The 10 Most Overrated Horror Novels of All Time
Written by: Matt Molgaard
I didn’t expect any of my contributors to be willing to stick their hand in the fire pit, so I took that liberty myself. I’ve got the gall to call them like I see them, and that’s exactly what I’m doing here. Trust me, you probably won’t be too crazy about this list!
I fully expect to be flamed back to the bad lands for this one. But, when you’re crafting a controversial article, I suppose that comes with the territory. So, before you send me your profanity laced tirades, know that… I’m completely ready for it!!
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Seriously, do I need to mention this? Twilight tries to pretend to be horror. But the romanticism of this piece of trash novel far outweighs any potentially eerie sequences, and that’s just not acceptable. Hey, Ms. Meyer, are you writing a horror story, or a love story? Because your attempt to see the two intertwine fails on an epic level. Complete, utter garbage, and easily the most overrated book to hit stands.
Ghost Story by Peter Schaub
Sorry to all you Straub fans. But I gave this one a go once more not too long ago, and my opinion remains the same. Straub may be fantastic for some, but he’s a sleeping pill for others. We’ll keep it short: dull, dull, dull, and then it’s a little dull. This one just reads completely flat for me.
The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells brought such magic to the page that it was ridiculous. This is an author who just didn’t settle for mediocrity. The best, or nothing for Wells. And because of that, this pick is tricky. Is it a quality tale? You bet your behind. However, it never once worked for me. Something about this one completely turned me off. I find it a bit preposterous, and it’s simply impossible for me to find myself dedicated to the page. Again, I can understand the general praise for this one, I just can’t agree with it. It’s overrated!
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Perhaps it is my disdain for your typical, romantic vampire that turned me off. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve never been able to truly dive into the works of Anne Rice. Whatever the case may be, Interview put me to sleep on more than a single occasion. I’m certainly the kinky when not romantic fans will always cherish this novel. I however am neither kinky nor romantic, and this one pulls a kamikaze. I can understand the success and respect the novel has received, but I still think it’s a bit ludicrous.
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Does The Monk hold historical relevance? Sure it does. It also reads like it was crafted by an author in need of further refinement. There’s just something about it that – at times – has an almost elementary feel to it. That said, this gothic installment does have some extremely eerie moments, and some downright melancholy material to contemplate. But, in the end, I don’t believe it to be worth the abundance of praise it has received.
The Bad Place by Dean Koontz
Everything about this novel should have ensured major impact. But it went right over my head. Koontz fell into plenty of standard practices for this one and that didn’t help. I also didn’t care for the abundance of character shifts. I know countless fans will yearn to cyber slap me for this pick, but it’s just too damned muddled, and a slew of these characters aren’t particularly likeable. A shame. So much praise around this one… so little pay off.
Carrie by Stephen King
I’ll keep it real quick for this one here. Carrie captured the hearts of horror fans across the globe. A fine cinematic transfer didn’t hurt. For me, it was a dreadfully boring piece of work. I’ve read it multiple times, always hoping to find the beauty I’ve missed, but it’s not there. There may be a few brilliant scenes featured in this one, but a few just doesn’t cut it for me.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Oh boy am I going to catch a verbal lashing for this one. I’ve got to be completely fair. Horns was awesome, 20th Century Ghosts was a fine piece, and I’m itching to read NOS4A2. That said, there was something really missing in Heart-Shaped Box. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it certainly left me a tad underwhelmed. And for a book recognized as a sublime offering… well, it was a major disappointment for me. Still a huge Hill fan regardless!
Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
I adored American Psycho. I felt the novel was nothing short of brilliant, completely engaging and somehow very cohesive, despite an outlandish premise. That was a golden offering. Lunar Park however – which has been praised to high heaven, might I add – fell completely flat for me. It was a disjointed mess, and while it does offer up some brilliant moments, the consistency of Ellis’ other works was sadly missing. I know many love it, but I can’t help but to feel this one is severely overrated.
World War Z by Max Brooks
I may infuriate enough fans to draw an angry mob to my doorstep, but the truth is, I’ve got be completely honest and tell it as it should be told. After a recent revisit, I think World War Z is arguably the most overrated piece of fiction to hit shelves in quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a good story. Hell, given the content, it’s an awesome story. But when all is said and done, final page turned, the only feeling left to linger in my belly came in the grumblings of disappointment. This is a great piece of work, but it’s – in my personal opinion – not even remotely near as perfect as many would have you believe.
