Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hell House

by Richard Matheson

This is my first read for the RIP IV Challenge. One of my favorite horror stories is I Am Legend by Richard Matheson published in 1954 but I had never read anything else by this author. I loved I Am Legend because although about vampires, it is really about the terror of one man being truly all alone in the world. It does not focus on the vampires but focuses on the psychological terror. Which of course is absolutely nothing like the movie that came out a couple of years ago. I enjoyed the movie but I never would have guessed that it was based on this book if it did not actually say so on the trailer. So enough about I Am Legend except to say if you haven’t read it you certainly should.

Hell House was published in 1971 and while not as powerful as I Am Legend was an enjoyable read. I just love haunted houses and this is one of the creepiest evil houses there is. It is similar to Shirley Jackson’s the Haunting of Hill House but is less of a psychological thriller and has more graphic violence and sex. A dying millionaire wants to determine whether there is life after death before he finds out first hand. To do this he purchases the “most haunted house in the world”, Belasco House, and assembles a team to investigate it. The team consists of a physicist and his wife (Dr. Lionel Barrett and Edith), a mental medium who heads her own Spiritualist church (Florence Tanner) and a physical medium (Franklin Fischer), the only survivor of the last investigative attempt 30 years before. The investigative team initially argues over whether the evil nature of the house stems from the spirit of its prior owner Emeric Belasco or multiple spirits that were involved in the horrible acts of blasphemy and perversion that took place with Belasco as host or whether it is pure physical oddities that can be eliminated. Eventually the question becomes will anyone survive Hell House this time. I would have liked a little more background on Belasco and the history of the house because I am always interested in the why, but it was a fun read. If you haven’t read any Matheson however start with I Am Legend.

No comments: