Written by: Nathan Crazybear
The haunted house story is one of my favorites in the world of horror. The idea that the space we occupy can come alive with malevolence, our own sins dripping off of us, sweating into the cracks in the floorboards, bleeding into the creation of a force that wishes to blur the lines between occupier and occupied. That the home we feel safe in has its own designs. To me, there are few things more terrifying than reading a work that makes the walls of your living room look suspicious.
As avid horror readers, we’ve seen great stories of haunted houses come and go. We’ve felt the psychological terror imposed by Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House.” We’ve crept through the ever-expanding halls of Mark Danielewski’s “House of Leaves.” And then we’ve also read some not so great tales… We’ve seen the creepy house before. The household objects coming alive with cruel intentions and our protagonists struggling with their sanity. When another haunted house story (or slasher, or zombie apocalypse, or any other horror trope that we’ve seen stabbed to death with the same blade) creeps onto the scene our first questions are always: “What makes this original? What makes this different? Special?” I picked up Garrett Cook’s “A God of Hungry Walls” specifically because it answers our opening questions right out the gate. “A God of Hungry Walls” is a haunted house story told entirely from the point-of-view of the haunting.
A brutal work of extreme horror, Cook’s “A God of Hungry Walls” is a haunted house story that, rather than let us watch a haunted home come alive and seem to walk the tightrope of character and setting, goes straight for the throat presenting us the Haunting itself as a character with its own thoughts and desires. Cook uses the character of the Haunting to dig into our idea of the haunted house and its innate need to keep its inhabitants. The Haunting is a character of greed; remarkably power-hungry, it thinks itself a deity in its home, and it very well may be.
The novel takes us inside the mind of the Haunting and walks us through its pursuit of possessing each of the people within its walls. The Haunting’s power renders an entirely chronological movement through the house’s history unnecessary as it takes those it possesses and subjects them to their past experiences of both power and despair, allowing Cook to effortlessly hop in and out of the story’s present to develop his characters. While the story is exciting enough to keep us interested as its point-of-view takes us through the stories of the house’s past tortured inhabitants and those currently under the obsessive eyes of the Haunting, when a new tenant moves into the house and brings along a supernatural phenomenon of his own, new conflict is injected into the story as we begin to recognize that it will be more than just brutal reckoning for each of our human characters.
“A God of Hungry Walls” is an unrelenting work filled with complex characters and disturbing imagery while playing intelligently within the haunted house genre. Cook’s prose is eloquent, even at times poetic as it details horrible people doing horrible things. He takes full advantage of the medium of writing as the story brings a lot of interior action on the part of the Haunting, producing suspenseful scenes while not having to rely on creating tangible objects to grasp in the reader’s mind. A thought-provoking read, Cook seems to find thematic focus in exploring the concept of “to control vs. being controlled,” displaying it not as an exertion of power but as a relationship, a constant give and take understood all too well by his Haunting.
Like all books released on Deadite Press, this is a work of extreme horror and not for the faint of heart/weak of stomach. There are some very disturbing and gross scenes within its pages but they never undercut the narrative. Never veering into purely shock value, each shot of gore and rough sex is chased with the reality of serving the narrative, expanding on each of Cook’s characters and further examining our haunted house’s obsession with possessing its inhabitants. (Though let’s be honest, if you’re reading a work of extreme horror then, like me, this stuff is your cup of tea).
“A God of Hungry Walls” was one of my favorite works of horror in 2015, a stomach-churning and excitingly original take on the haunted house tale; I highly recommend it.
Order it here