Horror is a genre that is often difficult to navigate, because in bookstores when there is a horror section (even though there rarely is) it is often bombarded by Stephen King. Don’t get me wrong, I love Stephen King, but there are so many other awesome horror authors out there to be discovered. It has taken me a long time to research and find the best horror novels and authors that are out there, and I’m happy to be able to share them with you. Splatterpunk tends to be my favorite sub-genre of horror, because it is the sub-genre of horror that doesn’t hold back. It is the most extreme form of horror, and the novels I am sharing with you now fall under that category.
When it comes to extreme horror, some of the most controversial, and best, horror novels are indie published or even self-published by the author. The reason for this is because when an author self-publishes a novel, they are able to write stories with extreme content because it is not being censored. Some of the following novels are the most extreme horror novels that I have come across, and some of them I have not even been able to complete due to the intensity of the content. I have had quite a few people asking me for recommendations on extreme horror, so I picked the most extreme horror novels that I have come across as part of this post. Be kind to yourself, and if you find yourself becoming too triggered when reading any of these items, please take them in stride. With that being said, I hope you enjoy my picks, and be sure to leave a comment letting me know which one is your favorite! I’m dying to know.
Woom by Duncan Ralston
“Trust me when I say, this is messed up.” – MATT SHAW, author of Sick B*stards.Amazon Synopsis
“I believe pain lingers,” Angel said. “Do I believe in spirits? In the supernatural? Probably not.”
The Lonely Motel holds many dark secrets… and Room 6 just might possess the worst of them all.
Angel knows all about pain. His mother died in this room. He’s researched its history. Today he’s come back to end it, no matter the cost, once and for all.
Shyla, a plus-sized escort, thinks the stories Angel tells her can’t be true. Secrets so vile, you won’t want to let them inside you.
But the Lonely Motel doesn’t forget. It doesn’t forgive. And it always claims its victim.
“This book is a wet dream of abnormal sexual psychology.” – Mort Stone, My Indie Muse
WARNING: Don’t buy this book if you have a weak stomach, if you’re easily disturbed, or if you’re looking for a light horror read. THIS IS NOT THAT BOOK. Seriously. You’ve been warned.
Woom by Duncan Ralston has got to be the most disturbing horror novel that I have ever read. It is gross, sexually obscene, and yet, impossible to look away from. Duncan Ralston has created a whirlwind horror novel that is one of a kind and is sure to bring you the high stakes horror that you are looking for. Just be aware that this novel is extremely graphic, and it is not for the faint of heart by any means.
The Troop by Nick Cutter
WINNER OF THE JAMES HERBERT AWARD FOR HORROR WRITINGAmazon Synopsis
“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.” —Stephen King
Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected…or one another.
Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later—and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.
The Troop by Nick Cutter was one of the first splatterpunk novels that I read, and it was the first that I completed. I still get nightmares from this book, and even just writing about this novel now haunts me. This book is outrageously sickening, and one scene that involves animal abuse is absolutely haunting. If you are sensitive to animal abusive like I am, just be aware that there is one scene that is extremely sensitive that you may want to skip over. You will know it when you get to it.
Little Heaven by Nick Cutter
A “gripping and terrifying story…and one not to be missed” (Robert McCammon) from the acclaimed author of The Troop and The Deep!Amazon Synopsis
A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins, colloquially known as “the Englishman”—is hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway. But shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. There are stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—and above all else, the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust soon grip the settlement. Escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral toward madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. All present here are now forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is marshaling its power—and it wants them all…
“A slow boil of unrelenting terror and inescapable consequences. Nick Cutter ups his game every time. Beautifully written—menace drips from every page.” —Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author
“A sprawling epic that can stand alongside the best of ‘80s King, Barker, and McCammon. Fun, nasty, smart, and scary, and in all the right places.” —Paul Tremblay, acclaimed author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
Usually, I don’t include more than one book by any one author in my list of picks, but I simply couldn’t help it when it comes to Nick Cutter. Nick Cutter is a master of splatterpunk horror, and his novel, Little Heaven, might even be scarier than The Troop. This horror novel is one that presents elements of horror that grab you by the throat and refuses to let go. At times it may seem slow, but the scenes of extreme horror more than make up for the slow parts. In fact, you may be yearning for those slow scenes as a reprieve from the horror within.
Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell
A romantic cabin getaway doesn’t go exactly as planned. High up on the windswept cliffs of Pale Peak, Faye and Felix celebrate their new engagement. But soon, a chorus of ghastly noises erupts from the nearby woods: the screams of animals, the cries of children, and the mad babble of a hundred mournful voices. A dark figure looms near the windows in the dead of night, whispering to Faye. As the weather turns deadly, Felix discovers that his terrified fiancée isn’t just mumbling in her sleep – she’s whispering back.
Originally a contest-winning story on reddit.com’s horror community NoSleep, Stolen Tongues has received widespread acclaim and has been optioned for film.Amazon Synopsis
The beauty of Felix Blackwell’s masterpiece, Stolen Tongues, is that it is extreme horror in that it doesn’t rely on gore as a shock factor. Instead, the story creeps underneath your skin, edging its way into your nerves, before you realize just how terrified you are. This is a great extreme horror novel to start out with, because it will introduce you to the sub-genre, and prepare you for more intense horror novels.
Off Season by Jack Ketchum
THE STORY: A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River, during off season; awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall. This novel appears for the first time in its original unexpurgated of the authors vision. The original publisher refused to publish it in this version in 1980. Now available only in this edition with an introduction by Douglas E. Winter.Amazon Synopsis
This novel contains graphic content and is recommended for regular readers of horror novels.
