Friday, June 24, 2016

A little house, a lot of charnel

Charnel House

By Graham Masterton

Publisher: Open Road Media

Pub. Date: June 7, 2016 (reprint)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Graham Masterton has been writing horror since the 1970s yet I haven't really seen too many of his books around. I believe he is still keeping up his Manitou series which remains the books what he is most known for. Masterton has a good grip on the horror genre. His novels usually feature a sufficiently horrible monster and it is not uncommon to have an sexual twist in the story.

Charnel House was his third horror novel to be published. it came out in 1978 and is now being reprinted by Open Road Media with a few other novels of his from the 70s and 80s. Charnel House starts out like a haunted house story. The man who owns the house comes to San Francisco Department of Sanitation worker John Hyatt with a strange complaint. His house is breathing. As John investigates, he discovers that the problem is more than just a haunted house. It may be infested with a malevolent spirit of Native American mythology that is trying to get out and, to make matters worse, is using the bodies of John's friends to materialize.

It is a pretty exciting story. John is allied with a native shaman to battle the evil. John's female friend who he wishes was his lover also becomes involved and that gives us a little love interest on the side. I really enjoyed this but it seems a little dated. The Native American Folklore comes with a little lecturing by shaman George Thousand Names about the faults of the white man. I'm not saying there isn't a little truth in it. I'm saying it is so 70s! Beside the dated 70s slant, there is no real development in the characters. They exist solely to move the plot and even John's love interest isn't all that interesting.

Fortunately the evil that preside in the house, and eventually escapes and thretens the world as we know it while having his way with the ladies, is sufficiently scary. There is a satisfying battle at the end whose only fault is that the twist in the battle has been telegraphed to the reader long before by our helpful shaman. But it remains satisfying as is many scenes including a eerie two person morph in the hospital and the appearance of an extra bonus; Bear Woman.

All in all, Charnel House is a good scary read and well worth the time. While it is typical of the post-King horror being turned out in the late seventies, it does manage to be one of the better horror books of the time and still packs a bit of a punch.

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