Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Woods Are Dark, by Richard Laymon

(pb; 1981, 2008)

From the back cover:

"Neala and her friend Sherri only wanted to do a little hiking through the woods. Little did they know they would soon be shackled to a dead tree, waiting for Them to arrive. The Dills family thought the small hotel in the quiet town seemed quaint and harmless enough. Until they, too, found themselves shackled to trees in the middle of the night, while They approached, hungry for human flesh. . .

"When this classic novel of terror was first published, it was heavily cut, with nearly fifty pages removed. Now, for the first time ever, the missing text has been completely restored and every horrifying page is back. Finally, the novel can be read the way it was meant to be!"


Two groups of tourists, passing through a backwoods town called Barlow, are kidnapped by the townsfolk and chained to forest trees in the middle of the night. The tourists have been left for the Krulls, a race of misshapen, cannibalistic, woods-dwelling creatures who are barely human. When one of the townspeople, Johnny Robbins, decides to free the tourists, things go haywire.

Laymon's writing is stripped to the bone here, making for a savage (occasionally shocking), adrenalin-laced tale. For the most part, Laymon's sketched-out characters work.  This is, after all, a well-written, action-oriented B-movie plot.

Development-wise, one of the characters suffers because of Laymon's character-sketching: Lander Dills, one of the kidnapped tourists.  Lander is a middle-aged father and husband, who, from the get-go, has loose screws in his head.  In unbelievably swift fashion, he slips into the primitive mindset of a full-on killer.

The above nit aside, this is an excellent read. Make sure you read the new restored version of Woods.  Without those key Lander Dills pages (which were cut from the original publication of the novel, without the author's consent/knowledge), Woods would be little more than a hackneyed-could-have-been-memorable novel.

Fans of Jack Ketchum's Off Season and Offspring will probably enjoy this novel.

1 comment:

megastein said...

Yes, this sounds like early splatter-punk to me...I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the review.

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