Written by: Drake Morgan
I had just finished the final chapter of The Wildman and settled in to write the review when I saw the news of Rick Hautala’s death. The Wildman is the first book I’ve read from Hautala and I was very impressed. The horror community has lost an incredible talent. This review is, in a way, my introduction to his work and my own small tribute as well.
The Wildman is a complicated story. The basic premise is deceptively simple. A group of friends descend on a tiny island for a late Fall/early winter guys weekend away. They haven’t seen one another in decades and the strange invitation is both intriguing and unsettling. The island was the site of a youth camp and the last time the men were together, they were children at this summer camp. Their innocence was shattered their final summer there when one of their group was found dead. Decades later, they spread their sleeping bags out on the floor of the old meeting hall and dark secrets come crawling out of the past. Our protagonist Jeff begins to suspect that something or someone is not entirely right. He begins to question everything, including his very sanity as events take one sinister turn after another.
This is far more than a “killer in the woods” story. Hautala takes us down not only the darkest of psychological trauma (the death of a child and its aftermath), but he also shoves us into the most primal of human fear. Our own survival. Jeff is forced into a cat and mouse game upon which his very life rests. Man becomes beast. Man becomes nature. Man becomes something primal and savage. But does he? Woven into this survivalist fear is an ancient, supernatural legend. Does Jeff reach into his primal self or does something reach into him?
The Wildman is a complex blend of action, fear, sheer terror, death, revenge, and survival. Hautala demands much of the reader and doesn’t make it easy. There are no simple blood splatter conclusions or gore soaked answers here. What really did happen to that little boy so many years ago? What happens to Jeff as he is fighting for his life? What is wrong with the island? Hautala does what few horror writers feel comfortable in doing. He lets those answers to the reader. I loved this one.
Order The Wildman here.