The very nature of horror means that it should not always be a pleasant read. You should be unsettled, scared and perhaps even disgusted at times, but a balance must be struck. If an author is failing to get genuine scares into their book they may resort to cheap tricks such as writing things so gross that the reader becomes appalled. Is that horrific, or just plain nasty? Tim Waggoner is a veteran of the genre and should know his ways around the dark arts of horror, but is that the case with The Mouth of the Dark?
When his daughter goes missing in the bad part of town, Jayce is willing to do anything to get her back. This may start off with taking a few days off work, but after he stumbles across a place known as the Shadow he soon discovers that is life will no longer be the same. Did his daughter find herself drawn to the darkness and can he help her escape?
I have read several Waggoner books in the past and would squarely put them in the Urban Fantasy genre. They did have horrific creatures, but the books were designed to excite more than scare. Nekropolis is a prime example of this. In many ways Mouth treads over similar territory to his other books; the idea that a dark world sits alongside our own. However, this time the world of darkness is actually part of our own and just hidden.
The best elements of Mouth are towards the start when Jayce is first discovering the dark underbelly of his city. It is uncomfortable being with Jayce as he stumbles across horrors that he cannot really comprehend. Here is a middle aged man who is not particularly fit or attractive finding himself forced to reassess everything he ever thought about. This leads to some interesting flashes that develop the story nicely and lead to one or two genuinely good twists.
As a psychological horror the book works, but Waggoner does not stop here. By half way he starts to fully invest in body horror. Scenes of the flesh that would make a madam blush and most normal people squirm in their seats. I imagine fans of gelatinous copulations would like these elements of this book, but as a more vanilla horror fan I felt the body shock scenes were a little too often and violent for my tastes. Several of them did not really add to the story and solely seem to be for titillations sake.
Perhaps titillation is the point of the horror genre, but when it prevents the characters from developing or shatters the tension of the book, it becomes a problem. It is almost as if Waggoner lost confidence in his own style and decided to ramp up the terror to sell the book to the masses. I believe that the opposite happened; a tight psychological horror becomes something that will only appeal to the niche. However, to that niche they will receive not only some gross out body popping, but also a decent story trapped somewhere inside. Kind of like a worm burrowing its way out of your flesh.
Written on Wednesday 31st October 2018 by Sam.
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