uncontrollable beasts with blood-lust and an insatiable appetite for human flesh. By day the only evidence of their existence would be dead bodies, bloodied and torn by enormous claws, and a trail of bloody paw prints that marked their presence. As noted by Petronius and a plethora of other writers, this was centralized around the appearance of the full moon. So, while werewolves are considered exciting, dangerously fun, and possibly even a little sexy (thanks to authors like Charlaine Harris by Patricia Briggs) in today’s horror culture and paranormal fiction, they were vicious and brutal beasts that threatened the lives of villagers in the middle ages.

5 Werewolves in History

While the mythology of the Werewolf is vast, there are actually more modern historical accounts of these creatures actually existing, so we present these five Werewolves that were found throughout history.

Wolf howling near the pack
Photography by Thomas Bonometti

The Beast of Gévaudan

In the former province of Gévaudan–Lozère and Haute-Loire–in the south of France, the presence of La Bête du Gévaudan terrorized the countryside beginning in 1764 and lasting until 1767. This beast was reported as a massive wolf-like creature–about the size of the cow–that had razor-sharp claws, a mouth that housed giant fangs, and reddish-brown hair. Its head and ears were said to be shaped like a greyhound’s, with a wide chest and a back streaked with black.

In May or June of 1764 was the first known encounter with the beast, where it charged a young woman tending to her cattle in the Mercoire forest in the eastern part of Gévaudan–it is said the bulls in her herd were able to keep it at bay and finally drive it off after two attempts to charge the woman, and she was able to escape with her life. What followed was a continuous onslaught of the region against what was deemed easy prey–women, children, and men who were tending to their livestock alone in secluded pastures. Unusually, it wouldn’t target the legs or throat like a wolf might, instead it went for the head; victims that were left behind partially eaten were often with their heads completely crushed or without one at all. There was such a high volume of attacks that there was suspicion of there being more than one beast, as well as a person training these creatures to do the killings–but as the attacks continued, the supernatural quality of it increased, when it was seemingly unaffected by gunshot wounds inflicted upon it by two hunters in October 1764. Having believed they had mortally wounded the beast, they followed the blood trail to the woods the next day and instead of finding the body of the wolf, they discovered freshly slaughtered victims.

Seeking the large reward that was posted for slaying the beast, soldiers and hunters traveled from far and wide to find the creature, but months passed and it was no closer to being captured or slain. After hearing of a brutal public attack of two young children, Louis XV sent a Norman squire and hunter by the name of Denneval to aid in the hunt of the beast and in February of 1765, this man began tracking it with his six best bloodhounds. He was joined by Jacques Denis, a sixteen-year-old who lost his twenty-year-old sister to the beast and sought vengeance. After hunting it for several months, Jacques was killed and Denneval retired from hunting the beast at all. The Beast continued its rampages, was shot through the eye by another hunter, fell to the ground, seemingly deceased, then rose and went for a final attack, but was met with another barrage of bullets and was at last killed. Upon examination, they determined that this beast was actually a rare wolf that was on the larger end of the reported spectrum.

This tale would seem to be fairly run of the mill in circumstances with a bloodthirsty wolf, except that after a year of peace returning to the community, in the spring of 1767 the beast was reported to have come back to life and start massacring once again. This time, they took no time assembling the largest hunting party yet, comprised of over three hundred men, as well as a man by the name of Jean Chastel; Chastel had heard rumors that the Beast of Gévaudan was actually a werewolf, so he loaded his gun with silver bullets that were blessed by a priest. Turned out that the rumors allowed him to be well-prepared, as after shooting the beast twice in the chest with these silver bullets, it was instantly killed.

During its reign of terror over the countryside of Gévaudan, it was said to kill between sixty and a hundred men, women, and children, while injuring more than thirty.

Livonia and the Hounds of God

In the late 1600s, Thiess of Kaltenbrun a man living in Jurgenburg, Livonia–what is now the Latvia and Lithuania regions–was widely believed by neighbors and peers to be a werewolf who regularly had dealings with the devil. Although it didn’t help his case that he admitted that he was one, especially during a time when an association with the devil meant a death sentence. Either way, the local authorities didn’t seem to care, since Thiess was an eighty-year-old man.

The authorities eventually had to question him on an unrelated matter in 1691, which oddly enough ended in him volunteering information about his being a werewolf. His confession to his lycanthropic lifestyle was quite strange, with no real consistency within–he said that he had stopped participating as a werewolf a decade prior, but that he and his companions would wear magical wolf pelts and turn into wolves to celebrate St. Lucia’s Day, Pentecost, and Midsummer’s Night.

