Are horror movies or novels more terrifying?

It’s Halloween season, so naturally it’s the perfect time to sit down, grab some popcorn from the nearest 7-Eleven that you’ll regret eating in a few hours and watch a horror movie. Or, if you’re not a fan of movies, maybe you’d rather spend your October reading a horror novel instead. Unsurprisingly, horror movies and novels have plenty of similarities but also some key differences, which begs the question: which form of horror entertainment is better?

If you ask me, the answer is horror movies. I can enjoy a good book, but I’ve rarely found horror novels to be as enjoyable as their movie counterparts. There’s the length difference of course, but that isn’t the main issue. I simply find horror novels to lack the most important part of their genre: the ability to make the reader feel fear.

When watching a horror movie, you watch at the pace that movie is designed to be watched at. Many scary aspects of horror movies are only scary because they’re surprising, and the surprise relies heavily on visuals and movement, which are absent from written media. While it is possible to be surprised or scared by something you read, it doesn’t have the same effect as when it happens in television.

Recently, I read Stephen King’s It and watched the 2017 film adaptation and its sequel. The movies definitely took some liberties, but it kept the important scenes, including the scary ones. I found these scenes to be much more impactful in the movies than in the book. While reading, I never really felt frightened or even disturbed by anything; at least not the parts that were supposed to be scary. It simply didn’t surprise me. It lacked any form of suddenness. That didn’t make the story worse, but the horror was.

Horror books aren’t bad. I think that they can be just as good as any other book genre. However, I don’t think they are capable of utilizing the unique aspects of their genre in the same way that horror films can.