Monday, May 16, 2016

Booknote: Hell House

Richard Matheson, Hell House. New York: Tor Books, 1999.  ISBN: 978-0-312-86885-7.

Genre: horror fiction
Subgenre: haunted houses
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I picked this up to read for the Horror Reading Challenge I am doing this year, but I was just not really impressed by the book.

Belasco House is considered the Mount Everest of haunted houses. It has sat empty for 20 years. The last investigative team that went into it lost all members but one. Now years later, that survivor along with another team made up of a psychic, a scientist, and the scientist's assistant and wife, return to Hell House to attempt to solve its mysteries.

The novel had some frights, but for all the build up, the horror felt relatively tame. The novel read more like a slow mystery with a few happenings here and there to keep the horror label. I just did not find it that horrifying. In addition, the characters were not exactly sympathetic, so as they start dying, I really did not care that much over them or the ones who survive in the end. Some of the lore and history of the house was interesting, but it was not enough to carry the book neither.

In the end, it was just a slightly slow and barely scary horror novel. There is a movie based on the book, The Legend of Hell House, which I may or not try to find mostly out of curiosity.

2 out of 5 stars.

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Update note (6/20/16). I managed to watch the 1973 film made based on the book. Here are some brief thoughts on the film:

The movie opens with an epigraph:

"Although the story of this film is fictitious, the events depicted involving psychic phenomena are not only very much within the bounds of possibility, but could well be true." -- Tom Corbett, Clairvoyant and Psychic Consultant to European Royalty.

I thought that was a cute touch to try to add some "authenticity" to the film. . . as if. From what little I could find, Tom Corbett was a fairly well known British psychic, in his time at least. I could find very little about him online. He passed away in 1999 according to this obituary.
  • The film starts right away. You get just enough exposition. The premise is the same as in the book. 
  • The female psychic is a bit  younger than I envisioned from reading the book. 
  • The physicist is not as frail of health initially as he is portrayed in the book. 
  • Overall, the film is very atmospheric. It is also very monotonous, much like the book. It seems more tame than the book, which is already quite tame.

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This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:


Tracy said...

I am honestly so glad you felt this way about this book because I didn't like it either. :/ I really found it underwhelming, despite the claims that it was THE most horrifying book EVER. It was a total let down for me too. Great review!

Tracy @ Cornerfolds

Angel Rivera said...

Tracy: Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I did find the book very underwhelming. And the film (the version I saw from the 1970s), not even Roddy McDowell could save it. I believe the movie has been remade again since, so my curiosity might drive me to check it out, but I am in no rush.

Best, and keep on reading.