Review: Hell House by Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson’s Hell House popped up in my Amazon recommendations after I browsed horror classics for my October reading. I dropped the others on my list in its favor because Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is, well, legendary. What Dreams May Come is also decent (don’t quote me; I read it too long ago to fully recommend now). As for Hell House… not what I expected. It’s suitably eerie, suspenseful, and intense, but it has a weird 1970’s pulp-porn component with an uncomfortable level of sexual violence and humiliation. It’s over the top in a way that verges on camp, but for something to be campy, it ought to be a little funny and this isn’t. read more

Review: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

I struggled through this one. Henry James’ narrative style in The Turn of the Screw is weak and mincing, full of qualifications and tiny details. I had to re-read a few sentences to catch their meaning and some content escaped me. (I hate admitting this sort of thing; I worry it makes me sound dense.)

The Turn of the Screw follows a young governess in charge of a large house and two young children. Two ghostly figures appear and the governess believes they’re interested in the children. Both kids act bizarrely when questioned and the governess suspects they’re being used to some dark end. However, it’s just as likely that the governess is mentally unstable. This ambiguity is nicely balanced throughout the novel and, though I felt I wasn’t following the story to the fullest, the conclusion was shocking and still made an impact. read more

Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I was typing “this book isn’t all that scary,” when my front door rattled and startled me off my chair. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is THE haunted house story and has been on my queue for at least a decade. I don’t rush to read books that I expect to be predictable and was skeptical that Hill House would hold any surprises. So often, reading a classic after reading derivative works leaves the classic feeling rote even though it’s the clever original. Hill House doesn’t have this problem. I picked it up with the expectation of pesky, obvious ghosts with a few jump scares, but found a subtle and psychologically disturbing story instead. read more