When it comes to horror movies, writing can be a scary business. Quite a few horror films star writers of all kinds, from journalists to children’s book writers. Often, at the start of a story, a writer is researching a story they want to cover, looking for inspiration for their new novel, or even taking a break during a bout of writer’s block. It’s then that they come across something sinister, supernatural, or simply both.
Sometimes, the film’s own writers just want to put themselves into the story. A few times, it’s just a little wish fulfillment with their critics. It also helps when the star of the story is a horror writer themselves. After all, the characters they written up might just want to meet them. Perhaps knowing the tricks of the trade will help them survive the story. Other times, they learn the hard way not to trust everything they write.
15 Goosebumps (2015)
- Release Date
- August 5, 2015
Goosebumps is a horror comedy inspired by the famous R. L. Stine children’s books of the same name. In fact, actor Jack Black plays Stine himself. Meanwhile, young Zach Cooper is dealing with his father’s death and moving to Delaware. Zach meets a young girl, Hannah, who turns out to be Stine’s daughter. It also comes to light that many of Stine’s creations have entered the real world thanks to his powerful imagination. After years of being locked away, they escape and seek revenge.
Even the Real Mr. Stine Makes an Appearance.
Being a children’s film, the story is somewhat lighter than most horror films, to the point where it’s been noted as being less scary than the books that inspired it. Many classic characters from the books appear throughout the story, notably Slappy the Dummy, who serves as the leader of the monsters. Of course, fans of Stine’s books might recognize Hannah’s name and figure out who she really is. Notably, the real R. L. Stine even appears in the film as a teacher, Mr. Black.
14 I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
I Spit on Your Grave stars fiction writer Jennifer Hills, who lives in Manhattan. Normally working with short stories, Jennifer rents a remote Connecticut cottage where she plans on working on her first novel. Unfortunately, this soon draws unwanted attention from some of the local men, who sexually assault her, in addition to mocking and destroying her work. One of the men is ordered to kill her, but ultimately can’t go through with it.
A Story of Writing & Revenge
Jennifer plots her revenge, all the while reclaiming her manuscript. Targeting the men one by one, each attacker is given a unique death. One is hung, another bleeds to death, and a third is done in with an axe. For her final attacker, she repeats the words he said to her during the original attack, before disemboweling him with a boat propeller.
Though the story’s violence has been controversial, the film still developed a cult following over the years, inspiring a remake and sequels. Depending on the sequels, Jennifer either gave up writing or published a successful memoir.
13 Salem’s Lot (1979)
Salem’s Lot is a 1979 two-part miniseries based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Ben Mears is a successful author who is making his return to his eponymous hometown, Salem’s Lot, Maine. While there, Mears hopes to write a book covering an alleged haunted house in the area, the Marsten House. As a child, Mears believed to have seen the ghost of the home’s former owner. After a delivery is made to the house, people in town slowly start disappearing.
A Town Tested By Fire
Suspicion falls on Mears as a newcomer, but, in truth, a vampire has arrived in the town and has been transforming residents into minions of the undead. Soon, Mears joins up with others to fight the supernatural threat, particularly a young boy named Mark, who has lost friends and family to the vampires. In time, the town will be tested with a purifying fire.
Ben and Mark’s fate is something of a foregone conclusion, as the film opens with them in a church, about to fight the surviving vampires at a church. Of course, the film returns to the church in the end, offering viewers one last fight.
12 Tenebrae (1982)
Tenebrae is a Dario Argento giallo film. The story revolves around Peter Neal, an American writer, who is promoting his newest book, a murder mystery novel in Rome. However, Neal soon obtains a letter from a supposed killer, who claims Neal’s work had inspired a spree of the city’s latest slayings. When an obsessed fan of Neal’s work, Cristiano Berti, is found dead, it appears that the killer has been stopped for good. Unfortunately, people are still getting murdered, and the killer is closer than Neal thinks.
A Return to the Giallo Genre
After experimenting with more traditional horror with Suspiria, Tenebrae is seen as Argento’s return to the giallo genre. One interesting twist is that the supposed killer, Berti, actually is responsible for the first few killings; it’s just that another has taken his place: Neal himself. This also means the character who was set up as the hero becomes the villain towards the climax.
11 In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
In the Mouth of Madness revolves around John Trent, an insurance investigator, who gets involved in the investigation over a missing horror novelist, Sutter Cane. Early on, Trent is attacked by Cane’s agent, who is shot and killed shortly after asking Trent if he read Cane’s books. It then comes to light that the agent killed his family after reading one of the author’s books. When tasked with looking into Cane’s disappearance, in addition to locating a lost manuscript, Trent is told the agent’s actions weren’t an isolated incident, with similar reports coming out over other readers of Cane’s work.
