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Hell House > Hell House: Finished (Spoilers)

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Adelaide Blair | 972 comments Mod
This topic is for those who have finished the book. Feel free to spoil away!


Adelaide Blair | 972 comments Mod
So, I enjoyed this book, but I did not love it. Part of that is due to the fact that I have seen the movie so many times, I had a very hard time not letting it influence me while reading. The film is very good at setting up the tone, and I found it transferred over to the book - even if the scene at hand did not merit it. So, that was my problem, not the book's.

What this book did well: I felt Matheson was really good at setting up a sense of dread, and as time passed things appeared more and more ominous. While the book did not succeed for me on all levels, it definitely worked in creating a sense of place and atmosphere. I also liked how he took the subject matter seriously; there were no little jokey asides about the subject of spiritualism etc. (All though the Indian spirit guide is a little off-putting nowadays, it does have precedence in real life. Goofy as it may be.)

The book failed on two levels for me. I am not particularly prudish and while the sexual possession scenes did not particularly bother me, I found it very interesting that the house was able to only influence the sexuality of the the women. The men were able to much better fend of the house in that manner. Almost as if by being men, they had more self-control over their baser impulses. I found that to be off-putting, although not particularly surprising for the time in which this book was written.

I also find the climactic scene to be somewhat of a letdown and a little silly. (I have the same issue with the film.) It seems to just wrap up with a neat little conclusion that doesn't really satisfy in any way.

But, I'm glad I read this. It wasn't great, but it was a perfectly fine light (dark) summer read.


xenu01 Adelaide wrote: "I am not particularly prudish and while the sexual possession scenes did not particularly bother me, I found it very interesting that the house was able to only influence the sexuality of the the women. The men were able to much better fend of the house in that manner. Almost as if by being men, they had more self-control over their baser impulses."

I also found it irritating that Edith's sexual feelings toward women (that scene with Florence in particular) were treated as titillating, sinful, and totally out of character. I mean, it puts lesbians on the same level as drug addicts and cannibals. Hmm.

Let's not forget that the house's evil owner was molested by "one of the homosexual teachers" at his reform school (although at least he was evil BEFORE that happened).


message 4: by Adelaide (last edited Jun 28, 2013 10:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Adelaide Blair | 972 comments Mod
xenu01 wrote: "I also found it irritating that Edith's sexual feelings toward women (that scene with Florence in particular) were treated as titillating, sinful, and totally out of character."

Yeah, I'm willing to view books as products of their times and cut them some slack, but the anti-gay sentiments are subtly pervasive here. It was pretty clear to me that Edith might actually be gay, but her shame about those feelings is pretty strong. I'm gonna give Matheson a break and not hold it against him, but to a modern reader it is pretty jarring. (I totally glossed over the molestation when reading.)


xenu01 OK, upon further reading (confession: I wasn't QUITE done, but enough that I'm not really worried about spoilers at this point), I amend my view.

I do believe Matheson had better intentions toward lesbians than my first reaction says, and I do think that Edith is probably gay or bisexual. But! It's also pretty obvious that lesbianism is a bad thing that happens because of abuse (she was raped by her father).

What is interesting about Hell House is it makes these women express wanton sexuality, something they previously did not do or would not have done. It's a clear virgin/whore dichotomy with a side of "but it's not their fault! They were possessed!"

Ergo, the possession and expression of sexuality and sexual desire (for women, especially, but maybe for everyone) can only be a negative thing.

The scene where Florence gets raped by a corpse (and as a result, gets "filled"; aka possessed) only serves to cement this.

So I guess I wonder if anyone else finished this book feeling similarly?


message 6: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Baldwin (christopherbaldwin) | 41 comments Ugh, is it July already? I think I have to admit to myself that i missed this month's reading and move forward. :-/


message 7: by Adelaide (last edited Jul 01, 2013 12:27PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Adelaide Blair | 972 comments Mod
Christopher wrote: "Ugh, is it July already? I think I have to admit to myself that i missed this month's reading and move forward. :-/"

You don't even really like horror anyway, so I think you're cool. (I know you like the really old stuff, as you should.) War of the Worlds should be way more fun for you!


message 8: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Baldwin (christopherbaldwin) | 41 comments You inspire me to read some horror stuff, and that's been good. I've enjoyed and learned from it. But yeah, maybe sometimes my aversion can keep me from going he extra mile. :)

Amazingly, I haven't read WOTW before, I already have it reserved at the library. Fun!


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