Today, I'm going to start with an older classic, The Shining.
I re-watched it last night, and along with this recommendation I'll have to add a warning for casual racism. This goes for the novel as well. I won't make an excuse for it. I just want folks to know that it's there. (With awareness, comes the power to change.) I love Horror, but it does quite often suffer from a problem with casual racism and sexism. (Just like Epic Fantasy tends to be plagued with colonialism and sexism.) This doesn't mean that I hate The Shining and Stephen King--quite the opposite. Great works can have flaws and often do. They're created by flawed creatures, human beings, and human beings change over time. (So, I hope, anyway.)
I'm in awe of The Shining as a novel. If you've only seen the movie and never read it, you're missing a vast chunk of what makes it so incredible. Like Carrie, if you think the driving source of terror is the act of a father hunting down his family through a vacant hotel with an ax--you've missed the point. Great Horror is psychological, and that's what I adore about it the most. Human psychology is complicated. Thus, Great Horror has isn't just about gore. It's about the uncomfortable truths. The Shining is ultimately about addiction, abuse, and particularly in the film...colonialism. The novel's over-riding focus is addiction. Jack Torrance is an alcoholic. His wife, Wendy, is a survivor of domestic abuse. In the film, they fail to emphasize that aspect of her character and instead focus on Jack. In stereotypical 70s-80s fashion, Wendy is portrayed as weak, even annoying, but the novel makes it clear that Wendy is trapped and has been from the day she chose to escape her controlling, abusive mother via the only vehicle available: Jack. Her choices, in the novel, are astoundingly human and logical. Groomed to seek Prince Charming, she sees in Jack an ally. He too has dealt with abuse (an alcoholic father) and is fleeing it. He understands her plight. So, she jumps at the only escape available to her--marrying Jack.
And Jack, in his super-human fight to not become is father, in fact, becomes his father. The novel is exquisite in illustrating a descent into addiction. The film doesn't even come close on that point. What it does do well is display colonialism at its worst.
The Overlook Hotel has been built on a Native American burial ground. This is a reoccurring theme in King's work. (See Pet Sematery.) It's also an American Horror trope...for a reason. And anyone who knows anything about American history will know why. Sadly, it's often an unexamined trope as it is in the movie. In this case, it's strangely more powerful for all that. The novel emphasizes that the hotel is just bad and always has been from the beginning. (The Winchester Mystery House is an obvious influence as well as Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.) In the novel, Jack researches the hotel's back story. We learn what happened to the Native Americans who attempted to stop its construction. (We don't in the film.) Maybe it's because I've read and reread the novel? But all the time spent in lovingly dwelling upon the Overlook's Native American decor in contrast to all the decadence of the ultra-powerful and rich who spend time there totally underlines the awfulness of the damage done. It feels like affluent whites have wiped out an entire people and then are parading about in the skins of the dead.
Where The Shining fails is with Dick Hallorann. From the first time I encountered the novel, Hallorann has been the character with whom I sympathized most. He goes out of his way to be kind to Danny and Wendy. He's a former soldier and is courageous and thoughtful. If this were a DnD campaign, he'd be the freaking paladin. (My favorite.) Spoiler alert: unfortunately, not only is he the one innocent bystander who ultimately pays the price for Jack's failure (ah, Ye Old The Black Man Gets the Ax First routine)--he's also something I didn't have a complete awareness of until recently, an example of the Magical Negro stereotype. [sigh]
Still, this movie and this novel, have a great deal to offer.
Now, to balance out things I'm going to mention a film I haven't seen yet but I'm very much looking forward to, The Girl with All the Gifts.
The novel by M.R. Carey is next on my ToBeRead pile. I really, really want to see this.
 See Rosemary's Baby, (the film not the novel--I have yet to read the novel) for another example. Horror is crammed with mousy, submissive women being taken apart--along with a whole host of other female stereotypes.
 Super-human in that he chooses to tackle the issue alone. He doesn't get professional help. Oh, sure, he joins AA but he doesn't go any farther. He doesn't look a the source of his problem--unresolved rage, and his rage is his undoing.
 Shirley Jackson is amazing. Do read the novel. NOW. :)
is a Science Fiction and Fantasy author living in Texas.