Magpie's Reviews > Hell House

Hell House by Richard Matheson
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's review
Sep 09, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: ebook, horror, dead-tree, the-library, finished, favourites, reread
Read from May 15 to July 11, 2017

Matheson already caught my attention with his most well-known work, 'I Am Legend', but this take on the haunted house genre is as good, if not a little bit better, than his sci-fi horror novel. Well, OK, they're doing very different things: 'I Am Legend' manages to make a compelling narrative out of a man trapped alone in his house, slaying vampires by day until it becomes a chore. 'Hell House', on the other hand, takes the well-worn (and wonderful) trope of the haunted house and makes it utterly compelling. I literally had to force myself to put this book down every time I stopped reading.

Matheson reflects on the classics of the haunted house genre, such as Shirley Jackson's 'The Haunting of Hill House' and Henry James' 'The Turn of the Screw'. His ghosts are more transparent (if you'll parden the pun), their motivations explored and revealed. The usual group of personalities is present in the living investigators: the doctor of parapsychology determined to prove his theory, the vulnerable believer, the cynic, but they are engaging and well-written, assisted by Matheson's willingness to leap between perspectives with little notice, just as the evil of the house can see their darkest thoughts. Allegiance switches as Dr Barrett becomes more frustrated and obsessed with his revolutionary machine to clear ghostly activity, his wife starts to understand that the house is bringing out darker sides of herself, the flaky medium is the only one willing to try and solve the mystery of the house and the cynical closed-off medium is caught between being the hero and walking away.

Matheson doesn't pull any punches with his ghostly phenomena: some parts of the novel are so horrible and overwrought in their horror that you have to laugh at them. But to Matheson's credit, that doesn't make them any less tragic, as the circumstances connected with the events are deeply upsetting. A wonderful, if obvious, haunted house novel and one I would fully recommend if you like the genre.

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Reading Progress

07/04 marked as: read
05/15 marked as: currently-reading
07/11 marked as: read

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