I normally only review current releases for the Hellforge, but I enjoyed this 2008 beauty from Eraserhead Press too much to let it sneak by without fanfare.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Six teenagers go to an isolated cabin for a party weekend of booze and sex, only to discover themselves being stalked by a mutant freak lurking in the woods.
Familiar? Of course it is. The author is an unapologetic fan of bad slasher B-movies, and this book is his indulgence. The problem can be that parodies of this kind often end up as a checklist of clichés masquerading as homage. But not here. We have Carlton Mellick III at the helm, and his imagination is far too out of control for that.
Much, in fact most of the content wanders from this beaten path. The author has countless nasty and hilarious tricks up his sleeve, but I’m not going to let on what they are. After all, the back cover blurb had the decency not to spoil anything for me. And to be honest, that is the only remotely “decent” thing about Apeshit.
The original idea was for a screenplay, which would be stunning if there’s anybody out there with the balls to film it uncut. The prose creates an appropriate cinematic feel, being comprised of short sentences and told in the present tense. This can be a risk, but it clearly comes naturally to the author.
But the real strength is the characters. The six teens – your average bunch of horny jocks and pretty cheerleaders at a glance – are so intriguing and damaged that we barely need any murderous slayers lurking in the woods. There’s so many neuroses, deformities and vile festishes bubbling beneath their clean-limbed exteriors that after a while, the mutants aren’t necessarily the main focus. They become just one thread amongst many, and the pace is powered by sharp dialogue as well as action. This author shines when nailing the subtle nuances of human interaction, and there are times when I was surprised by the level of insight and maturity in such a proudly “fucked-up” book, to quote the back cover.
One element of Apeshit I particularly admired, was that the idea of it being a parody fostered a deceptive sense of security. But there are times when the black humour takes a back seat to the horror, and this played cheeky mind games with my comfort zone. It’s a device I hadn’t yet encountered in the author’s work, and it added a welcome edge to the experience.
Other than a couple of annoying text errors (I do wish these books were more thoroughly proof-read) I have no complaints. The elements are combined with the skill of a bestselling author, and at 170 pages of well-spaced text, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Like any good showman, it leaves you wanting more. While considerably less bizarro than much of Carlton Mellick III’s canon, it soon descends into an outrageous gorefest, constantly surprising you with new highs (or lows!) of twisted imagination. And once you’ve got your breath back, the explanatory epilogue neatly ties up this sick little package.
The back cover declares it is perhaps one of the most fucked-up books ever written. For much of it, I thought “Nah, it’s not that bad”. By the end, I thought “Actually, maybe they’ve got a point…”
If you’re a little tweaked in the head, buy it and enjoy. Then give it to your mum for Christmas.