Monday, October 26, 2015

Top 20 Horror Novels - #7) Hell House by Richard Matheson (from 1971)

Not only am I ranking my Top 20 Horror Movies for you this October, but I'm doing likewise with the scary books that I hold near and dear.  As with the movies that I'm discussing in that Top 20, I'm not attempting to rank these novels based on their place in pop culture, but rather their place in my heart.  Isn't that sweet?  Seriously, there are some fine books that didn't make the cut here because there just wasn't room, and there are definitely some well-regarded books that didn't make the cut because I don't really like them.  That also means there are some personal favorites of mine on this list that you may not have heard of.  If that's the case, I promise that I'll reward your trust with a gnarly tale if you give one of them a spin.  Finally, I may have shortchanged some of the titans in the genre (hey there, Stephen King) as I didn't want to overload this list with titles by the same author, though Uncle Stevie did manage to score three direct hits on my list.

The list thus far:

#20) Amok by George Fox (from 1980) 
#19) Manstopper by Douglas Borton (from 1988)
#18) Intensity by Dean Koontz (from 1995)

#17) The Terror by Dan Simmons (from 2007) 
#16) The Snake by John Godey (from 1978)
#15) Son of the Endless Night by John Farris (from 1985)
#14) Rockinghorse by William W. Johnstone (from 1986) 
#13) Vampire$ by John Steakley (from 1990)
#12) Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (from 1978)
#11) Christine by Stephen King (from 1983)
#10) The Manitou by Graham Masterton (from 1975)
#9) At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (from 1936)
#8) All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By by John Farris (from 1977)

Top 20 Horror Novels - #7) Hell House by Richard Matheson (from 1971)

Obviously, my pick for the haunted house novel to end all haunted house novels (sorry, Shirley Jackson) was bound to make my list.  Richard Matheson was an imaginative author with a knack for for grounding his supernatural yarns to such an extent that his work seemed far more plausible than typical horror fare.  His strong characterizations, his clear voice, and his creativity also made his books incredibly worthwhile, and Hell House was surely one of his best efforts.  It has a rather straightforward premise: a physicist, his wife, and a pair of mediums are hired by a dying millionaire who yearns to know if there is life after death.  To find the answer, he sends them into an infamous haunted house where untold perversions and atrocities have unfolded over the years.  Indeed, one of the mediums is the only survivor of a failed expedition into the same house some thirty years prior.  The house has a sinister ability to subtly influence those who enter, essentially allowing them to destroy themselves--with a little push here or there for good measure.  Both a riveting tale of terror and and an intriguing mystery concerning the origins of the evil lurking within the imposing Belasco House, Matheson's novel is a thrilling read.  Hell House is a sound exercise in generating tension and wringing unimaginable fear out of a dim and foreboding setting that is both a locale and a character in and of itself.  Readers will be hooked from the very start, and the conclusion is utterly fantastic.  In my humble opinion, Hell House is a towering achievement in the realm of literary horror.

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