His claim throughout was that werewolves were the agents of God, that they traveled to hell to battle the Devil himself and bring goods stolen by witches back to the people who lost them, but strangely also kill, cook, then eat farm animals. He also claimed that if they failed to keep the witches and demons in Hell that the community would have poor crops for the entire season. To counter the accusations that he was in league with the devil, he instead told the authorities that he and his companions were actually working for God, that they were a group of lycanthropes that were titled the “Hounds of God.” Thiess claimed that this ensured them an ascent to Heaven when they died. Eventually, when it was discovered that Thiess was not a devout Luthern and that he occasionally performed folk magic, the judge ordered Thiess to ten lashings and permanent exile.

The Wolf of Ansbach

In 1685, in what was the town of Neuses, Ansbach–now Germany–there was a wolf terrorizing and killing people; while this was not completely out of the ordinary, this particular instance coincided with the death of the cruel and unpopular chief magistrate, Michale Leicht. The people of the town believed that this wolf was Leicht who had returned from the dead as a werewolf. Once the wolf had been killed, they paraded the streets with its corpse, cut off its muzzle, then dressed in to look like Leicht, even going so far as to put a mask and a wig on it. After the parade concluded, they hung the body in a prominent position in town so that everyone could see that this creature had been killed, but eventually the wolf’s corpse was preserved and put on display at a local museum.

The Werewolf of Allariz

Manuel Blanco Romasanta, born in 1809, was thought to be Spain’s first-ever serial killer; although, there weren’t many stories other than his own to corroborate his being a werewolf. When he was accused of murder, he actually confessed to thirteen of the incidents but claimed he was cursed with Lycanthropy. When asked to display his ability to transform, he stated that he was no longer afflicted; he was eventually acquitted for four deaths, which were killed by actual wolves, but he was found guilty of the rest. Sentenced to death, but then to life in prison after being seen by a French hypnotist who believed that Romansanta was actually just delusional and had a mental illness. He passed away the same year from stomach cancer.

The Werewolf of Bedburg

Perhaps the most notorious werewolf case is that of Peter Stumpp, in Bedburg, Germany 1589; having gained his wealth as a farmer, he was accused of multiple counts of murder, cannibalism, and ultimately a werewolf. At first, thought to be the work of wolves, incidents started with the mutilated bodies of cattle, but were soon followed by townsfolk, but the creatures couldn’t be caught. In 1589, a hunting part cornered the wolf with its hounds, however, when the hunters approached they saw Peter Stumpp instead–what was more damning was that the wolf they had been hunting had had his left forepaw cut off and when they came upon Stumpp he also had his left hand cut off. After a torture-driven confession was made by Stump, he admitted that when he was twelve he had made a pact with the devil and had been given a magical wolf pelt belt which enabled him to turn into a wolf. He confessed that he had murdered and cannibalized fourteen children and two pregnant women, killing his own son, and molesting his own daughter–so Stumpp was fixed to a breaking wheel, had his flesh torn from his body with red-hot pinchers, then his limbs were broken with the blunt side of an ax so he wouldn’t rise from the grave, and he was beheaded. This is a more controversial story, as it was believed by some that he was the victim of a political witch hunt, as the Catholic church had recently seized the area and Stumpp was a Protestant convert.

These days, it seems like werewolves in the supernatural genre are a dime-a-dozen, so it’s no big surprise that there are too many movies to list here–these are just some of our favorites, but they’re also ones that have contributed greatly to the modern lore that are currently associated to the story of the werewolf. Details change from one story to the next, but the broad picture remains the same.

Movies That Have Made Werewolves Mainstream

The Wolfman (2010)
The Wolfman (2010)

Witch Novels that Taught Us Not to F#$k With Witches

Categories
Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

Stories of witchcraft are as old as time, and the concept of “witches” is one that spans many countries and cultures. Throughout the centuries witches, or simply those suspected of witchcraft, have been hunted and persecuted by mainstream society. There are many different types of witches, including kitchen witches, hedge witches, bruja, and daayan – all with their own beliefs, practices, and conflicted history. However, across categories one fact remains the same: witches are powerful.