When Fiction Becomes Reality (or Vice-Versa)
Added to this, elements from Cane’s book start appearing in real life, including people and places. However, Trent believes the whole thing to be a publicity stunt. It comes to light that Cane’s work is connected to a race of monstrous beings called “The Old Ones” and that Trent may only be a character in Cane’s story.
However, this is the start of a few twists, including the revelation that a movie about the book is already in the works. The true horror of the story is that it’s never quite clear what’s real and what isn’t, as the story ends with Trent watching the film’s events as a movie.
10 Secret Window (2004)
Secret Window is a thriller film based on the Stephen King novella Secret Window, Secret Garden. Mystery writer Mort Rainey has been staying at a cabin after learning his wife and friend are having an affair. All the while, Rainey deals with writer’s block. One day, a man, John Shooter, appears accusing Rainey of plagiarism, though Rainey denies this. That night, Rainey’s dog is found dead with a note demanding proof in three days.
The Power of Imagination
In another confrontation, Shooter demands Rainey revise his story’s ending. To make matters worse, a house fire presumably destroys the magazine, confirming Rainey’s innocence. Shooter soon kills people involved with the case, threatening to implicate Rainey with the murders.
However, it soon comes to light that Shooter is a figment of Rainey’s imagination, representing his desire for revenge. In the end, Rainey gets over his writer’s block and might just have gotten away with murder. Interestingly, the original novella ends with Rainey dead and Shooter implied to have become real.
9 1408 (2007)
- Release Date
- June 22, 2007
1408 is a psychological horror film based on the Stephen King short story of the same name. Mike Enslin is a writer who covers books about the supernatural, of which he is a skeptic. While on a book tour, he receives a mysterious postcard with the warning, “Don’t enter 1408,” in reference to a New York hotel room. Naturally, this spurs him on to investigate. While there, even the manager warns him against this, telling him no one lasts more than an hour in the room, with over 50 reported deaths.
So Many Ending to Choose from
During Enslin’s stay, supernatural events start to unfold, including ghosts and even a doppelgänger. Enslin at one point, recovers in a hospital, believing the whole incident was a nightmare, only to realize he’s still in the room. He is warned that he has two choices: to repeat the same hour for all eternity, or choose death. However, our protagonist chooses a different option that sees the room going up in flames.
The story is given four different endings, with Mike’s final fate left in the air. In some versions, he survives. In others, he dies, though at least helped free the other ghosts.
8 Castle of Blood (1964)
Castle of Blood, also known as Danza Macabra, takes place in a world where Edgar Allan Poe’s classic works were seen as real-life accounts of the paranormal and not mere works of fiction. A journalist, Alan Foster, is skeptical of Poe’s accounts and takes on a bet to prove this: he will spend a night in a purportedly haunted castle on All Soul’s Eve. Ghosts soon appear to him, replaying their deaths and demanding his blood.
The Real World is the Real Horror
Learning he is in danger, Foster tries to escape the castle, even bringing one of the more sympathetic ghosts with him, only to be killed outside by the gate. In the end, the castle’s owner collects his wages from the slain Foster. This highlights a recurring theme of the story: one really shouldn’t be afraid of the dead when the living and the real world have more than enough horrors. The film was later remade in color as Web of the Spider.
7 Sinister (2012)
- Release Date
- March 29, 2012
Sinister is a horror film allegedly inspired by a nightmare writer C. Robert Cargill had after seeing The Ring. Ellison Oswalt is a struggling true-crime writer who has moved his family to a new house. Only he knows the place is the site of the murder of the the previous occupants: a family, who were killed by hanging. All the while, Ellison hopes to reclaim his lost fame by solving the mystery concerning a daughter of the slain family who went missing.
History Repeats Itself
While in the attic, Ellison uncovers snuff films depicting the murders of other families, and he soon learns that each one also had a missing child. The murders appear to be sacrifices to a god known as Bughuul, who spirits away children to devour their souls. When his daughter draws an image resembling one of the missing children, Ellison moves his family back to their original home.
However, it turns out that all the previous murders occurred after the families had the same idea. Ellison’s daughter, now under the thrall of the supernatural, promises him he’ll soon be famous again. It’s just that now, instead of writing about a true crime story, he’ll be part of one.
6 Hush (2016)
- Release Date
- March 12, 2016
Hush is a slasher film revolving around a deaf-mute horror writer, Maddie Young. After her latest novel becomes a critical darling, she decides to stay at a house in the woods and hone her talents. While there, her friend Sarah is murdered with thirteen stabs in the stomach. The killer soon plans to make Maddie their next victim. Sarah’s boyfriend arrives on the scene, but Maddie accidentally distracts him, causing him to be fatally injured.
