When I first read Hill House, I read it as an example of a bad-place book, lead by Stephen King's introduction to his "library" version of it: a bookWhen I first read Hill House, I read it as an example of a bad-place book, lead by Stephen King's introduction to his "library" version of it: a book about the way a particular spot is just born bad. This time, I was hoping to having a chance at seeing it as haunted house book. I've watched the movie kind of recently (months ago, at the most) and it played it fairly straight as a haunted house novel with emotional issues.
Reading it, though, it is clear that encapsulating it purely in horror-tropes is a no-good way to read it. This is an amazingly forward thinking book about the issues of an ego-boundary, about the failures of interpersonal relations—especially those between modern women—, about the questions of motherhood and daughterhood, about the way that the same words mean different things to different people, and about the loss of identity to work/friends/lovers/lies.
It plays at these things while also dealing with horror tropes, with loud and terrifying sounds in the night, with things that stalk along garden paths, with sinister prayer books, and with the hint of dark things up in the attic. This is its genius, that it is a forward thinking book, a sad and lonely book unbound by its horror, that still plays at horror fairly well. I am not sure if your average horror fan would find it scary, per se, and the history of the house is fairly tame in comparison to more contemporary versions of the tale, but the horror-elements are a mood, and, well, the more I think about the garden-path "thing", the more it does make me nervous, so there's that.
A tragic tale about personal loss and destruction and the modern inability to deal with grief. And a fair ghost story with haunted nurseries and the like. And a commentary on the melodrama of the gothic story. And a decent read on top of all of this. I'm glad I re-read it....more
The Loney is a lovely book, in its prose and its plotting and its primary characters and even its darkness, which is dished out slowly and carefully,The Loney is a lovely book, in its prose and its plotting and its primary characters and even its darkness, which is dished out slowly and carefully, only truly bubbling to the surface in three or four scenes—though two of those are dark enough to catch on the tongue. At its core, it is a Coming of Age novel, one told in retrospect by the now-adult narrator remembering back to two key points in his life: a specific Easter holiday pilgrimage and his time as an altar boy, events which intertwine in theme and side-elements of plot. Hurley writes his protagonist—or you might say, has his protagonist write of himself—in much the way that any of us would look back at our teenage'd self: innocent but with hindsight that may not have been possible at the time. This leads to a dual-faced book, on one-hand about the very real horror right behind the wall of events and on the other about the way a person raised in a close-faith household deals with issues such as a brother with with unspecified mental disabilities or a mother coming to terms with a new priest or secrets you keep to protect the miracle that made your family feel whole.
The core plotline is a trip to Moorings, a house in Lancashire, near a fairly desolate but occasionally lovely beach known as The Loney. The church group had taken annual trips with the aged Father Wilfred, their chief goal being a visit to a local shrine said to have healing powers so that Hanny, Smith's brother, can be cured of his afflictions. For Esther, Smith's mom, generally described as "Mummy" in the book, the curing of Hanny—and the eventual priesthood of Smith—are her two primary goals, above and outside the wishes of either of her sons. As children, Smith and Hanny find the place to be both boring but yet a blast, playing games on The Loney and seeing mostly the world as a toybox. One year, after Father Wilfred goes off on his own and comes back a changed man for reasons [not specified until later in the novel], the annual trips cease, a sense of darkness coloring them.
After Wilfred's death, a new priest comes in, Father Bernard, trying to find some fresh passion in the Church, and a chance for a pilgrimage is possible again, though things have changed. The Loney and the woods nearby seem darker, more ragged. Moorings is found to have a secret room used for unknown purposes. The locals are less friendly and things which could be pranks and could be something sinister occur. And the personal interaction of the group has been tainted. Esther finds Father Bernard a weak leader, someone unable to lead them on the perfect trip to cure her son. A young couple has joined to trip who do not quite flow along with the rest. An old couple, Father Wilfred's brother and sister-in-law, are still dealing with grief from losing kin. Perhaps worst of all, Hanny is growing into a man, larger and more unwieldy, still devoted to his brother but more and more at odds with his mother's machinations to cure him no matter what the cost.
