Surviving a horror movie is exhausting—there's the running, the bleeding, the screaming. Dying in a horror movie can be even worse.
But no one is more suitable to the impressive task than a Scream Queen. Whether these women of horror fame have starred in dozens of films or just made a mark with one revolutionary performance, Scream Queens are icons of the genre.
From classic slasher heroines like Jamie Lee Curtis to contemporary horror series leads like Jenna Ortega, everybody has a favorite Scream Queen. Let royalty guide you to your next chilling read. Here are eight books to read based on your favorite Scream Queen!
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis' name is practically synonymous with the term "Scream Queen." Though she is most famously known for her role in the Halloween franchise, she's starred in several other iconic horror films, such as Prom Night and Virus. And who can forget her involvement in the aptly named horror comedy series Scream Queens?
As Curtis is the face of one of the most beloved slasher movies in horror cinema, Clown in a Cornfield is the perfect read for her devotees. In the quaint town of Kettle Springs, the community is divided between those who pray for a return to the good old days and those who are desperate to get out to greener pastures. Quinn Maybrook and her dad are newcomers to the area—arriving just in time to get caught up in the chaos of Frendo, the creepy clown mascot of the shut down Baypen Corn Syrup Factory. Frendo thinks that for Kettle Springs to thrive, the swarms of rotten kids in town need to be put down. He’s happy to take on the task.
Clown in a Cornfield
Mia Goth has a filmography rife with horror. She starred in the 2018 remake of Suspiria, as well as several other lesser-known flicks like High Life and The Survivalist. She became an icon, however, with the release of A24's X and Pearl. Her most recent film, Infinity Pool, premiered on January 27th, and falls in line with the hedonistic terror which made her a horror stand-out.
Capturing the same unsettling eroticism fans have come to expect from Goth, The Safety of Unknown Cities is a gripping read. At its core, this is a tale about obsession. Val is a woman who is addicted to sex, but no matter how much she indulges, she never seems to be satisfied. The City promised to be a place brimming with every imaginable pleasure and perversion. As she sets out to hunt down this sexual mecca, a former lover—and serial killer—follows close behind.
The Safety of Unknown Cities
If you're a fan of campy B-horror, then Cassandra Peterson is surely your queen. Portraying the beloved horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, she first gained popularity by introducing low-budget films on the series Elvira's Movie Macabre. She went on to have a couple of her own movies, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark and Elvira's Haunted Hills. Peterson's satirical and sexy character quickly took on a life of its own, having guest appearances in everything from children's cartoons to drag reality show competitions.
Utilizing that same sense of quirky, larger-than-life, humor-based horror, Ray Garton's Lot Lizards is the perfect book for fans of Peterson's oeuvre. A "lot lizard" refers to the hookers that work highway truck stops—the hookers that trucker Bill Ketter turn to for some simple relaxation. One night he runs into a lot lizard that does the wrong kind of biting, and the next thing he knows, he's a vampire. Under the cruel reign of the undead leader Carsey Brothers, Bill soon finds himself standing in between this gang of vamps and the life of his teenage son.
In 2022, Jenna Ortega starred alongside Mia Goth in X. Before that, however, she'd built up a hefty horror catalog with films like Insidious: Chapter 2, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, and Scream (2022). Now, of course, she's most well-known for the titular role in the popular Netflix series Wednesday. Ortega displays incredible range but is never more endearing than when she's a gloomy child of woe.
Leaning into the dark academia of Ortega's latest role, The Cloisters follows curatorial associate Ann Stilwell. Ann arrives in New York City hoping to spend her summer in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but she is assigned to the gothic museum and garden, The Cloisters, instead. Here she meets a group of mysterious researchers who have stumbled upon a strange deck of tarot cards. As Ann gets swept away in dangerous and outlandish theories about this deck, she finds that fortune-telling may not be so unimaginable after all.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar's first foray into horror cinema was with the 1997 slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer, followed closely behind by a minor role in Scream 2. Though she also starred in The Grudge and The Return—and even the family-friendly Scooby-Doo—she's had no horror role more iconic that the titular role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Gellar's characters tend to be great beauties that are too quickly written off as shallow, and while her characters often have a strong will, the weight of the world sits heavy on their shoulders.
For a Gellar fanatic, no book could be more perfect than Rachel Hawkins' Rebel Belle. Harper Price is a top-notch Southern debutante who acquires incredible powers after a peculiar run-in at her Homecoming dance. Her destiny used to be tiaras, but now she's a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians imbued with unmatched fighting instincts. The person she's supposed to protect? School reporter David Stark, who sits at the center of an eerie prophecy that could spell the end of the world.
To try and list off all of Danielle Harris' many (many, many, many) horror roles would be to commit to madness. At this point, she's starred in 29 horror films. She's most notable for four different Halloween movies (as two different characters) and three Hatchet films. Throughout her long career, she's never shied away from soaring levels of gore, whether she's facing off against a serial killer, rabid zombies, or evil spirits.
For an actress that has such a broad catalog of gruesome hits, it's hard to settle for just one perfect book. Luckily, Poppy Z. Brite's collection of short stories in Wormwood delivers an excellent variety of terror. An ode to the swampy setting of Harris' Hatchet films, this collection has the heavily atmospheric backdrop of the mucky south.
While Dee Wallace's horror filmography isn't quite as jam-packed as Danielle Harris', 21 films are still nothing to scoff at. She first got her start in horror in 1977 with The Hills Have Eyes. In the following years, she starred in iconic films like The Howling and Cujo. Throughout her career, she's made quite the name for herself in creature feature films. One might even say she can't resist these Critters.
Tapping into the primal nature of Wallace's performances, Empire of the Wild is an exceptional read. One night after a terrible argument, Joan's husband, Victor mysteriously disappeared. It's been nearly a year since he vanished, but she never stopped looking. And one day—when she least expects it—she finds him. But he doesn't seem to recognize her at all. He claims to be a man named Eugene Wolff, on a mission to spread the word of Jesus. Yet Joan suspects that is a dangerous darkness in him—a darkness that is very old.
Empire of Wild
You didn't think we'd have a list of Scream Queens without the queen of Scream, did you? Before Neve Campbell stepped into the leading role of this long-running slasher franchise, she first made an appearance in the 1993 horror movie The Dark. She also played one of the teen witches in the 1996 cult classic The Craft. With five Scream films under her belt and counting, Campbell is the smart-mouthed, bad-ass heroine that no one can keep down.
Stephen Graham Jones' novel The Last Final Girl has the delightfully meta-perspective and droll tone that made Campbell's iconic films soar. In this picturesque Texas suburb, Lindsay has already survived a massacre at the hands of a vicious killer in a Michael Jackson mask. But now that she's a final girl, she's as addicted to the game of survival as a killer is to blood. Collecting her own group of potential final girls, Lindsay schemes the ultimate battle for survival.