Well, you’ll certainly get no flames from me. In fact, I think you rock for telling it like it is (even if I disagree about one of the ten). I haven’t read all of them, but you’ve earned my undying respect for the Hill opinion. I can put my finger on it – unlikeable characters, unscary ghost, and zero atmosphere. It put me off so much I haven’t bothered to read anything else of his…
Great list! 🙂
Not about to start any fires here either…I don’t care for Rice….snoozed through Ghost Story twice years apart…I can’t remember The Bad Place but that may be because I was devouring books and not getting nearly enough sleep…but I will probably reread it now , just to find out why I don’t recall iy…haven’t read a few of these but I do disagree with you about Carrie…the revenge factor worked for me after her horrendous life with Mom and rejection throughout her life. I do agree though that you have definitely set some kindling into a pile here , just waiting to see who will light the match….vitina
I’m right with you on World War Z. Terrible book and terrible movie.
Interesting article. I like the attack on popular reads. Be true to yourself, which you have, and you’ll never go wrong. I read Hawke’s Harbor by S.E. Hinton and loved it. I read a ton of reviews online about how horrible it was, and even my dad, who likes 99.9% of the stuff I like and vice versa, didn’t like it. Everyone has different tastes, regardless of how similar to yours they might be. I think it would be interesting to see the rest of the crew here list their top 10 least favorite horror books.
Of the stories that I have read, I can agree with you and disagree with some of your choices. I actually enjoyed Carrie, but the story has become dated over time. Ghost story is a brilliant idea, but poorly executed, I think it is valued more for the idea of the ghost story club than for the story itself. Who wouldn’t want to belong to a club like that? I did like the movie adaptation better, but the book is boring. I also enjoyed Interview with a vampire, it is the best of all of her stories and holds up the best, it was also an innovative idea at the time it was written, but suffers from comparison to the Twilight phenomenon. I never thought much of Koontz, all of his books are boring to me. I always refer to him as the poor man’s Stephen King. At least King can keep a story moving.
Oh, boy, I’ve just thrown my cane on the floor, taken off my leg brace and put on the theme to Rocky!!! First of all, I’ve just got an email from the FBI. They told me that Matt is now on their Top Ten List. I guess everybody has a list, don’t they? They asked me if I knew this Matt Molgaard. I said, “Hell, no. Never met the guy.”
All kidding aside, a list is nothing more than one person’s personal feelings toward certain objects or products. With regards to books, what one individual enjoys, another won’t. No one’s list is gold, or the word from God. Every list has to be taken with a grain of salt. Another point is that when grading a book, I think one should also take notice of the time period that it was written in. What was a big seller a hundred years ago might not hold up in the present with everything else that has been written in between.
Here’s something I’ve learned over time. It’s easy to put down a particular author or
novel. It’s not so easy to write one, especially a book that sells millions of copies. Just because you don’t like a book doesn’t mean millions of others don’t. Does that make your opinion wrong? Because it’s just an opinion. As my granddaddy used to say, “An opinion is like an asshole. Everybody has one.”
I haven’t read a lot of the novels on this list so I don’t know how I would feel about them. Even if I didn’t like the books, it wouldn’t mean they were bad or that others wouldn’t like them. I haven’t read the “Twilight” series, but Stephanie Meyers sat down and wrote them, spending long hours at the computer as most writers do. Someone evidently loves the series or it wouldn’t be selling so well and the movie adaptatiions wouldn’t have been made. Even if it’s only the teenagers reading the books, at least the kids are reading. To me, that’s the important thing. People are buying books and reading them.
When I was in Junior High School, I got caught reading Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love in study hall. I’d gotten it from my step-father’s bookcase, plus Dr. No had come out, and I was curious about this British fellow named James Bond. Also, remember that President Kennedy had read this particular novel and thoroughly enjoyed it. The teacher who presided over the study hall grabbed my paperback, called it senseless trash and pornography, and immediately took me to the Principal’s Office to be suspended. This was only a James Bond novel and we know about James Bond, don’t we?
