Worms by James Montague
In Worms, James Hildebrand, along with his wife, go on holiday to the Norfolk coast, only for him to be plagued by a haunting vision of…. worms. Just. Loads and loads of worms.
This novel was originally published in 1979, so the general treatment of women is… not great. They’re all written as hyper-realistic versions of stereotypes instead of having any substance at all, while the narrative tries to position James as a hero. He commits some very hideous acts against the women in his life, so I found it impossible to in any way feel sympathy for him.
The dialogue is stilted and it’s downright boring reading any scene descriptions with how repetitive it is. The descriptions of the worms are great, it makes you feel icky and genuinely quite scared at points.
It just sucks in a horror novel when you can predict from the first few chapters everything that’s going to unfold, and have a good inkling of why. I will say the ending was quite fun, but if I was bored listening to the literal audiobook on 2x speed, then…. I can’t recommend it! I’m sorry!
I’m glad I read this, because I want to read horror of all eras, but that didn’t stop it from being boring.
Tribesmen by Adam Cesare
It’s the early eighties, at the height of Italian cannibal films. A quickly pieced together crew are flown out to a Caribbean island to cash in on the hype of these films, only to find the space devoid of life. Not-so-slowly, chaos descends, as crew members are visited by old inhabitants of the island.
This book is fascinating. Throughout, Cesare plays with perception and the belief individuals have in what is real and what is fake. There’s a surreal nature to how downhill everything goes, even before they step off the plane, and Cesare manages to garner sympathy in you for certain people and disdain for others just by writing these characters are who they actually are.
While the the narrative isn’t without issues, and it does employ some age-old horror stereotypes, I think the themes Cesare explores– including the barbaric nature of invaders who thought nothing of killing natives of pieces of land, as well as women’s presence in horror and the way women’s bodies are viewed– are very thoughtfully done.
Any issues aren’t spiteful, but are instead accidental, and I honestly loved reading this. I cannot wait to read more of Cesare’s work! It’s fun and gory, and he’s unafraid to kill characters you grow attached to, even within the small page count, which is definitely the signs of a good horror writers.
Witching Hour Theatre by Jonathan Janz
Larry Wilson, middle-aged nerd, goes to the Starlight Cinema for a triple-movie midnight marathon. As the numbers of audience members dwindles, Larry begins to notice the man in the back row, and how he’s getting closer…
What I really loved about this book, rather than the fiction, was the essay at the end of this novella that Jonathan Janz wrote almost as an extended acknowledgement section on what inspired his writing. I find it fascinating being able to read up on what inspires people to write specific stories, and how their work comes together over time.
My thoughts on the fiction: great horror! I found the first half really tense, and I was really invested. I do feel like the last half didn’t live up to the very strong beginning, and was quite dissatisfying. And while Witching Hour Theatre had amazing moments of description, especially of the movies on screen– I really do want to know how that third film ends!– I found issues with how it paints the characters.
It embodies the ‘not like other girls’ phenomenon, but for middle aged white men. You know, how a guy is generally unappealing, but he ‘man’s up’ and decides not to be a selfish douchebag in order to impress a woman, and miraculously survives a terrible ordeal that kills a bunch of people who– in all likelihood– would have had a greater chance of survival, and gets the girl. It’s just… boring. And paints women as incapable of surviving without a man. It’s a worry, when you think about how often this narrative appears in horror.
This was OK. I’d honestly just read the first half up until he goes to exit the first theatre room, just for how well written the horror aspects are. I’d really love to see more fiction incorporate that element of watching a film unfold and relating it to the real horror!