Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — From Oscar nominations to record-breaking box-office numbers, horror is experiencing a resurgence in cinema, and the genre is still keeping people rapt on the internet with r/nosleep and other works of flash fiction. Before there were screens, however, horror thrived not only through campfire stories but also on paper, page after page of gruesome monsters, vengeful ghosts, and blood-curdling gore — and it hasn’t really stopped.
Whether it’s because you can’t put them down, or because they’ve scared you so much that you can’t sleep, here are 10 books to read under the covers that are guaranteed to keep you up at night.
“Good Dog” by Mabek Kawsek
In this novel about terrible truths that can follow families around, the lives of two women become increasingly tangled as they each deal with two separate mysteries that might hint at a bigger, more sinister plot: First is Agnes, whose seemingly perfect home crumbles after her daughter is kidnapped; and then there’s Marlene, who is haunted by supernatural visions, in particular a ghost who won’t leave her alone until its body is found.
“Good Dog” is available on Anvil Publishing.
“Demigods and Monsters” by Caroline S. Hau
This collection of short fiction takes readers to troubled places across the Philippines, Japan, China, Singapore, and the United States: a love hospital, where a woman attempts to get rid of her husband’s mistress; a village held together and protected from wild animals by a former entertainer; a press conference in which a controversial politician confesses his crimes; and an old house where a family is plagued by poltergeists.
“Demigods and Monsters” is available on UP Press.
“Ordinary World” by Jose Miguel Arguelles
In this bleak world, you wake up in the aftermath of a falsely predicted apocalypse forced to continue as you were, kidnapped children end up refused for ransom and unwanted by their parents, dream women show up floating outside 34th-storey windows, and old elementary school classmates take their own lives after leaving the exact same message on their social media accounts. “Our Darkest Hours” author Jose Miguel Arguelles returns with a new collection of short stories, this time grounded in ordinary lives — making them all the more fear-inducing.
“Ordinary World” is available in National Book Store and through Visprint’s Shopee store.
“Charged Vol. 1” by Siege Malvar
A short read, this book unfolds in a series of texts in which a young woman at first appears to have gotten a message from the wrong number — until the person on the other side demands to know her name, because “I just want to know who I’m looking at.” What follows is a high-stakes thriller orchestrated by a creepy mastermind with his own twisted sense of justice. It leaves more questions than answers, but in a way that’s gripping and worth every page (and every chill that runs down your spine).
“Charged Vol. 1” is available in National Book Store and on Lazada.
“Pia the Teenage Albularyo” by Anna Marcelo
In this komik zine, a teenager named Pia inherits her ancestors’ albularyo abilities, which come in handy when supernatural mysteries begin to take over her haunted high school and she must help her friend uncover the secrets of a strange agimat. Despite its darker themes, the comic has its fair share of biting wit and humor.
“Pia the Teenage Albularyo” is available on Manila Artpost.
“Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Closed-Door Mystery” by Bernalyn Hapin Sastrillo
Second in a series of Filipino-language novels aimed at older children, “Ang Closed-Door Mystery” finds its three young sleuths taking on a classic locked-door murder case. The Mayor has died, found killed in his office with all the doors and windows closed. The Detective Boys must now figure out who the culprit is, and how they could have done it.
“Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Closed-Door Mystery” is available at Adarna House.
“Daloy” by Issel de Leon
This short zine by artist Issel de Leon, whose work is often centered on magical realism, depicts an unlikely friendship between an ill child and Magwayen, the goddess of death — who is a child herself, unable to understand what her job of collecting souls means to mortals, and why there’s such a weight on the line that separates life and what comes after. In her friendship with the young girl, who herself is Magwayen’s next target, the goddess learns about innocence, loss, and hope.
“Daloy” is available on Manila Artpost.
“Paperbacks from Hell” by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix is becoming known for reinventing horror fiction with his multimedia novels “Horrorstor” and “My Best Friend’s Exorcism.” With “Paperbacks from Hell,” it’s easy to see how and why Hendrix developed his ability to combine original concepts with delightfully kitschy execution. Here he examines paperback novels from the ‘70s and ‘80s, touching on the book covers as well as popular subgenres like gothic revival, evil dolls, and the unflappable haunted house. Book recommendations, story summaries, and profiles of authors like V.C. Andrews and R.L. Stine are also included.
“Meddling Kids” by Edgar Cantero
Here’s one for fans of Scooby-Doo and Mystery, Inc. In 1977, the kids of the Blyton Summer Detective Club solved the mystery and unmasked the monster that haunted Sleepy Lake. Thirteen years later, they have drifted apart, each haunted by memories of that one night and having taken to their own vices and problems. Andy, the resident tomboy on the run, believes there was more to the case than they initially thought, and decides to get the gang back together — including a dog descended from their original four-legged teammate, and the ghost of a dead member who may or may not actually be there — and put an end to the mystery for good.
“Meddling Kids” is available in Fully Booked and on Kindle.
“People in Panic” by Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon
A floating head is found in a closet. A man stands at the bottom of a pit, watching dead bodies pile higher and higher. A girl suffers a panic attack when confronted by memories of her brother’s death. A quiet, slow-going afternoon is interrupted by and interspersed with an imagined murder. In these stories, although not all are darkly themed, author Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon maps out vivid studies of panic and discomfort, and in doing so uncovers how such an emotion affects the human condition.