Written In Blood (as Well as Lipstick)
When it looks like Maddie’s only choices are to kill or be killed, she arms herself with a crossbow. However, she is able to send a message for help on her laptop in time. After the confrontations engage, Maddie finally takes down her attacker with a corkscrew. Writing is naturally an important part of the story. It not only is Maddie’s chosen career path, but is even how she communicates with her attacker, writing out messages, warnings, and taunts in lipstick and even her own blood.
5 The Ring (2002)
- Release Date
- October 18, 2002
The Ring is a 2002 horror film based on the Japanese 1998 film Ring, itself an adaptation of the Koji Suzuki novel of the same name. A young girl, Katie, watches an allegedly cursed video and dies within a week. During her funeral, her journalist aunt Rachel is asked to look into what happened by the girl’s mother. After learning that Katie’s friends died at the same time, Rachel then watches the infamous tape herself, causing her to be haunted by supernatural occurrences.
The Secret Is in the Tape
Studying the footage in the tape, Rachel uncovers the story of a young girl named Samara with supernatural powers, who was pushed down a well to die by her mother, who appears in the film. In the end, Rachel uncovers the way to break the curse, but it comes at a horrible cost.
4 Scare Me (2020)
- Release Date
- January 24, 2020
- Josh Ruben
Scare Me is a horror comedy starring Fred, a struggling writer and actor, who deals with writer’s block while staying at a remote cabin. While out, he meets acclaimed horror author Fanny, who is less than impressed with Fred’s work. Despite this, Fanny visits Fred’s house during a power outage. While there, she challenges him to tell her a scary story.
Some People Just Can’t Take Criticism
Fred’s first attempt fails, but he does better with a story involving a werewolf, compete with sound effects. When Fanny is still critical, she offers a story of her own about a girl trying to kill her grandfather, which causes Fred to admit to his own past traumas. The two collaborate on a story, only to be interrupted by a pizza delivery man, spurring a reenactment of Fanny’s novel. Things take a dark turn, however, when Fred uncovers Fanny’s notebook, which contains all the story and notes on his lack of talent.
In the end, Fred’s friend Bettina is the one to become a successful writer by covering the whole story. With a theme about writing, the film explores various themes of storytelling, knowing your audience, and learning some people just can’t take criticism.
3 Halloween Ends (2022)
Halloween Ends is a slasher film that serves as the thirteenth installment of the Halloween franchise. Laurie Strode is writing a memoir while living with her granddaughter Allyson. Meanwhile, a young man, Corey Cunningham, gets arrested after accidentally causing the death of a boy he was watching. He was cleared of the charge, just not in the court of public opinion.
The Next Chapter’s About to Start
After getting attacked by bullies, Laurie takes Corey to the doctor, causing him to meet and strike up a relationship with Allyson. However, Corey eventually encounters another member of Laurie’s past and becomes his protégé of sorts. Unfortunately for him, Corey learns the hard way not to underestimate Michael Myers.
Viewers get to hear parts of Laurie’s memoir through voiceovers played as she writes them. For many horror fans, a firsthand account from a horror icon seems like a must-read.
2 Misery (1990)
- Release Date
- November 30, 1990
Misery is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name. Famous author Paul Sheldon is known for his romance stories, but he wants to take his career in another direction. While traveling, however, he gets caught in a blizzard and wakes up with broken limbs in the home of a nurse named Annie Wilkes, who he soon learns is a fan of his work. Grateful, he allows her to read the manuscript for his latest novel, but Wilkes is horrified to learn he plans on killing off the main character.
The Book Gets a Few Revisions
Effectively a prisoner in Wilkes’ remote home, with no one knowing where he is, Wilkes forces Paul to burn the manuscript and write a new book. Paul soon learns of Wilkes’ dangerous past and has his ankles broken when she catches him leaving his room. A sheriff figures out what’s going on, only to be killed by Wilkes. Paul ultimately overcomes Wilkes and writes his new novel, but is against the idea of writing a memoir over what happened with Wilkes. The story is a reminder that one of the scariest things about writing is the audience, even fans.
1 The Shining (1980)
The Shining is a film adaptation of the eponymous Stephen King novel. Jack Torrance is a writer on a break of sorts, taking a job as the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, during its winter season, when it’s normally snowed in. With his family in tow, strange happenings start to occur, including Jack’s son Danny developing psychic powers. It comes to light that an earlier caretaker ended up slaying his own family, and Jack might soon repeat the cycle.
All Work & No Play…
In one of the film’s famous scenes, Jack’s wife, Wendy, takes a look at his upcoming “novel” on a typewriter. The whole thing is a repeated succession of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and it doesn’t seem to be an appeal to the minimalist market. In an eerie way, the Torrances’ trip to the horror hotel sort of started with Jack’s bout of writer’s block.