Hell House

Richard Matheson
Hell House Cover

Hell House


Hell House by World Horror Convention Grand Master Richard Matheson has been touted by both publications and major authors of the genre as one of the scariest novels of all time. I hate to contradict these learned individuals, but I just did not see it. The first real emotion I felt from this novel was not terror or horror, but an overwhelming sense of relief that it was finally over, and an overwhelming sense of regret that I would never get the hours I spent on this novel back.

The thing about this novel that was most galling, is that the premise is good and the writing itself is good. The four major characters are well developed. It is easy to see the flaws in their own characters that lead to the disaster that befalls them in the "Mount Everest of haunted houses."

The problem I had with this novel was two-fold. Although well written as characters, nothing in the story made me invested in them as individuals, and by mid-way through the novel I was praying for the systematic death of each character. Because of this lack of investment in the characters the story just plodded along in spite of the numerous attacks these characters suffered through. I never felt sympathy for their struggles.

The second problem I had with the novel is just how down right shabby Mr. Matheson treated his female characters. Now I don't consider myself a "feminazi" and insist that all female characters be shown as infallible "Earth Goddess" characters, who are the voice of feminine reason in a masculine cacophony. But I do insist that they be in the plot for reasons other than to be repeatedly raped and molested by supernatural spirits. Call me a radical, what can I say.

Both Edith Barrett and Florence Tanner are possessed by the entity in the house and when not trying to drown themselves in the tarn, the spirit spends his time raping them and trying to get them to rape each other, and the men in the house. It seems both of these women suffer from repressed sexual needs and desires and this has made them weak against the spirit Belasco. Plus Richard Matheson just made them stupid and lacking a sense of basic self-preservation. Even after being warned by both men in the house, these women insist on behavior guaranteed to help along their possession. In Edith's case drinking up booze that had been sitting around for 30+ years, (That alone should have driven her crazy) in spite of being warned by both her husband and Fischer not to drink while in the house. In Florence's case it was leaving herself spiritually open, even after she was warned not to by Fischer, a medium who was the only survivor from the last attempt to penetrate the secrets of the "Hell House", and even after she was sexually assaulted several times.

In the end, I'm glad I read Hell House because now I can say I have read it. But that's about all I can say about it.

1.5 stars out of 5 stars.