Sam Enthovens Top 10 Horror Books & Films

Not many children’s authors give foreword acknowledgements to the likes of John Carpenter and HR Giger, but Sam Enthoven does in Crawlers

Hi! I'm Sam Enthoven. I write fantastical action thrillers for young people. My just-published latest, Crawlers , is a gleefully vile survival horror story about spider-like creatures that cling
to the back of your neck and take over your BRAIN! Ahem. Sorry to get carried away there, I'm rather excited. Here are my current top ten favourite horror books and films:

10 Book: Uzumaki by Junji Ito

Warren Ellis describes this three-volume manga as ‘seriously disturbing’ and I’m not going to disagree. With its dazzlingly original premise, and the unhinged loopiness that ensues, Uzumaki opens your mind to the story possibilities waiting in everything around us. Yes, even (of all things) spirals.

9 Film: The Midnight Meat Train Director’s Cut

The film was brutally butchered for its cinematic release but, as they explain on the commentary, director Ryuhei Kitamura and Clive Barker fought hard to restore it to its full bloody glory. For my money it’s the best horror film of the last ten years.

8 Book: The Island of Dr Moreau by HG Wells

A malarial SF jungle fever dream, soundtracked by the screams of vivisected animals. People sometimes underestimate Wells’s skill at writing horror. Maybe those people haven’t read this book yet.

7 Book: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

The film is great, the manga so-so, but I think that Battle Royale ’s premise – a game in which the players are forced to kill – works best in its original novel form. The author takes the time to help you get to know, understand, perhaps even care for every one of these hapless teenagers, right before they murder each other. Details like the handy running countdown of how many characters are still standing, conveniently provided at the end of each chapter, make reading Battle Royale an utterly compulsive experience.

6 Book: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

A parasite is growing inside you, but everyone around you is smiling and telling you that everything’s fine. Aliens? Nope: pregnancy! Coolly, calmly and with a meticulous eye for the sinister aspects of everyday detail, Levin works poor, expectant Rosemary’s paranoia to its deliciously shuddersome conclusion. A low-key stone cold classic.

5 Film: The Abominable Dr Phibes

Vincent Price gave the performance of his life as a disfigured genius back from the dead on a mission of diabolical vengeance. The murders in the style of biblical plagues are, like their victims, executed with gusto. The scene with Phibes playing the organ and declaiming to his dead wife while his glamorous lady assistant stands patiently waiting with a silver tray containing his ears and nose is, clearly,
unparalleled in cinematic history. I love this film with an unholy passion.

4 Book: The Song of Kali by Dan Simmons

If you haven’t read it, then the less you know going in, the more this book will make your flesh creep. Once Simmons has shown you his Calcutta and you’ve heard the Song, there’s no going back.

3 Film: The Thing

Credible characters, relentless tension and one of the most amazing monsters ever: it all adds up to utter horror perfection for me. I’m going to watch it again now, quickly, before another (currently shooting) “prequel” poisons my enjoyment of one of my favourite movies. That said, John Carpenter’s masterpiece was a remake itself, so I guess you never know...

2 Book: The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

Contrary to what some people still say about this story, it’s not a metaphor for encroaching ideologies (say, communism): it’s much more frightening than that. The Body Snatchers is about fear of other people – specifically, the sudden and nightmarish suspicion that everyone in the rest of the world, even people you know, seems to have changed into something terrifying and inexplicable. Beneath the book’s period quirks lies a disembodied alien heart that still beats as powerfully as it did the day the book was first published. Cold, menacing, brilliant.

And, still clinging to the top spot:

1 Film: Alien

In the years since I was at boarding school things like surround sound, widescreen TV, Blu-ray and whatnot may have improved the experience of film in some ways. But they will not replicate the effect of watching Alien for the first time on crackly videotape, on a TV screen about a foot square, in an ordinary but pitch-dark classroom one night with no less than 70 other 15-year-old boys perched on every available surface in the room. We gasped; we flinched; we jumped; at one point, we cheered. Plus, have you ever heard that phrase, “the smell of fear’? Well, let’s just say this was it. Alien is the original and still the best, and – like everything else on this list – I’m proud to say that it was a huge influence on Crawlers .

If you'd like to find out more about me and my work, check my homepage: www.samenthoven.com

If you’d like to read a bit of Crawlers , click here .

Thanks for reading this, and best wishes to you

Sam (April 2010)