Grim, Ghastly and Grotesque: New Horror Fiction

Mannequins, such as statues and haunted dolls, are not frightening because of their monstrous features, on the contrary: They are frighteningly perfect. With a calm, empty expression and an icy indifference to the suffering of the living, a mannequin shows that human feeling in itself is irrelevant. They own the horror of cool perfection, and in their presence one experiences the unsettling feeling of being undone by a simulation.

in the NIGHT OF THE MANNEQUINS (Tordotcom, 135 pages, paper, $ 13.99), Stephen Graham Jones uses these elements to study the disorders of growing up. A group of high school friends discovers Manny, “a naked white mannequin” like a “giant Ken doll,” her sophomore year near a creek. Manny is passed around among them all year round and then forgotten. When their senior year comes, the narrator decides to “bring him back for that perfect prank” to “honor the kids we had been”. The result is not what he expected, and makes for a horror novel that is alternately strange and scary. “Night of the Mannequins” is a tale of impermanence that depicts Graham Jones’ signature style of intelligent, irreverent horror.

A darker look at mannequins can be found in Junji Ito’s graphic adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s story “An Unearthly Love”. A woman overhears her husband making love with his lover in an attic, and when she returns later, she discovers “a cold, lifeless doll. The sheer truthfulness was so great that I gasped and shuddered. “Your revenge on the mannequin is absolute, as is everything in this insanely terrifying collection of graphic stories. VENUS IN THE BLIND POINT (Viz Media, 272 p., $ 22.99). The book features some of Ito’s most popular shorter pieces, such as the visually stunning Billions Alone, where the discovery of two corpses “sewn together” with fishing line becomes a national mystery as more bodies are discovered will . I particularly liked another Ranpo adaptation, “The Human Chair,” about “an ugly furniture maker who was carried away by a violent passion” and “hid in a chair he had built and indulged in the delights of his perversion.” . ”” Edogawa Ranpo “is the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allan Poe and the pseudonym of Taro Hirai (1894-1965).

The 1964 French novel THE RENTER (Valancourt, 176 pages, $ 15.99), by Roland Topor, was transformed into a horror film by Roman Polanski in 1976 – eight years after his legendary “Rosemary’s Baby” – and then largely forgotten; It has just been reissued with a new introduction from RB Russell. The novel, translated by Francis Price, follows the disenfranchised and arguably sociopathic Monsieur Trelkovsky as he moves into an apartment in Paris, and is quickly ostracized by his neighbors. The central dilemma that Trelkovsky faces is that of extinction: he desperately wants to find a home, but cannot find his place. Forced out of his former apartment, he thinks, “Others would come in … and forever destroy any suspicion that a certain Monsieur Trelkovsky had lived here before. In short, from one day to the next he would have disappeared. “

Threatening neighbors are a subject that Topor knew very well. During the Second World War, his father was imprisoned in a camp in Pithiviers and fled before he could be sent to Auschwitz. Topor’s French landlady turned on the family, took their possessions and tried to inform the government of his father’s whereabouts. After the war, they sued her for her property and returned to her previous home, where they stayed and paid rent to the woman who cheated on them.

In his introduction, Russell writes that “The Tenant” “is not so much a book about becoming an outsider. … It’s about the absurdity of this society we all long for. “While Topor, who was also a visual artist, is most often viewed as a surrealist,“ The Tenant ”is naturalistic, and his portrait of predatory neighbors is so plausible that one has to consider the banality of our tormentors: even this worldly fellow is dejected The hall with bad breath and a comb is capable of evil.

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