Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Richard Laymon
Published by Leisure Books
Richard Laymon was, by all accounts, a great and prolific author. His novels, more than thirty, are praised and cited as inspirations by some of the biggest names in the industry. Among his books was the “Beast House” series, stories of murder, rape, bestiality, and all other sorts of depravity. Starting with The Cellar, Laymon created a chilling account of a town that lived in fear of the evil represented by a house. Now, almost ten years after his death, comes Friday Night in Beast House (okay, it was originally published in 2001, but this is a new edition that contains The Wilds tacked onto it). It’s a shame that such a respected legacy was tarnished by such an awful “book.” To begin with, this is a novella at best, and it contains another novella, called The Wilds, tacked to the end to make up space. But that’s forgivable. What isn’t is the story itself.
I can’t help but think this was found in some forgotten drawer somewhere and someone is attempting to cash in on the “Beast House” mythos. The story is about a sixteen-year-old kid named Mark who wants to ask the girl of his dreams, Alison, out. She agrees, but only if he can get her into the Beast House (which is now a grisly museum dedicated to the horrors that happened there) after hours and they can spend the night there together. Ignoring the notion that a girl who wants him to commit breaking and entering on their first date might be more trouble than she’s worth, he manages the task. Up to this point, the story is reading like an episode of Goosebumps, except that Mark can’t seem to keep his eyes off of anything with boobs. Ah, puberty.
The story contains little in the way of “beasts,” save for a rape scene that comes off as laughably implausible, after which the victim gives herself over to her boyfriend willingly and with gusto. In all it seems like two different writers worked on this story, the first being R.L. Stein, the last being any random bestiality fan-fic writer. It definitely doesn’t ring of Richard Laymon.
The second story is slightly better but still comes across as ill-conceived and more like something that Laymon tucked in a drawer to revisit and flesh out later. The Wilds is the story of Ned Champion, a guy who broke up with his girlfriend just days before a planned camping trip. He decides to go it alone and takes his journal along to record his musings. At some point in the trip, he loses his mind and humanity and starts killing other campers. Why? Well, it’s never really fleshed out to the point that we get a reason. The way it comes across, he’s just an asshole. While this story does have a twist ending, it’s not particularly well conceived and comes off as just silly.
Put the two stories together and you get a disappointing read from a respected name. People who pick this book up first, before reading any of his other (better) work, will probably be turned off of Laymon forever. Those who are already fans will find these stories disturbing for all the wrong reasons.
1 1/2 out of 5
2 out of 5
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