Given the diversity in witches and witch folklore, it’s no surprise that stories involving witches are just as varied. We at Puzzle Box Horror want to acknowledge that the term “witch” should not be an inherently negative one, and there are many practicing witches and pagan communities that are a boon to society. Our goal with this article is not to disparage witchcraft in general, but rather to explore the darker side of the coin. With that in mind, we’d like to present some of the scariest witches in literature.

Maggie’s Grave by David Sodergren (2020)

Maggie's Grave book cover with spooky skeleton

MAGGIE WALL BURIED HERE AS A WITCH. So reads the faded inscription on the solitary grave at the top of a mountain. In the shadow of this mountain is Auchenmullan, a small Scottish town that has been left forgotten and lost to the world. Only forty-seven residents remain, plus the grave on the mountain. In a dead town with nothing to do, the residents suddenly find themselves confronted by the chilling fact that sometimes the dead don’t stay buried. Especially when they have unfinished business.

Maggie’s Grave is a shocking, disturbing, and fast-paced thrill ride of witchy horror. The buckets of blood, the flawed characters, the gross-out moments, and the folk horror elements will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman (2020)

The Remaking book cover with snake eating it's own tail

In the 1970s, Amber Pendleton was cast in a horror film titled Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek, based on a true story of a mother and her daughter who were burned at the stake for witchcraft. Then, in the 1990s, Amber was cast in a remake of the cult classic movie. Now Amber herself has become the target of a witch hunt. In an attempt to free herself from this cycle of horror, she decides to tell her story one last time to a true crime investigator for his popular podcast. But will this retelling bring the closure she needs, or will it unlock a dark and vengeful force from the past?

The book brilliantly engages with four different versions of the same urban legend, while also populating each version with interesting characters and shocking incidents. This unsettling read will be sure to please fans of both horror and true crime!

Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn (2017)

Devil's Call book cover with hat and shadow

A western horror with witches? Say no more! Devil’s Call is written in the form of a diary from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. One wintry night in 1859, Li Lian’s husband was shot dead right in front of her. Unfortunately for the men who did this dirty deed, Li is part of the  McPherson clan, a long line of women gifted in the dark arts of witchcraft. In the diary Li recounts how she crosses miles of harsh land and numerous odds to hunt down the monsters who killed her husband.

With her rifle, her wits, and her powers of witchcraft, Li is truly a terrifying force to be reckoned with. It’s a supernatural tale of vengeance and motherhood set in the wild west, and it’s a must-read for lovers of witchy horror.

The Witching House by Brian Moreland (2017)

The Witching House book cover with old stone house

Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, from heights, to tight places, to the dark. But when her boyfriend wants to go explore a supposedly haunted house in the woods, she must swallow her insecurities and face her fears. The house in question was the scene of a brutal massacre in the 70s, where twenty-five people were killed and whose perpetrator remains a mystery. But the hauntings in the house are more than just urban legends, and Sarah is about to find out that the evil residing in the basement has simply been waiting for fresh prey.

The Witching House veers away from copious blood and gore, instead delivering a fast-paced tale of suspense and pulse-pounding terror. It’s a lean horror novella, one you can fly through while also reveling in all the twists and turns of the unique storyline. 

Wytches by Scott Snyder (2015)

Wytches book cover with creepy dark forest

The Rooks family, hoping to escape from a haunting trauma, has recently moved to the remote town of Litchfield, New Hampshire. They’re hopeful for a new life and a fresh start, but the ancient evil watching them from the woods has other plans…and it’s hungry.

Wytches posits a world where witches are darker and more terrifying than previously imagined, throwing out cliched tropes in favor of creepier creatures. The story is surprisingly emotional while also unsurprisingly bone-chilling, and is one of the absolute scariest graphic novels about witches we’ve ever seen (thanks in part to the nightmarish imagery from artist Jock). This volume collects issues 1-6 of the miniseries from Image Comics.

The Good House by Tananarive Due (2006)

The Good House book cover with house on a hill

Looking for a sweeping and spooky saga of family, loss, grief, and witches? Then look no further! Angela Toussaint has spent the last few years burying herself in her work, trying to rebuild her law practice after her son Corey committed suicide at a Fourth of July party. Unable to keep her questions at bay any longer, she eventually returns to the house where it all happened and looks for answers. However, the dark forces she discovers are more sinister than she could have imagined.

This epic 500 page book takes its time, allowing you to learn more about the Toussaint family, the surrounding town of Sacajawea, and the Good House itself. But there is a constant building dread, and when the horrors hit, they hit hard. Even seasoned horror readers will find themselves spooked by this tale of ancestral evil and voodoo witchcraft. 

