13 Truly Terrifying Female Horror Antagonists

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Traditionally, villains in horror movies tend to be male, but there have been tons of vicious female characters over the years—both mortal and supernatural—who’ve terrified victims and audiences alike. With the excellently versatile Octavia Spencer currently spawning nightmares in Ma, we decided to count up our…

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7 Stephen King Books Almost as Scary as Pet Sematary

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The recent release of the second feature-film adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary has reminded both hardcore and casual fans of the author’s work that, yep, it’s still the scariest novel he’s ever written.

Whether you think the new film delivers the scares better than the so-so 1989 version, the source material still stands as the single piece of writing King’s oeuvre that scares its own author the most—upon finishing it, he reportedly found the book so disturbing he stuffed the manuscript into a drawer, intending never to release it. It was his wife Tabitha King who suggested he resurrect it, and it went on to become one of his foundational works, proving that, at least in this case, sometimes dead isn’t better.

King’s voluminous catalog of books isn’t all horror and scares. He’s written fantasy, a trilogy of crime novels, plenty of nonfiction essays and books, and even some humor. But if you want full-bore heebie-jeebies similar to the bleak shocks Pet Sematary delivers, you have plenty to choose from. Here are seven Stephen King books almost as terrifying as Pet Sematary.

Skeleton Crew
King’s second collection, published back in 1985, contains several all-time terrifying short stories from early in his career. There’s “The Mist,” the trapped-in-a-supermarket-by-Eldritch-horrors story that inspired both a film and TV series adaptation, and the very gruesome “Survivor Type,” which introduced fans to the concept of auto-cannibalism. But the tale that might stick with you the most is “The Jaunt,” a nasty little piece of science fiction about an overly curious kid and the perils of interstellar teleportation that originally appeared in Twilight Zone Magazine.

The Stand
1978’s epic story of an apocalypse by superflu virus and what happens after was the first to show what King could do with a huge cast of characters and a spine-busting number of pages. It’s memorable not only for its high body count, but for introducing creepy recurring “Walking Dude” villain Randall Flagg, and for a nightmarish set piece in which two characters must travel through the Lincoln Tunnel, which happens to be full of corpses. The extended edition of the novel (which is now the only one available) adds texture, a whole new supporting character, and a coda that gives the ending a darker spin.

Doctor Sleep
Your mileage may vary on whether the sequel to The Shining is scarier than its predecessor, but the story of a grown-up Danny Torrance dealing with a supernatural force of psychic vampires has a lot going for it, all of it horrifying. Rose the Hat and her gang of True Knot RV travelers, who prey on kids with “the Shine,” are as violent and repellent as any of the vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot, or any of King’s other works.

Full Dark, No Stars
Perhaps King’s bleakest collection of shorter works, this one is preoccupied throughout with death. “1922” is a brutal story of rural revenge and marital betrayal. “Big Driver” is the rare Stephen King rape-revenge story. “Fair Extension” contemplates the nastiness of human nature and schadenfreude. And “A Good Marriage” is about a woman who discovers she was unwittingly married to a serial murderer, one inspired, in King’s writing, by the real-life BTK Killer.

Under the Dome
The unfortunate TV series adaptation got bogged down in weird character turns and goofy special effects, but the novel is a lengthy, detailed look at how everything falls apart in a small town in a pressure cooker, cut off from the rest of the world by a mysterious, impenetrable dome. Once things start going wrong, King doesn’t let up on the accelerator, sparing few of his lovable (or not so lovable) townies along the road to a bloody finale. These 1,000+ pages are littered with some of the author’s most squirm-inducing death scenes.

Misery
Not all of King’s scariest books need a supernatural hook to spook readers. Annie Wilkes, the obsessive fan who cares for author/car-crash victim Paul Sheldon in Misery, is equal parts fussy, compassionate nurse, and, let’s say, overly persnickety fan of his bodice-ripper book series. It doesn’t take long for Paul to realize that the woman in whose care he has found himself is unhinged, to say the least, and that she’s not going to care for what happens to her favorite fictional character in his latest book. The horror in this one comes from the plausibility of the setup, and how realistically King portrays Annie’s bipolar disorder, Paul’s disabling addiction to painkillers, and the necessary mental escape Paul finds in writing.

Revival
One of King’s lesser-acclaimed books, this 2014 novel involves a small-town minister named Charles Jacobs who suffers a tremendous loss and then spends the rest of his life on a mission to harness electricity toward questionable ends. The story is told through the eyes of Jamie, who befriended Jacobs as a small boy, and who becomes linked to the former preacher’s obsession. There are plenty of light moments throughout the narrative, including an entertaining section about Jamie’s days as a rock musician, before drug addiction sidelines him. But the horrifying ending, which gives us a visceral idea of King’s vision of Hell, is one of the darkest turns in any of his fiction. Like Pet Sematary, this one that will stick with you.

