Grim, Ghastly and Gruesome: New Horror Fiction


Mannequins, like statues and haunted dolls, are not terrifying because of their monstrous features, but on the contrary: they are terrifyingly perfect. With a placid and empty expression and an icy indifference to the suffering of the living, a mannequin demonstrates that human sentiment is itself irrelevant. It is the horror of icy perfection, and in their presence one experiences the unsettling sensation of being undone by a simulation.

In MANNEQUINS NIGHT (Tordotcom, 135 pp., Paper, $ 13.99), Stephen Graham Jones draws on these elements to explore growth disruptions. A group of high school friends discover Manny, a “naked white mannequin” like a “giant Ken doll”, in their sophomore year near a stream. All that year, Manny passed among them and then forgotten. When their senior year arrives, the narrator decides to “bring him back for that perfect farce” as a way “to honor the children that we have been”. The result is not what he expected and makes it a strange yet disturbing horror novel. Imbued with questions about the nature of change and friendship, “Night of the Mannequins” is a fairy tale of impermanence featuring the clever and irreverent style of horror of Graham Jones.

A darker look at models can be found in Junji Ito’s graphic adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s story “An Unearthly Love”. A woman surprises her husband making love with his mistress in an attic and, returning later, she discovers “a cold and lifeless doll.” The sheer verisimilitude was such that it made me gasp and shiver. His revenge on the model is absolute, like everything in this incredibly spooky collection of graphic stories, COME INTO THE BLIND SPOT (Viz Media, 272 pp., $ 22.99). The book features some of Ito’s shorter plays, such as visually striking “Billions Alone”, in which the discovery of two corpses “firmly sewn together” with fishing line opens into a national mystery as more in addition to bodies are discovered tied together. . I especially liked another adaptation of Ranpo, “The Human Chair”, on “an ugly furniture maker who was carried away by a violent passion” and “hid inside a chair he had built and indulged in the pleasures of his perversion. “” Edogawa Ranpo “is the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allan Poe and the pen name of Taro Hirai (1894-1965).

The 1964 French novel THE TENANT (Valancourt, 176 p., $ 15.99), by Roland Topor, was adapted into a horror film by Roman Polanski in 1976 – eight years after his iconic “Rosemary’s Baby” – then largely forgotten; it has just been reissued with a new introduction by RB Russell. Translated by Francis Price, the novel follows the disenfranchised and arguably sociopathic Mr Trelkovsky as he moves into an apartment in Paris and is quickly ostracized by his neighbors. The central dilemma Trelkovsky faces is that of erasure: he desperately wants to find a home, but he cannot find his place. He was forced out of his old apartment and thinks, “Others would come in … and forever kill any lingering assumption that a certain Mr. Trelkovsky had lived here before.” Bluntly, overnight, he would have disappeared.

Threatening neighbors is a subject Topor knew intimately. During World War II, his father was imprisoned in a camp in Pithiviers and escaped before he could be sent to Auschwitz. Topor’s French landlady turned on the family, took their property and tried to inform the government of her father’s whereabouts. After the war, they sued her for their property and returned to their old apartment, where they stayed, paying rent to the woman who betrayed them.

In his introduction, Russell writes that “The Tenant” is “not so much a book about becoming an alien. … This is the absurdity of this society we all aspire to be a part of. While Topor, who was also a visual artist, is most often considered a surrealist, “The Tenant” is a naturalist, his portrayal of predatory neighbors plausible in a way that requires considering the banality of our tormentors: even this guy. mundane down the hall with bad breath and comb is capable of evil.

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