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon (1973)

Harvest Home book cover with house in a storm

Time has not touched the village of Cornwall Coombe, a small town in New England. The quant colonial homes and white-steepled church seem to exist outside of modern life, and life in the village seems peaceful and easygoing. Newcomers Ned and Beth Constantine fall in love with this remote hamlet, assuming they’ve found the safe haven they’ve always dreamed of. Unfortunately, what they find instead is a disturbing and wicked force that turns Cornwall Coombe into a place of ultimate horror.

This book plays well to its folk horror roots, with its emphasis on rural life, dark pagan secrets, and evil in a small town. It’s definitely a slow-burn horror, but it maintains a high level of tension throughout while also delivering complex characters and a fascinating, if unnerving, storyline. Mysterious omens, brutal violence, and terrifying witchcraft – Harvest Home is one not to be missed!

Other Recommendations

The Devil’s Mistress by David Barclay (2021)

The Year of Witching by Alexis Henderson (2020)

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2016)

The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie and BK Evenson (2013)

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (2004)

Wyrd and Other Derelictions by Adam Nevill

Categories
Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Reviews

Wyrd and Other Derelictions by Adam Nevill is available now from Ritual Limited.

Puzzle Box Horror may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What’s it like to be the first on the “scene of the crime”? What’s it like to visit the living vacuum of traumatic events; places empty of humanity yet brimming with the electrified air of horrifying aftershock. Or maybe they’re not so empty. Was that a thump upstairs? Did that shadow just move? Why is there a foot laying here, and where is the rest of the body? Is something out there?

This collection of derelictions (i.e. stories of abandonment) is experimental writing in its truest form. With each tale author Adam Nevill places us in a story post-climax, or a sort of unresolved or unfinished epilogue. Something truly devastating has happened in this setting, but all we’re given are grim clues. There are no characters and no dialogue. Only descriptions of scenes and a narrative style that feels like someone is leading you through the chaos. You are intrigued, you are disturbed, and you’re not quite sure what is going on.

Wyrd and Other Derelictions horror book cover

The thing about such an approach to “storytelling” that Wyrd and Other Derelictions (2020) takes is that it’s incredibly risky. It’s automatically going to put most readers into a love-it-or-hate-it camp from the very first couple of stories. But the author is discerning enough to know that, and in fact he is intentionally playing with form and expression. There is an author’s note at the back of the book where he explains the germ for the collection, and what other avenues of thought and experimentation came out of that. It’s all very compelling, but does it work?

For me, at least, the answer is a strong yes! Both the wordsmith and the horror lover in me absolutely enjoyed what Nevill is trying to accomplish here, and I think he manages to knock it out of the park. The collection is a mashup of cult/alien/creature stories, all very strange and eerie in their telling. Though they follow a similar narrative style, they are all different enough to stand on their own. Each has at least one scene (usually the ending) that will haunt me for a long time. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and engaging; a vivid prose style that carries the brunt of the ploy and does it well, even without characters and even without dialogue.

All the stories were gems in my opinion, and I loved them all for different reasons. To rank them would be to degrade them, but there are some that stand out particularly to me are. “Hippocampus” is the story of cargo freight adrift in the stormy sea; the crew are in various states of dismemberment and something squirmy is lurking below deck. In “Monument” an ancient burial chamber is unearthed and something is building pyres in the backyards of a suburban neighborhood. And finally, “Enlivened” depicts a ghastly scene of ritual mutilation followed by the exploration of a house, where something skitters and thumps amongst the dead.

My only complaint, though not a complaint really, is that the nature of the stories and the description-heavy writing style are such that each takes time to get through. They require slower reading and more processing. That’s not a bad thing, but it does make reading them all back to back less of a satisfying endeavor. My recommendation would be to space them out over a period of weeks, or even one a month. They all deserve to ruminate in your mind, so give them the space to breath

Again, this is very much a love it or leave it collection. Many readers I trust absolutely hated it, while others were enamored by it. Clearly I’m in the second camp, but I’m curious to hear what others think. Either way I think it’s safe to say that Adam Nevill has created something fairly unique and enticing in a genre that unfortunately abounds with cliché. And for that, at the very least, I’m grateful.

Wyrd and Other Derelictions by Adam Nevill is available now from Ritual Limited. Adam Nevill is an English writer of supernatural horror, most known for his book The Ritual.