Darkness, Tell Us Review

Darkness, Tell Us - Richard Laymon

Soooooo just for the record, I would never touch a ouija board... ever.

Call me chicken or what have you, but there's other forms of entertainment that can get the job done and then some (netflix, anyone?). Apparently, there are those individuals (who aren't chickens) that find communicating with the dead a favorable pastime.

Take Lana, Keith, Glenn, Howard, Doris, and Angela for example. Six rambunctious college kids who take it upon themselves to steal a ouija board from their professor's home who deliberately cautions them not to. Do they listen to her? Of course not. Why? Because a mysterious dead spirit named "butler" promises them an offer they can't refuse, an offer in the form of treasure---a substantial undetermined amount, even if it means ending up in the woods to retrieve it. Needlessly to say, things go haywire and no I don't mean the excessive burning of roasted marshmallows or the blundering of the kumbaya song.

Now judging from the blurb, I wasn't expecting a mind-bender of a tale nor was i anticipating something original in the slightest form---probably because I've heard countless others say this is laymon's trademark of horror: over-the-top, cheesy, raunchy, sex-crazed, cheap gags... the whole nine. Take it or leave it, they say.

And you know? That's somewhat understandable... kind of like when I first decided to watch the 2013 horror comedy spoof, A Haunted House. I didn't watch that to be mesmerized by character development or a plot that would cause me to run and tell my friends. I would have been a fool to think that. It was purposefully intended to be mindless fun with the absurdity of situations catapulted to the ninth degree in which today, I watch sparingly for good reason. And here---Darkness, Tell Us undoubtedly falls into that same vein. Only for me, this wasn't a case of "so bad, it's good"... it was just plain bad.

For starters, the writing was subpar. I felt like the outrageousness of the story was never rationalized to even a minimum degree. But that's not to say i wasn't entertained (if slightly), I just wanted something more tightly woven and less disjointed. The best parts were when the ouija board was actually used by the kids, but sadly that was few and far between. If Laymon swapped out the majority of Howard's perverted thoughts for more quality time with the ouija, I would've been more of a happy camper (sorry, couldn't resist).

spoilers follow....

The story had more holes than a sinking ship and intricate details were glossed over. What did Jake's death have to do with anything? It was very misleading and ultimately dismissed without a care in the world. There was absolutely no point in showing us his flashback. a plot device that added nothing to the narrative and was discarded as time went on.

I felt like the character of Hubert was conjured up by Laymon at the last minute, a senseless afterthought. Like he was thinking to himself... "So okay, I got these six college students in the wilderness, why not add a crazy deranged mountain man into the mix to spice things up?" Sure, it was meant to play with our expectations, but to me it felt like a cheap attempt at shock value. There's no explanation as to why he had a propensity for stalking and killing hikers.

I found it extremely implausible that authorities haven't apprehended Hubert for his victims' disappearances--the same rings especially true for Charlie and the twins. So they've managed to remain invincible over the course of, let's say 20 years, without detection? Without changing their identities or physical appearances? The story insisted on selling this, but I just wasn't buying it.

How did Angela mother's remains end up in Hubert's mine? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't she supposedly murdered by Charlie? Where's the link between Hubert and Charlie? Are they secretly relatives?

Why did Chad suddenly show up after 5 years? The explanation was insufficient. It was just too coincidental for him to arrive when Coreen really needed his assistance. On top of that, neither one of them expressed an inch of sorrow for the loss of Jake. Not once did we get, "I really miss him" or "Maybe, this is wrong with Jake being gone and all. Let's just remain friends." The whole situation was kinda unnatural and brushed aside.

Angela's mother was quite selfish and egotistical in my opinion. She wanted her body recovered and ceremoniously buried even if it meant kids being killed in the process. Wtf?? And the whole "take my dead body to a tranquil place so my soul can rest peacefully" has been done to death. I did however, find the obscured meaning of the "loot" to be somewhat clever.

There's no mention of a potential lawsuit being filed against Coreen & co for the kids' deaths. What kind of world are they living in?

I was infuriated with the ending. It was a bland one-liner and felt extremely rushed on discomforting levels. Once Howard and Doris were able to kill off Charlie and the twins, the story takes an awkward narrative leap with Coreen and Chad magically appearing at their home, safe and sound... huh?

I can go on and on folks...

All in all, I was left with an excruciating headache (as you can probably tell). I'm baffled as to how some people have given this 4 and 5 stars. It's totally beyond me, it was mediocre at best. Darkness, tell us proved to me that novels like this should only be read on a whim, if not at all. again, I don't mind my horror coated with ridiculousness but it has to be at least coherent and grounded in reality without brutalizing the suspension of disbelief.

Initially a 1 star, generously ramped it up to 2 stars because of the twist.