Weekly Book Review: Friday Night in Beast House
Richard Laymon was a major force in the horror scene of the 80s, one of the founding fathers of a new style of horror writing, more recently termed “Splatterpunk,” that put its focus on brutality. His stories never shied away from violence, gore or showing the very worst depravity that the human mind can come up with. Which as it turns out, in Laymon's case at least, is a four book series very faintly ripping off Lovecraft's “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family,” that revolve entirely around what I am obliged to call Rape Apes. Consider this fair warning for the rest of this review. It is all downhill from here.
The book that I am reviewing for you this week is Friday Night in Beast House and it is riddled with so many problems that I am not sure where to begin. I could just as easily have reviewed any of the previous three stories because in all honesty there is very little variance between them. Logically I probably should have started over from the first book “The Cellar,” but the lovingly described scenarios of paedophilia turn my stomach even more than the omnipresent rape and bizarrely contorted views on human sexuality. The titular beasts of The Beast House are a species of albino ape with a quasi-human intelligence, a lust for human women and a, lets say, unique physical quirk. The books revolve around their human lovers trying to keep them a secret while the apes rampage around, murdering and abducting people all over the place and somehow never calling down the almighty hand of authority to exterminate them. If the attempts to maintain secrecy were even minutely successful that could be understood but by the time of Friday Night in Beast House in the universe of the story there is a tourist attraction built in the Beast House, two books on the subject that are treated as gospel truth by every character and a fairly successful film about the entire thing. Yet still somehow rampaging Rape Apes roam the world, doing their thing. In a weird way, this is still an acceptable break from reality compared to some of the nonsense in these books.
The plot of Friday Night is that a boy wants a date with a girl and she will only agree if he can get her into the Beast House after dark. He does so, she is abducted by a Beast immediately. Raped by the Beast, which is described in loving detail including her orgasm. At which point the monster wanders off and leaves the girl to initial consensual sex with the stooge that got her into this position in the first place. And I mean immediately after the rape. As in, the monster drops her on top of the boy and then they have sex. The continual justification for the victims of the beasts succumbing to immediate Stockholm Syndrome is related to the unusual physical attribute that I am now going to have to describe to you. On the end of the beast's penis is a mouth. On some occasions it is used to bite but more frequently its described use is in performing oral sex so miraculous that it makes the beast's victims completely smitten with their violators and crazed for sex. Even considering all of the other ridiculous elements required to get to this point, setting aside Rape Apes with penis tongues, the complete lack of any understanding about how sex works and the flagrant misunderstanding of even the general workings of female anatomy by the author the inability to understand even the surface levels of the human psyche in this work is equal parts flabbergasting and horrifying.
To clarify, the book is not frightening, it is barely a book, what is frightening is that Richard Laymon had absolutely no knowledge of how people think, behave or interact. He possessed no empathy whatsoever and wrote a great many of his stories primarily as masturbatory material for other psychopaths like him. I am not going to argue that rape has no place in a horror book. It is one of the most terrifying and awful things that can happen to a human being so there is no other genre that could possibly examine it with more clarity. There are other elements of this story that could be truly terrifying if they were handled with empathy. The framework of a fascinating piece of psychological horror as a protagonist succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome is buried deep in these books. Emathy is ironically the key to producing a good horror story, understanding how people work is essential to creating fear. To do that however, an author would need to see women as something other than puppets made of meat that exist solely for your pleasure. It would need to examine the impact of the events that take place, and how they effect the characters. A story can say a lot about its writer and what Laymon's entire body of work screams is “Stay the hell away from Richard Laymon, he is devoid of all empathy and learned how humans interact by watching them from a distance, presumably through a telescope.”
Don't read this book. It isn't shocking, it isn't subversive, it isn't frightening, it isn't big and it isn't clever. It is just bad. I took this bullet for you.