Richard Laymon – Out Are The Lights (Nel, 1982)
SCHRECK THE VAMPIRE had been the first. the audience shuddered, screamed and loved ever moment. The man, hurled down the stairwell, had thudded to a splattered death. The girl, trapped and screaming, had died in a welter of blood as the vampire bit clean through her jugular.
SCHRECK THE INQUISITOR had followed: spiders dropped onto the naked spreadeagled girl, crawling over her terrified twitching flesh while the tall hooded figure loomed over her.
SCHRECK THE AXEMAN was promised. The audiences, growing by the week, clamoured for more. This was the horror series to end all horror series. Movie buffs especially admired the grainy amateur look that must conceal true art. All great ghoulish fun. And after all it was just make-believe. Wasn’t it?
This novel, more than any of his others, is the one to give to people who despise Laymon, just so as you can gloat over their howls of disgust and righteous indignation.
The Haunted Palace theatre are running a season of gory horror flicks(The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Rabid, The Night Of The Living Dead and Freaks are name checked) “Plus a special treat available only at the Haunted Palace. Each night, in addition to the regular features, you’ll witness the evil, delicious exploits of Otto Schreck, the madman – a new depravity each and every week.”
The Schrecks are grainy, fifteen minute shorts and, as Brit watches the girl having her throat torn out in SCHRECK THE VAMPIRE, she can’t help but think she looks an awful lot like her old room-mate, but surely she’d not become an actress ….? Brit investigates. And that’s how she comes to land female lead in SCHRECK THE INQUISITOR …
Chelsea began to scream.
“A true delicacy. Lightly simmered visage over steaming linguini, topped with a delicate tomato sauce. I call it Face Marinara.”
Freya watched, disgusted and fascinated as Schreck threw Chelsea to the floor and forced her to eat.
He pinched her nostrils shut so she had to open her mouth.
He snapped her fingers.
He tore open her dress and stabbed her with a fork.
At last, she choked on a mouthful of scorched flesh. She kicked and convulsed and turned blue and died.
That’s pretty much the pace of the thing. Laymon writes like a speed-freak and, despite the unsettling snuff theme, Out Are The Lights finds him at his most playful. The absurd, poetic justice ending is maybe pushing credulity too far, but it gives the whole a neat EC feel to it. By no means his best, but certainly a most enjoyable slick, sick read and the descriptions of the Schreck movies (there are 13 in all) arrive with such frequency that there’s never any time for the action to drag.
Vault Of Evil Out Are The Lights thread.