Jack Ketchum is one of the best horror authors out there, and I have found that his splatterpunk novels are some of the most extreme horror novels published to date. Off Season was the first novel that I read by Ketchum, and it absolutely terrified me. It is gory, deranged, degrading, and altogether gross, yet you can’t pull your eyes away from it. It is a true gem.
Ring by Koji Suzuki
A mysterious videotape warns that the viewer will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. Exactly one week after watching the tape, four teenagers die one after another of heart failure.
Asakawa, a hardworking journalist, is intrigued by his niece’s inexplicable death. His investigation leads him from a metropolitan tokyo teeming with modern society’s fears to a rural Japan—a mountain resort, a volcanic island, and a countryside clinic—haunted by the past. His attempt to solve the tape’s mystery before it’s too late—for everyone—assumes an increasingly deadly urgency. Ring is a chillingly told horror story, a masterfully suspenseful mystery, and post-modern trip.
The success of Koji Suzuki’s novel the Ring has lead to manga, television and film adaptations in Japan, Korea, and the U.S.
Ring by Koji Suzuki is the inspiration for the series of films by the same name. But in my opinion, the films do not do the book, or its sequels, justice. Suzuki has a way of creating a horror story that doesn’t rely on classic horror elements such as gore, but instead supernatural elements that inspire fear in the reader. This book is incredibly haunting, and it has still wormed its way under my skin.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
“A novelistic mosaic that simultaneously reads like a thriller and like a strange, dreamlike excursion into the subconscious.” —The New York TimesAmazon Synopsis
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
House of Leaves is one of those books that is truly a work of art. One cannot even really call this a novel because it is made up of such experiential writing. While House of Leaves is an intense horror story, it can be difficult to understand, and it requires optimal effort from the reader. Try this one out, it will be far different from anything you’ve read before!
Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his “art” to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his “art” to limits even Compton hadn’t previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim.Amazon Synopsis
Swiftly moving from the grimy streets of London’s Piccadilly Circus to the decadence of the New Orleans French Quarter, Poppy Z. Brite dissects the landscape of torture and invites us into the mind of a killer. Exquisite Corpse confirms Brite as a writer who defies categorization. It is a novel for those who dare trespass where the sacred and profane become one.
Exquisite Corpse is probably one of the most brutal extreme horror novels I have ever read, and it definitely dominates this list. I say this, because Poppy Z. Brite forces you into the mind of a killer, so vividly, that at times you have to put the book down and step away. Be careful with this one because it is so graphic and alarming, it might get under your skin and never let go.
Am I Beautiful? by Jon Athan
Adam Miller, a successful marketing manager at a travel agency, visits Tokyo, Japan on business. During his trip, he has a one-night stand with a young Japanese woman, Miki Someya. But Miki latches onto him. She follows him—stalks him—through the streets of Tokyo, professing her love and begging for his. Adam manages to avoid her, but he loses control of himself when she confronts him and threatens to follow him home to tell his wife about their affair.Amazon Synopsis
In a fit of drunken rage, Adam attacks her. He beats her black and blue, then he carves a smile on her face with a pair of shears. Afraid and ashamed, he flees the country and escapes prosecution.
But years later, when children start vanishing in his city and the only suspect is a woman with a scarred face, he suspects his past has followed him home…
Inspired by a classic urban legend, Jon Athan, the author of Lovesick and Maneater, brings you a disturbing new vision of sadistic romance.
WARNING: This novel contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.
Jon Athan is a favorite in the horror community, most notably because of his graphic, sadistic, and altogether terrifying novels. When it comes to Jon Athan’s writing, he doesn’t hold back, so I absolutely had to include him in my list of extreme horror novels. Am I Beautiful? is one of my favorites of his, because it takes an urban legend and brings it to life, in the most terrifying way possible. This novel is brutal, graphic, and an honestly so bizarre and out of bounds that it could never be made into a movie. Be careful with it because Jon Athan does tend to be extremely graphic with his writing, and sometimes he does go overboard.
The Groomer by Jon Athan
Andrew McCarthy grows concerned for his family after he catches a young man, Zachary Denton, photographing his daughter, Grace McCarthy, and other children at a park. To his dismay, Zachary talks his way out of trouble when he’s confronted by the police. He hopes that’s the end of it. Then he finds Zachary at a diner and then at a grocery store. He knows their encounters aren’t coincidences. And just as Andrew prepares to defend his family, Grace vanishes.Amazon Synopsis
As the police search stalls and the leads dry up, Andrew decides to take matters into his own hands. He starts by searching for sex offenders in the area and researching enhanced interrogation techniques… He convinces himself he’ll do anything to rescue his daughter, unaware of the pure evil he’ll face in his journey. He’s willing to hurt—to torture—anyone to save his family.
Jon Athan, the author of Into the Wolves’ Den and The Abuse of Ashley Collins, delves into the underworld of internet predators in this disturbing horror novel. Are your children safe?
WARNING: This book contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.
I put The Groomer by Jon Athan at the bottom of this list of extreme horror novels, because it is one that is so controversial and graphic and that it can be dangerous for some readers to read. This is especially true depending on your triggers and personal experiences. While this novel is a favorite in the horror community as well, it is probably the scariest and most graphic of Jon Athan’s works because it is based on actual things that happen in our society, which are absolutely depraved and disgusting. This book addresses grooming and child torture, and chapter 3 is extremely graphic in this context. However, the story does follow a man who goes after sex offenders, which brings in a sense of justice, just be aware that torture is a huge element in this novel, and it can be incredibly difficult to read about.
I hope that this list of extreme horror novels presents you with some works to begin exploring this section of the horror genre. These works can be incredibly daunting to pursue due to their content, so take each one slowly and be aware of scenes in the novels that may become too much for you. Protect yourself, but most of all, have fun!
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