My step-father was called and came down to the school to get me. When he found out what had happened, he punched out the teacher and told the principal that what was good enough for the President of the United States was good enough for me. That was the only time I ever loved my step-father, and the authorities didn’t do a dam thing to him. So, who was right? The teacher or President Kennedy? Were the James Bond novels trash and pornograpy? You can ask Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig that question and watch them laugh.
Oh, I don’t think Dean Koontz is going to want to answer any questions on a site that considers him to be a “poor man’s Stephen King.” Jesus, Dean has to be worth at least 50 million dollars now. If that’s poor, I’ll take it.
Let the controversy continue…
I’m inclined to believe Dean wears his big boy pants, and probably has grown accustomed to shaky responses to his work. It’s not even possible to have the career he’s had if he can’t take a little ribbing. Not to mention the fact that if he can’t see the abundance of praise he’s received here, there’s something seriously wrong.
A tad on the snarky side there, Wayne, A little presumptuous there too. 😦 We don’t all have thin skin; I think Dean’s toughened up over the years to handle some criticism.
I agree with you more than I disagree with you. I think you could have put at least one more Dean Koontz novel in this overrated strand of horror. I didn’t read Dean Koontz’s newest work “Darkness Under the Sun”, I was so abashed by the teaser, that I added my own drivel before and after the teaser trash, and created my own teaser for “Darkness Under the Sun”.
Suddenly in the shadows, crotched like a fang among many yellowed molar grave stones, the government experiment German Shepard barked in Morris Code across the canyon gorge to George. “Gawd!” The pale 11 year old George prayed, “Please let my Captain Amazing Morris Code Decoder Ring be in my corduroy pants pocket!”…..But there’s more, and you’ll want to read all of Dean Koontz’s new Blockbuster….There once was a killer who knew the night, its secrets and rhythms. How to hide within its shadows. When to hunt. He roamed from town to town, city to city, choosing his prey for their beauty and innocence. His cruelties were infinite, his humanity long since forfeit. But still . . . he had not yet discovered how to make his special mark among monsters, how to come fully alive as Death….That was until fate intervened like solar eclipse in the form of a 11 year old orphan with telekinetic powers, and an escaped super dog thrust into the middle of an ancient blood feud between the CIA and Yakuza! Dean Koontz’s “Darkness Under the Sun”- Read it only if you dare!
Wayne …the reference to Koontz should not offend him…one he is not by any means what he was referred to earlier by a viewer on this site …I venture to say he is a fully developed well rounded adult who by now can accept criticism from others. It is as you mentioned just their ‘opinion’…Don’t misunderstand me…I happen to be a big fan of both men and prefer not to even bother making comparisons between them . They just happen to write in the same genre. You did a fine job here of defending all authors and their work and that is fair because they all do put themselves into what they are creating…and for that I can give them respect . But secondly and honestly is there not one popular novel out there that you feel has been overrated ? That is what this list and it’s question is really about…when all is said and done.I am not trying to be rude but I am curious about how you could read so much and not find even one that you feel has been overrated. Personally and honestly I would not have wanted to try and construct a list such as this one , but it is food for thought and thinking is always a good thing…just me…Vitina
I don’t know about “over-rated”. There have certainly been novels I couldn’t get into or finish. In my younger years I probably would’ve blamed the author for that, but now that I’m elderly (I can remember when Lincoln was President and he did carry a silver axe by his side), I realize it’s simply me and where I’m at in that particular moment. Plus, a lot of books I never finished, other readers loved. Why put down a book and maybe turn off potential readers when there’s a pretty good chance that others will like it? In the HR office where I work three of the ladies are in their twenties. All three of them have read the “Twilight” series and loved each book. I remember telling one of them that Stephen King put the series down, and she told me that if he doesn’t like them, he doesn’t have to read them. The fact is these twenty-year-olds were reading for pleasure. Why try and destroy that?
My mom read Harliquin Romances. Who was I to put her down for that. She was reading. Do you know that the publishing industry is supported by only 5% of the public? Only 5% of the people out there read for fun. That’s all. We have to encourage more people to read and one way to do that is to write reviews of books you enjoyed. Someone might read the review and think to themselves, “You know, I think I’ll check that out.” Or, you can write a negative review and there will be some people who agree with you, while others think you don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground.
