Book Club Nominees

6 Terrifying Novels Seen Through a Cameras Lens

by @ericaleticia, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for February’s “Footage of Fear” category

What we find scary is different for everyone. But when we are subjected to elements of fear via various forms of media, we don’t get to choose, and that lack of choice can be even more scary. These are all books that embody that exposure, more specifically through video somehow—whether it be in security recordings that are supposed to make us feel safer or perhaps in the fundamental foley audio that is used in videos and film that are supposed to entertain us.  

Cover of Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Cover shows a close up image of grasses in a field. The image is slightly distorted, as if an oily substance in hues of blue, pink, purple, and green is smeared across the sky. At the bottom of the image we see some sort of silver harvesting or cutting implement, perhaps a set of garden shears.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut. (GoodReads)

This is a story that has stuck with me for years. Unsettling found footage, nostalgia for video stores. Sigh. As this is one that has stuck with me for years, I’d really like to share and talk about it with others. And speaking of media, I love that it is written by the lead singer for The Mountain Goats. Regardless if this one is chosen or it just ends up on your to-read list, I highly recommend the audiobook. Darnielle’s narration is great, as is his transition music. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Cover shows a woman tied in rope. She is levitating in the air, and leaves are swirling around her. Though her arms are bound to her body by the rope, her fingers grasp for freedom.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. (From GoodReads)

This is a novel that I started and never finished as I had started it on audiobook, and I could not stand the narration! The story was so good, but the narrator definitely kept me from being able to go on. I’d definitely love to finish it up with HOWLers and see what happens with that surveillance footage and their town. While some of the situations with the woman were kind of endearing, they were also very unsettling and quite scary to me when thinking about her eyes and mouth being sewn. Think about that figure constantly being able to just pop in and watch you just because she is kind of a town installation piece. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Shutter by Melissa Larsen. Cover shows the silhouette of a woman from the shoulders up. She is almost in profile, but her head is turned to the side, facing the viewer. Inside her silhouette we see the image of a run down cabin.

Shutter by Melissa Larsen

A young woman agrees to star in a filmmaker’s latest project but soon realizes the movie is not what she expected in this chilling debut novel. (Arkansas Digital Library Consortium on OverDrive)

The premise of this story reminds me of the movie Starry Eyes, which I loved but wished there had been more story to it. This seems like it has that. I am curious to see what it means with “the movie is not what she expected.” Again, media as well as getting to have your fingerprint on that media can evoke a strong response from people. And when people are passionate about something, that passion can lead to dark places. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. Cover shows a dark, weathered wooden abandoned house standing against a stark landscape.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar in this brilliantly disturbing thriller from Camilla Sten, an electrifying new voice in suspense.

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened. (Goodreads)

I love both The Blair Witch Project and Midsommar, and often books are much better than movies anyway, so I look forward to seeing how these stories combine in book format. And with the bit of history that is given in the book description, who knows what trippy and disturbing things will be captured while they are filming. That background sounds so good that I am really hoping for so much more than your typical found footage documentary story.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Scanlines by Todd Keisling. Cover shows a distorted image of a man, appearing as if it's an image from an old and damaged VHS tape. The man is clutching something in his hands, and holding his hands together almost in front of his face. His mouth gapes open wide.

Scanlines by Todd Keisling

In 1987, Congressman Benjamin Hardy III died by suicide on live television amidst accusations of political corruption. Years later, rumors of a recording surfaced among VHS trading groups and urban legend chat rooms. Dubbed the “Duncan Tape,” after the deceased cameraman who attempted to sell the video, the rumors allege that anyone who watches the tape is driven to suicide. (Goodreads)

Political controversy/conspiracy stories are always so interesting to me. The top fictional ones coming to mind are Jacob’s Ladder and The Manchurian Candidate. Lately, I’ve also been really into learning about all the gore videos that are on both the dark and clear web, so I feel like this would be in good theme with that. I am hoping that this aspect of the story has a lot of weight to it, rather than becoming a typical “watch a video and 7 days later you die” story. But what better way to find out than to read and discuss in HOWLS. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk. Cover shows a green egg broken open. A red substance spills from inside the egg and is splattered all around. The egg has squiggly wave lines on it that look like the wave lines from an ECG or sound file.

The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk

A father’s decades-long search for his missing daughter.

A young woman about to engineer the perfect scream.

The most dangerous secret Hollywood has ever kept.


Palahniuk is hit or miss, right? I think I’ve heard most people say they liked Fight Club but were too weirded out or bored with some of his other stuff. One thing I definitely like about his stories are all his facts. I’m sure some are legitimate while some are totally made up. But they’re always fun and interesting to me. As a huge cinephile of both modern and classic film, I loved all the facts that were used in this story. Along with that, it was just a unique premise to me. I think it’s not often that foley artists for films get the attention they deserve, but in this story, I think she’s too under the radar with some of her techniques. I think after reading this one, I’ll always be questioning the back tracks used in films. I’d definitely love to see other opinions of this story if it is chosen. 

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Lost Village by Camilla Sten. Join HOWL Society on Monday, February 14, 2022 to begin discussion! 

Erica Leticia is a voiceover artist who has loved reading and being read to since she was a child. This passion for literacy and reading voices translates seamlessly to voiceover work. Erica has had opportunities that include recording children’s books, and as a lover of all things horror, she has fun volunteering to narrate on various horror podcasts. She constantly gets to practice weird voices or meowing while talking to herself and her cat, Mars. More information about her voiceover work can be found on, and she can be contacted at

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

Leave a Reply