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Richard Matheson was an underrated novelist. He wrote fast-paced works, visual and visceral, full of philosophical questions and characters facing the unknown.
My favorite is "I Am Legend," but "Hell House" turned out to be a very exciting and scary read. Four people enter a haunted house to prove to a millionaire that there's life after death, or that there isn't. Like all good haunted houses, Hell House is a character in itself. It has everything--creaking rocking chairs, deserted rooms, a Satanist chapel, awful smells.
There are other surprises, mostly of the psychosexual variety, as each of the characters faces fear, insecurity, and blinding personal shame. Matheson describes all of this very well, sometimes in terms that were more explicit than I had expected. This book is definitely rated R, or possibly NC-17--no cute lil ghosts in white sheets here.
But there are lots of good scares, and that's what I go to a haunted house book for. Unlike Matheson's other works, this one had slow spots and was a bit repetetive in places. The narrator did probably the best job out of any book I've listened to from Audible--seriously, with two male and two female voices, and various ghosts, I always knew who was speaking.
Recommended for mature ghost-story lovers.
96 of 101 people found this review helpful
Checking the dates of publication to be sure I was right that Hell House is a sort of pastiche or homage or even plagarism of "The Haunting of Hill House," I saw this opening sentence in Wikipedia that says it all:
"Hell House is a novel by American novelist Richard Matheson, published in 1971. The novel has significant similarities to the earlier work The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson, though rendered with much more violence and sexual imagery."
He beefed it up, basically. You could even say coarsened it and simplified it --- but in fact both novels are quite good. I suppose you could call it a remake! Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is of course much scarier, because it deals with madness and human fragility as well as whatever haunts Hill House, and Audible has an excellent reading of it. Matheson uses the same set-up, the same basic scene and the same four basic characters -- six, really, counting the two cook/caretakers.
Shirley Jackson achieves true horror. Chilling, ghastly, oh-no horror, with never an indelicate word or scene. Its opening and closing paragraphs are famous. Matheson's Hell House is more conventional and less truly terrifying, despite a lot of Sturm und Drang. It is the Matheson book that was made into a great movie, "The Legend of Hell House," one of the scariest movies ever made, I thought as a girl.
The reading of this novel by Ray Porter is excellent. There are a lot of scary emotional scenes and the reader does well with them, and with character differentiation. I think both books are well worth listening to, for themselves and for the really instructive differences.
94 of 100 people found this review helpful
If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?
I think if you remember this book when it was release (I think sometimes in the 70s) then you may be nostalgic for it.
What didn’t you like about Ray Porter’s performance?
It was all a bit flat for my liking.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
I found it a bit boring to be honest and didn't manage to finish.
Any additional comments?
From the reviews I'd read I thought this would suit me, a good scarey horror story with an extra dollop of 70s sauce. However I was never scared and could easily listen in bed with the lights off. Tried about 3 hours and the story never really got going for me.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I really enjoyed this book and so wanted to hear more that I took the long way home on more than one occasion so I could get a few extra minutes in. It is well written and the dynamics between the characters are presented clearly. The story unfolds at a pleasing rate and each aspect is brought into play well.
The narration is good although there were some unexpected pauses but it was placed well, clear, the characters well defined and the other 'people' in the book were easily told apart.
I was impressed overall and will certainly be checking out more by this author. As mentioned in another review, the content of Hell House can be somewhat graphic but it is integral to the story, not gratuitous for shock value.
11 of 14 people found this review helpful
I somewhat enjoyed Hell House. While it wasn't amazing it had it quite a bit of gore and mystery that kept me happy as a horror fan. I found I didn't fall in love with the characters as much as I wish I had. I found the characters only ever seemed to care about one thing. They were unlikeable and flat- and as a resault I didn't care if they lived or died. But if you don't mind a slow start things really start to pick up near the end. If you do pick this up I hope you enjoy it.
Hmmm. Left me cold. And not in a goosebumps way. Pretty old school horror. Overuse of words and phrases which drives me nuts. Did not like the narration but I think the material was part of the problem. Not worth the 14.95 price tag.