I give Matt credit for putting his head on the chopping block. I also understand that part of the reason for this listing is to generate a lot comments and to hopefully bring more readers to the site. People as a whole seem to like controversy. I mean this listing got me to stop working on a teleplay I’m pitching so I could put my two-cents worth in. So, it’s working. I hope there’s fifty comments placed on here. There’s
nothing wrong with thinking and questioning what you read. That keeps our minds alive. Now, I’m going to get back to work on my script.
As far as Dean Koontz goes, he’s got a good sense of humor and won’t let the comment bother him, or at least I don’t think so. He might just send Anna, his new Golden Retriever, after the person.
I’m 100% with your Joe Hill assessment. Absolutely love Horns (that’s why I had him sign that one at the NOS4A2 signing in Portland). Heart Shaped Box was an okay debut, but far from brilliant.
Carrie- i like, but it is a world away from King’s best works.
I started Ghost Story in January…and set it down shortly after in my to be read some other time pile. It didn’t grab me. That said, I ‘ll still give it a whirl.
I haven’t gotten into any Koontz yet.
Great list. Thanks for posting this piece!
Whether you’re right or wrong, I say bravo for stating it out-loud. I haven’t read Heart-Shaped Box but I did read NOS4A2, and, shades of Stephen King, it’s pretty good. The rest I’ll agree with in varying degrees. Koontz best work, in my opinion, is the Odd-Thomas series–Anne Rice’s stuff gives me a headache. Great job, Matt!
Whew. That’s brave. I see a list that includes several mediocre novels and the greatest horror novel ever written. One of these things is not like the others. Of course, I just proved your point. Anything considered by someone as the absolute greatest is always overrated. Never will there be a consensus on what is great, overrated, bad, or good.
well spoken Isaac!
Isaac…that is very well written indeed . A point well made and should we ever expect to see such consensus I fear we shall all have lost our minds , spirit and souls….individuals need to be just that individual….thinking and feeling for ourselves…as always…just me…the old hippie…vitina
This is a poorly designed opinion piece. First off, although I cringe at ” Twilight” itIis not a horror story, but a YA. It is easy to find fault with debut novels of which you mention several, when the overall canon is amazing. You lack indepth criticism and choose inflamed sensationalism as your arguement. Please rethink this subject and approach with accurate and well defined arguement.
I didn’t like Heart-shaped Box, either, and I sure wanted to. King has also referred to Carrie as “young book by a young writer.” I’ve always found Anne Rice unreadable. Can we add anything by Glen Duncan in here? I’ve tried so hard and failed every time to care about anything that happens in any of his books. I haven’t tried I, Lucifer, but the werewolf ones..meh.
I agree, Isaac!
First off Twilight isn’t horror. It’s a teenaged romance.
Heart Shaped Box was very creepy and proved that Joe Hill could write.
Carrie was an excellent teenage revenge story and it still is. It may be simply told and be a simple subject, but a recent re-read brought home the fact that it’s still scary and its basic premise(bullying) is still a relevant topic today.
WWZ was unique in the way in which the story was told.
Finally, Ghost Story was the most scary, dense, dark and intricate book I’ve ever read.
Ghost Story still hasn’t grabbed me after four attempts (but Straub’s The Hellfire Club is great). I loved Carrie (only just read it). Heart Shaped Box was a great idea but just didn’t grab. But isn’t this the great thing about fiction? Hell is a world where we all agree.
‘Watchers’ by Dean Koonz and ‘Midnight Lair’ by Richard Laymon really need to be on that list.
I actually loved Watchers. One of my favorite Koontz novels.
Alright then here’s my list:
1. Watchers- Dean Koontz
2. Midnight’s Lair- Richard Laymon
3. The Cage- Brian Keene
4. The Ruins- Scott Smith
5. Cojo- Stephen King
6. The Castaways- Brian Keene
7. The Manitou- Graham Masterton
8. Intensity- Dean Koontz
9. The Lake- Richard Laymon
10. Hell House- Richard Matheson
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Aww dude. You’re so off on Ghost Story. It was written in the 70s or close enough to be what they call “quiet horror”…my favorite. It’s a superb book. I like your blog though. Cheers.
Very good book, no doubt. Overrated? In my opinion, for sure. That’s not to say I’m right or wrong – just where I’m at. Although I admit, a fresh read could change my perception! Glad you check out the site!