By comparison, the flashbacks to the days as an altar-boy are tamer, mostly the last look at a Father Wilfred who has become different, passionate about the Church but darker with it, taking out his Dickensian Schoolmaster zeal on another young altar-boy, who tries but fails to live up to the standards set.
Things unravel more and more as Smith and Hanny become acquainted with a couple living in the old house Thessaly, across tidal paths from The Loney in Coldbarrow, and with a young ward, about their Hanny's own age, pregnant and beautiful. Something horrible is going on, the reader—and the adult Smith—knows, but the younger Smith and Hanny can only guess. A miracle is coming, and Father Wilfred's damnation is exposed, and Smith finds himself holding both secrets, lonely and cold, the younger brother who acted the older to the end. Tainted by knowing the cost of the affirmation, and never quite able to be whole, again.
It has been compared, by the publisher, to The Wicker Man, and that is only partially right. The handling of secrets is different between here and there, and the way it handles its new but old source of miracles. The Wicker Man is mostly one man's failure to see the truth, The Loney is a young boy's, and later a middle-aged man's, inability to handle it. In the end, The Loney is about a cost in a way that Wicker is not.
As I started out saying, this is a lovely book, darkness and all, but not one which is pulse pounding. The secrets are dark, one darker than the other, but the full shape of darkness does not come until the end, and it comes with the suggestion that we're all children playing at games of faith, while the world is unknowable....more
In my recent review of Tales from the Crypt 5 (EC Archives version), I lamented the state of the once-great beast. This volume, The Vault of Horror voIn my recent review of Tales from the Crypt 5 (EC Archives version), I lamented the state of the once-great beast. This volume, The Vault of Horror volume 4 (again, EC Archives edition) is proof that all of my complaints were justified. In roughly the same time frame [give or take, I think, six months] that Crypt was giving us lazy stinkers, the sister title was still delighting in itself with gory-as-sin punches like the ending of "Split Personality!" [where a two-timing man's corpse is split down the middle to be the "marital bliss" companion for twin sisters], humorous-horror vibes like the setup of "Practical Choke?"[with body parts as practical joke props], and the proto-drive-in delight with stories like "Who Doughnut!" [in which a trench-coat wearing octopus turns out to be a serial killer]. And that's just in the first issue!
In this volume alone you get several iconic EC stories: the somber adaptation of Ray Bradbury's "The Lake", the children-in-a-"fun-and-games-but-not"-funeral-procession story,"Let the Punishment Fit the Crime!", the touching terror of "Shoe-Button Eyes!", the story that established The Crypt Keeper's iconic house from the TV show, "While the Cat's Away...", the killer puppet story, "Strung Along!", and arguably the most famous EC story of all time, "...And All Through the House..." (about a killer dressed as Santa Claus terrorizing a woman who is stuck inside due to the murder of her husband).
Even the relative mediocre tales, like "Smoke Wrings", often have things you can love, such as the digs at Camel's advertisement in the new-era of 1950s over-the-top adverts. Just look at the cover of issues #30, where the reference to "Practical Joke!" has the advertisement: "Stomach Upset? Use Bi-Mo" [a pun on buy more and Pepto Bismol]. That's practically counter culture for the time period. What's more, while EC was all about "person does bad, bad does person", this one includes two stories that bucked this trend. "Star Light, Star Bright!" has a man buried alive simply because child-like inmates at an insane asylum are playacting a funeral [leading to one of the best covers in the EC canon], and "Where There's a Will!" has a kindly man tricked by conmen who get away with it without punishment, a complete reversal of nearly every other EC story out there!
This is a must-have for the EC curious, and is a good buy for even those who are just slightly into horror comics. Maybe skip the text-stories [which are monotonous at the best of times] and there are a couple of places where the re-coloring wrecked the text [the word "are" is gone in panel, and "ill" becomes I'll or vice versa, I forget which]. But the quality of the stories is outstanding. And the cover designs. Even the fact that explanation points seem to show up in the titles of every other story, heh. Get it, folks. Go buy this volume....more