What’s your pick for Stephen King’s scariest work?

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William Goldman Found Heart and Humor in a Fairy Tale

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Novelist, screenwriter, and memoirist William Goldman has died at the age of 87 after a brief illness and a long and truly extraordinary career as a writer.

Much of the mainstream coverage of his passing has focused, rightly so, on his Academy Award-winning screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, just two of the many critically acclaimed films he worked on as either a screenwriter or script doctor. It’s astonishing body of work: Marathon Man (adapted from his own novel), A Bridge Too Far, Magic (another self-adaptation), The Stepford Wives—even lesser-known films like the 1966 hard-boiled crime homage Harper won him awards. So many of these films are immortal, and any one of them would’ve defined a lesser writer’s career. His run of hits made him the rarest of rarities: a celebrity screenwriter in an industry in which writers tend to be at the bottom of the pecking order. There were flops in there too (Dreamcatcher; ouch), but they’re dwarfed by his successes.

But for many of us—those of us who love fantasy, love it enough to be readers of this blog—one particular work that stands above the rest.

The Princess Bride began with bedtime stories Goldman told to his young daughters (famously, when asked, one child requested a story about a princess, the other, a bride). That might go a long way to explaining the silly-but-sweet tone of the ensuing novel, published in 1973.

Presented as an abridgment (“the good parts”) of an earlier work by the fictional S. Morgenstern (a billing that confused the heck out of a young me, who immediately set about to finding the nonexistent unredacted version), it is the story of Buttercup,the most beautiful girl in the world (eventually), her rise to princess-dom, and her bantering romance with long-suffering farm hand Westley. It all takes place a lightly magical Renaissance world of pirates, princes, and Rodents of Unusual Size.

Goldman’s genius is in the blend of puckish humor, sarcasm, and occasional scenes of straight up parody, both of fairy tales and picaresque literature. Though it is shot through with irony, it is never once cynical; this is satire shot through with genuine sweetness. Even as we’re laughing at the ridiculous situations in which the many colorful characters find themselves, we’re cheering along the central romance. Goldman celebrate the same virtues he could just as easily mock; the humor lures you in to a story about true love in an era (one we’ve never quite left) where stories that try to balance the fantastical with scenes of genuine emotion are often seen as passé.

He was clearly having a ton of fun with it, though—and not just in the writing. I’m sure Goldman would have loved the idea of kid-me hunting around for a full-length version of the “original” text (readers were even invited to send in a letter in exchange for a deleted scene that was never delivered—the prize, instead, was an explanation of legal interference from the Morgenstern estate. A more recent edition even directed readers to a website where they could read a snippet of the much-rumored reunion scene. Naturally, the site included only the text of the fictional legal notices.

Goldman did occasionally promise to pen a sequel, perhaps even sincerely (it’s truly hard to tell), but the story we do have is so wonderful, asking for more seems greedy. As a consolation, there is a lesser-known follow-up in a similar vein: The Silent Gondoliers, also a work by “S. Morgenstern,” a silly novella about the once-singing gondoliers of Venice.

The Princess Bride, as a novel, took on a following, and remains a beloved classic. But, of course, the film version became something even bigger. In his 1983 memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade, Goldman described feeling like a novelist first and a screenwriter second (he completed 16 novels), but in penning the screenplay for the 1986 Rob Reiner adaptation of his novel, he performed a different but no less enduring work of magic: he helped ensure that the movie is completely faithful to the book, and also it’s own thing, and that one of them is not better than the other. There will always be arguments about book vs. film, but this is a rare case where we might have to call it a tie. Is it the best book-to-film adaptation ever? Maybe. Misery is pretty good too. Guess who wrote the screenplay.

“Cynics,” Goldman famously wrote “Are simply thwarted romantics.” With that, one of our eras greatest writers summed up his own influence. We’re all of us cynics in 2018. It’s the default mode. But the continuing influence of Goldman’s work, especially The Princess Bride, reminds us to occasionally wake up and dust off the romantic hiding inside us all, and be alert for the moment when “As you wish” becomes “I love you.” He wrote that life isn’t fair, which is true, and that at least it is fairer than death, which is truer. But he also wrote that true love is the best thing in the world (except for cough drops), and that’s a truth universal. They’re both good lessons, wrapped in great stories.

William Goldman, 1931-2018

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