Review: (4.5 / 5)
Hell House, by Richard Matheson is a 1971 horror novel. Let me start by saying that Hell House is everything I hoped to read when I selected this RIG. The novel is filled with poltergeists, demons, and the possessing of subjects in the story. Like all assigned readings, I flip between reading at night, and audiobook while I was on the road. Ray Porter does a PHENOMINAL JOB with the audiobook narration. I don’t know that I would have gotten that ghoulish affect without hearing his voice.
The story begins when Deutsch, a millionaire, hires four individuals to investigate the Belasco House for supernatural activity. Dr. Barrett who is a physicist, his wife, and two mediums, Florence Tanner and Benjamin Franklin Fischer stay in the home for a week to study the hauntings, and hopefully rid it of the demons. The guests connect with what they believe to be several spirits, some good and some bad.
The group eventually come in to contact with the ghost of Daniel Belasco. Daniel, who comes across friendly at first, is in fact the opposite. Belasco exploits the weakness of all who enter the house, and leads them to their fate—death! Word of advice to the reader who is very religious, the book is filled with blasphemy, and exploits the sexual desires of each of the characters. Its very graphic! Matheson did such a great job with the scenes, I highlighted many as an example of how to write these acts into my future novels.
Hell House is the second horror book I’ve read, the first falling short of my expectations. I wasn’t sure if a writer could create a fear factor through prose—I was wrong! I found myself on the edge of my seat countless times. While there are many examples I could give where Matheson did a great job with description, I’ll share an example of one:
She heard a thin voice coming from the earpiece. She couldn’t hear what is said—a single word repeated—but she knew that it was Daniel’s voice.
“No,” she mumbled.
The voice kept speaking the same word, over and over. She jerked up the receiver, spoke into it desperately.
“Please,” said Daniel.
Florence closed her eyes. “No,” she whispered.
“Please.” His voice was pitiful.
“Please.” She had never heard such anguish in a voice before. “Please.”
“No.” She could barely speak now. Tears were trickling down her cheeks. Her throat felt clogged…
She began to pray. “Dear God, reach down your hand and give me your protection…
Then, she slowly rose and undid her robe. Removing it, she laid it across the other bed…
She closed her eyes and started breathing deeply. Daniel, she called in her mind. I give you, now, the love you never knew. I do this freely so that you will gain the strength to leave this house. With God’s love and with mind, you shall rest, this night, in Paradise.
A figure drifted towards her.
“Yes, my love.”
She held out her arms…
He lay beside her on the bed. She turned to face him. She could feel his breath, and pressing close, she gave her lips to him…
“Florence,” he said.
She opened her eyes.
In an instant, she lay petrified, heartbeat staggering as she gasped at what was lying on her.
It was the figure of a corpse, its face in an advanced state of decomposition. Livid, scaly flesh was crumbling from its bones, its rotted lips wreathed in a leering smile that discolored jagged teeth, all of them decayed….
A scream of horror flooded from her throat as the moldering figure plunged inside her. (pg. 211)
I removed some of the exposition for this except so that I could condense it for my review. In the scene however, Florence feels that she can help the spirit of Daniel Belasco cross over and flee from his controlling father. She offers her body to Daniel as a means to find happiness, however she is tricked by what is called the giant, who is feeding off her insecurities. [SPOILER] The demon ultimately leads Florence to her demise.
While I won’t ruin the ending for those that have yet to read the novel, I will say that I am pleased with how the story ended. Where most horror stories conclude, Hell House continues with one more twist—one I did not expect.