Splatterpunk books have been around for a good 60 years as a genre. It has always fostered a small but very loyal fanbase who, in the absence of a big market, will consume any splatterpunk books that come out. Take a shallow dive into the splatterpunk community, and you’ll likely find that everyone reads the same books. As a Horror Author, I am, of course, aware of the splatterpunk genre niche. Even though Night Demon is not splatterpunk, it includes some splatterpunk scenes, and I like to draw inspiration from a multitude of sources. So, what are my favourite splatterpunk books, and which ones should you read, even if you’re not fully committed to the genre? Let’s find out!
What is Splatterpunk?
Splatterpunk is a genre that set itself apart from mainstream Horror in the 1960s. Before that, Horror was often of the meandering and ambiguous kind. Think The Haunting of Hill House (1959), that sort of Gothic Horror thing. Many of the current best Horror Books still are. Although these can be very scary, they do sorely lack in the shock department. Splatterpunk defines itself by intense body gore and expressly describes anguish and, most of all, pain. Splatterpunk books describe in minute detail the appearance of someone’s intestines ripped from their living bodies or the grotesque features of a monster or other villain. Rawness is what the splatterpunk author will aim for and what the fanbase expects. This can make the genre feel trashy to some, and yes, many of these books are trashy (in a good way). But you might be surprised that some of the best Horror books are also splatterpunk!
The Best Splatterpunk Books
This is my selection of best splatterpunk books, in no particular order other than how I recovered them from memory. I’ll try not to spoil the plot too much. This selection provides you with a good introduction to the genre. Who knows, maybe you’ll like to sample more after this!
#1 American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho plunges the reader into the life of narcissistic psychopath Patrick Bateman. Patrick is an obsessive investment banker on Wall Street, but his life takes an even darker turn when he embarks on a self-indulgent killing spree. As he comes to grips with his severe actions, a revelation shakes him to his very core: he might be mentally ill. As the story progresses, Patrick loses his grip on reality more and more and in the end, he is convinced even the cash machines are talking to him.
American Psycho is written from Patrick’s perspective in first-person. It’s not strictly splatterpunk; however, I do consider it an excellent gateway into splatterpunk. It contains many scenes that are described in vividly gory detail later in the story, so I put it first on my list. A must-read.
#2 Playground by Aron Beauregard
Geraldine Borden offers three destitute families a substantial payment to spend a day at her cliffside estate. The catch? Their children must test her decade-in-the-making revolutionary playground, stocked with state-of-the-art equipment. The contraptions harbour more sinister purposes aside from child’s play, though. As the hotchpotch group of children is thrown into a realm of danger and violence, they are forced to grow up quickly. Surrounded by foreboding architecture and perils at every step, they struggle to overcome their conflicts ─ lest the evils on the playground consume them.
Playground is very graphic and vivid and, as the synopsis, title, and cover tell, depicts intense child suffering and gore. Not for the faint of heart at all.
#3 The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Outwardly, Meg and Susan live in a serene, landscaped suburb of well-kept lawns and tree-shaded streets. But one house, Chandler’s house at the end of a dead-end street in this American suburbia, harbours darkness inside its walls and basement. The teenage sisters are forced to live in captivity in a damp cellar, held there by their aunt. She subjects her nieces to frequent cruelties, while she also tyrannises her own sons. Only one boy, living next door, feels it within him to step up for the captive sisters. But he stands before decisions far beyond his years.
This book enrages you as much as it shocks you. You’ll feel all sorts of dark desires awaken, mainly to exact your own dark fantasies upon the cruel aunt as retribution.
#4 The Slob by Aron Beauregard
Vera was raised in a disgusting environment steeped in perpetual filth. As a result, she has developed an obsession with cleanliness. Now in the thriving 80s (in the story), she uses this obsession as a door-to-door saleswoman with some success. It allows her to support her disabled husband, Daniel, and also to prepare for a soon-to-be family. Things go awry when she finds a house that rekindles haunting memories she thought she had long suppressed successfully. The dark presence within its vile walls works hard to bring Vera’s past memories back into reality.
This one is, above all, DISGUSTING. I thought I’d pour in different flavours in this list of splatterpunk books, and if you seek a snappy, short read that really grosses you out, try The Slob!
#5 Dead Inside by Chandler Morrison
When a very unconventional security guard and a maternity ward doctor with odd proclivities (of the murderous kind) cross paths at the hospital where they work, it starts a journey of self-exploration that goes against all societal norms. Their behaviour becomes more and more deranged and destructive as the pair seeks out new boundaries of depravity to cross.
This is one of the darkest, vilest and most disturbing books in the splatterpunk genre, and that’s telling something! It also takes a lot of mental hoops to jump through before the author convinces you that the taboos that are being broken aren’t good taboos to begin with. If you like revelling in a (or your) more depraved side, this is a good splatterpunk book for you.
Why the Lower Ratings on Splatterpunk Books?
Splatterpunk books never seem to peak above the 4.00 stars line on any review aggregator like Goodreads. I don’t think this is because the genre itself is inherently bad. It has more to do with just how niche these Extreme Horror Books are. A lot of so-called “normies” get their hands on what they think is a traditional Horror book in the veins of Stephen King. They are then appalled, or rather shocked, by the great emphasis put on the gory and bloody bits. Don’t be taken aback by a 3-star or even 2-star rating on a splatterpunk book. If you like the genre, these cross-genre ratings mean nothing.