Saturday, October 15, 2016
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
I seriously debated on whether or not I was going to include this one. Who am I to review a classic? Still, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had a lot to say about it and decided to add it to the mix. That being said, let's take a look at the quintessential creepy carnival story that inspired so many after it.
The story of Something Wicked This Way Comes is that of two young boys named Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. They, like the rest of the town in which they live, are astonished when quite suddenly a carnival arrives out of nowhere in the middle of the night. Run by a mysterious man named Mr. Dark, the carnival offers the people of the town their wildest dreams. But there's a price. Jim and Will discover the carnival's secret and try to share it with the rest of the town, but they are naturally met with disbelief. It's up to them to stop Mr. Dark and his creepy carnies before they steal the souls of everyone they know and love.
This story is just the kind of horror story that I love. It has something that most other horror stories and movies and generally the genre at large seems to lack: subtlety. The scares are discovered slowly and, while they're not especially bloody, they're still terrifying. The fate of each victim is unique to the character themselves and is a reflection on them and their hearts desires. As each person becomes charmed by the carnival, they one by one bring about their own demises. It's not just randomly chopping people up or brutal stabbings, as you'd tend to find nowadays. It's the kind of horror that doesn't need blood to be terrifying and I just love it.
The characters are just spot on. Jim and Will are two very typical young boys, getting into mischief and whatnot, but each with his own distinct personality that contributes to the story. You feel Jim's frustrations with his life and understand why the carnival possesses such sway over him, feeding on his desire and luring him in. Will's loyalty comes through as he fights to protect Jim and everyone else threatened by the carnival. Even Will's father, an aged and world-weary man, is a really nice guy who doesn't just brush off the boys but becomes their most valuable ally. They're a great team and you want to see them all resist the temptations of the carnival.
The carnies are an interesting bunch as well. Mr. Dark, like any good villain, has a wonderfully devious charm and a charisma that welcomes you in and hides his diabolical nature. Throw in a creepy gypsy woman, a talking skeleton, and a carousel that ages people forwards or backwards, and you have a crew of fiends and freaks that brings the carnival to life.
It's also aged really well. The story is immortal in that you can read it anytime, past or present, and it makes sense. It's not difficult to read and has a lot of great detail and atmosphere. It brings to mind the kind of threat that doesn't flat out tell you it's coming to get you, but tries to slowly sneak up on you without you realizing it. There's an elegance to it that you just don't see very much anymore. While some things might come a little out of nowhere (Boy Scout bow and arrow vs. hot air balloon and other such encounters) it all comes together and makes for just a great time.
There needs to be more stories like this nowadays. There's a reason Bradbury is one of the big names in horror and I'd be stupid if I didn't put this right where it belongs on the Shelf of Recommendation.
Have you read the book? What did you think? If you haven't, do you want to read it now? What's your favorite creepy carnival story? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Next time: Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na WOLFMAN!