Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hell House, by Richard Matheson


Confession: This book has a lot more graphic content than I tend to be comfortable with, and that is likely affecting my review.

Matheson sets out to tell a story of a "haunted" house to end all haunted houses. He wants to shock his audience with the horrors--physical and psychological--that are inflicted on the paranormal investigators . . . and he succeeds. I was pretty darn horrified, if I do say so myself. I understand what he was trying to accomplish--after all, in order for a "haunted" house to be truly scary, it needs to do terrible things to its visitors--but I'm not entirely sure the result was worth it. I can believe that a house is scary and possibly haunted without having all sorts of sickening and, well, horrifying things described to me in graphic detail.

Matheson clearly believes in the existence of evil. Although he keeps the reading guessing about whether the house is haunted by an actual dead entity or just some para-psychological energy source (without a "mind" and a "will" of its own), it is clear that--regardless of whether the house is well and truly haunted--the original owner was a genuinely evil man, in a very real and quite scary way. However, Matheson does not appear to think that the other characters in the story possess an innate capacity for evil; rather, their "evil" actions are the result of external forces.

He definitely keeps the reader engaged, and he's not a bad writer, but I'm still not convinced I needed to hear the details in order to appreciate the ideas he was trying to get across.

I'm not unwilling to give Matheson another try, though. It may be that I should just steer clear of books that are clearly part of the "horror" genre.

[NOTE: I listened to the audiobook, which was well done, but which may have also exacerbated the graphic nature of the book. It may that it's less obvious and overwhelming when read in book form.]

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