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100 Books in a Year: #61 Hell House by Richard Matheson

By Brian Prisco | Books | March 31, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | March 31, 2009 |

What a strange little book. I’ve never read I Am Legend, but was told to. However, someone else got this rec into me before I could delve into any of Mr. Matheson’s other works, which I’m anxious too.

Hell House was a devious little animal. It almost read like Shirley Jackson, or Poe. It’s a haunted house story, set in 1970, but it felt more like 1870. It was weirdly anachronistic, almost like hearing about a Chrysler in A Merchant of Venice. It felt simultaneously old world and fiercely modern. The story lunges forward with this gruesome jabs where characters are suddenly calling each other fucking lesbians and becoming violently sexual towards one another. The female characters spend their time alternating between histrionics and wanton nudity, and the men ponder and grouse. It’s almost like a strange little off-broadway play of The Haunting of Hill House.

Embarrassing treatment of female characters aside, it’s a pretty ferocious little horror story. The horror does not content itself with mere poltergeistery. The medium gets sexually abused by haunts in a manner not inappropriate in a particularly un-censor friendly episode of “Law and Order: SVU.” What Matheson loses in his characters, he makes up for in the wringer he puts them through. For anyone who wants to write good horror, I would highly recommend giving it a gander.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

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