I ran into this IG horror quiz recently and one of the questions was: “What horror movie “damaged” you the most as a kid?” I automatically started typing ‘The Nightmare on Elm Street’, because that was the first movie that freaked me out and made me fall in love with horror genre, but then I started thinking: “damaged” as in scared me the most, or grossed me out the most, right? Well in that case…
I was six or seven when I first saw a horror movie, without my parents knowing, of course. I was watching the first installment of ‘The Nightmare on Elm Street’, hiding behind the chair and I can still remember jumping and screaming during the scene with the tongue phone. However, as disturbing as that may sound, I got more terrified on another occasion. Few months later, I was changing TV channels and I stopped to watch a scene, (and I repeat just one scene, I didn’t even watch the whole thing), from the movie ‘Slugs’ (1988). It was kind of easy to remember which movie it was, because the scene itself featured tens of slugs sliming all over a young girl and eating her. What added up to the whole creepiness of the scene was the sound they were making, sort of a squeal I think, but the one that reminds of bees swarming as well. I guess that doesn’t make much sense until you hear it, so check out the trailer to see what I’m talking about. Anyway, I didn’t forget about the movie and I watched it when I was a teenager. I like to think that by then I was already somewhat of a hard-core horror fan, but I gotta tell you that ‘Slugs’ still managed to get to me and weird me out. Kudos to the late director Juan Piquer Simon for making this marvelous slice of gore. For those of you who are not familiar with Simon’s work, he was a Spanish director, most famous for doing a horror cult classic ‘Pieces’. This masterpiece of bloody terror was done back in 1982, a couple of years before I was born, so it probably marked some other childhoods. Mine had to wait for something more…slimy to be directed. ‘Slugs’ is also considered a cult classic, but it has a smaller group of devotees than ‘Pieces’, which just goes to show that people would rather watch a madman with a chainsaw, then a slug.
Few years later, I watched the movie again, and because my span of attention has went through puberty at this point, I was noticing the names of the people who worked on the film as well. That’s when I realized that there is a book out there, and that I haven’t read it. The book that inspired the movie that fueled my nightmares was written by Shaun Hutson, of who I never heard before that. It turned out that Hutson was already a prolific and well-known author at that point, just not to an average American reader. To clarify, Hutson is British. To clarify more, he’s really British. He has a very snarky sense of humor, and a very vivid sense of gore. Once I started reading his books, I fell in love immediately. Hutson isn’t King, and unlike many others, he never tries to be. His violence is much more graphic, and his causes aren’t so deep, and they shouldn’t be. Yes, horror is a genre, but we love it because it’s fun, not because it’s deeply intellectual or thought-provoking. If you want that, go read Nietzsche and watch a Wes Anderson movie. We are horror fans, we want to be entertained, not dragged into a character analysis. I’m not saying that Hutson’s books are shallow in any way. They deal with numerous serious subjects, especially regarding the modern society and its hypocrisy. But, unlike many of his colleagues, Hutson never tries to force his opinions on us. He never becomes tiresome with inner monologues and explanations. Instead, he gives us an insight into his thoughts and emotions subtly, while cleverly plotting and building suspense.
So, you might think that my favorite Shaun Hutson book is ‘Slugs’, and it was in the beginning. But I grew up, and my preferences and tastes changed. Eventually, I realized that if I had to pick a favorite, it is definitely ‘Spawn’. It manages to stir up more feelings, and it touches numerous tricky subjects such as family relationships, abortion and mental health. It is not a heavy read, but it will leave you puzzled and shocked. This greatly underrated novel (because I think it should be praised and awarded), tells a story of Harold Pierce, deeply disturbed ex mental patient, who gets reminded of how he accidentally killed his mother and baby brother. That puts some things into motion and eventually Pierce meets and forms an alliance with as equally mad escaped convict. Together they bring hell to the small town of Exham.
If you love and enjoy 80’s horror movies and appreciate the sheer fun of horror as a genre, I strongly recommend Shaun Hutson. If you still aren’t convinced, you should check out his official website where you can read more about his recent work as well.
You know how I love honorable mentions, so in that spirit, here’s the trailer for ‘Pieces’. Enjoy.