A young couple find themselves in the middle of nowhere after their car breaks down. They team up with a clueless sheriff and rebellious teen to battle an evil that lurks in the bowels of an isolated town.
No, that’s not a TV guide summary of a 70s made for TV movie. That’s the storyline of newcomer Heather Herrman’s debut novel Consumption.
Okay, so Consumption is full of your typical horror novel plot devices, but despite the clichés, Herrman will still keep you feeling creeped out and make you think. In the town of Cavus, Montana, evil is just waiting to get some traction. Demonic powers have been dormant for years, but have now just awakened. Soon the happy citizens of that sleepy town are giving in to their baser desires. Being consumed by their darker tendencies, they are happily chowing down on their fellow Cavusians who either come over to the dark side or become an entrée in the devilish feast.
Of course we have our unlikely bunch of heroes. The stranded couple with marital problems, the defiant teen-age girl, the hunky teenage guy, the sheriff who’s not to quick to figure out the obvious, and the quirky old guy who is the fount of knowledge about what it is that is taking over the town. Yeah, pretty standard issue for the horror genre, but Herrman creates some depth to these characters that keeps you from closing the book and walking away.
The transformation of the townsfolk is gruesome and somewhat nauseating. But Herrman has a moral to all this gore and perversion, and I liked where she was heading. It was more than simply The Night of the Living Dead Meets Our Town. Consumption forces you to think about deeper moral issues. Whatever darkness in our soul we feast on – greed, anger, lust, is what consumes us in the end. So Consumption, at that point, becomes more than just a scary story – it becomes an allegory about what we focus our hearts and minds on.
That’s what clinched it for me. Scary? Yes. Thought provoking? Also a big yes.
Perhaps with a first novel, Herrman was playing it safe with tried and true, if not a bit tired horror props, but maybe she’ll be a bit more daring with her next book.
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