3 out of 4 stars
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If you are a loyal fan of modern horror flicks, you may be familiar with the subtle message “do not ever move to the suburbs.” Seriously, everyone there is trying to kill you. The attractive woman next door might be planning to sacrifice you to Satan’s spawns. Those affluent neighbors may be running an illegal slave market in their basements. After finishing Jeremy Bennett’s The Evil Underneath, you might as well add another reason why your phobia of suburbs is totally comprehensible.
Helen Olson and her husband have just moved into a Folk Victorian house on Donavan Creek. As a part-time writer and a full-time housewife, she has a lot of time on her hands. Therefore, she decides to explore the backyard and comes across an old pipe in her flower bed. Decorated with an inexplicable number of crosses, the pipe is trying to warn Helen against disturbing it. Unfortunately, she touches it and eventually breaks it. The damage has been done as Helen has released some supernatural forces upon her cozy home. What are they? The evil entities are creeping up on her, but she will not stay put like a useless damsel and let those hideous monsters steal everything from her. She will slay them or die trying. Will her courage be rewarded, or should she surrender her soul to avoid gruesome tortures?
The Evil Underneath is categorized under the comedy horror genre, and it delivers its promise. The playful elements include subverting our expectations, hilarious made-up beliefs, and absurd commentaries resulting from the characters’ overactive imagination. At the same time, the story still evokes fear when it presents both visceral and civilized threats, such as darkness, insects, indecent exposure, and invasion of privacy. The tonal contradiction is, surprising, not jarring. Horror and comedy work together seamlessly to depict an entertaining, gripping, and terrifying adventure.
Although the story has plenty of thrilling action scenes, the final showdown is the best one. The idea of an alcoholic housewife suddenly becoming Ellen Ripley and ready to take down the unworldly creatures is executed to perfection. Helen is not a benevolent heroine. She is simply desperate to retrieve her normal life and protect her loved ones with her determination, wits, and a lot of garlic. The twist at the end is so uniquely intriguing that I was a little sad that there is not a sequel exploring that scenario.
I love the author’s clever and effective use of language. Since Bennett has an extremely straightforward writing style, you can see the story enacted clearly as if he was painting a picture with his words. He also knows what details to nail and what to omit in order to leave a lasting impression with as few sentences as possible. His specialty is creating witty similes. Nonetheless, depending on your perspective, they can be either refreshingly creative or annoyingly distracting. One of my favorite lines is “The woman's smile dove from her lips like a suicidal man from a bridge.” The story juxtaposes among three different characters’ points of view, yet he succeeds in constructing three distinctive voices: Helen’s giddy, slightly neurotic thoughts; David’s emotional, contemptuous, narcissistic blabbering; Sam’s deranged, sadistic, haunting musing.
On the downside, as the author himself admitted at the beginning, this book is not professionally edited. The admission might be charming at first, but when you come across numerous grammatical, punctuation, spacing errors, you feel less charmed and more irritated. I detected more than twelve mistakes in the first chapter. The situation somewhat improves in later chapters, but my annoyance thermometer kept increasing steadily. I hope the novel will get professional help soon since it desperately, seriously, crazily needs that.
Besides, the design of the front cover does not fit the book’s content and mood, and I can’t honestly figure out which character the fit, manly shadow is supposed to represent.
The book’s content alone would deserve a perfect 4, but the editing mistakes are so unacceptable that I was debating between 2 and 3 for a while. Ultimately, I rate the book 3 out of 4 stars since the overall journey is still worthwhile and exhilarating. I highly recommend The Evil Underneath to fans of horror and thriller genres or those who enjoy a survival story or an adventure into the sinister world. Although the story has decent characterization, it does not focus on internal conflicts, insightful introspection, or moral lessons. The novel also contains many gory scenes and sick fantasies, so it is not suitable for faint-hearted readers.
The Evil Underneath
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