I love a good haunted house tale. I’d venture to say they are my favorite sub-genre of fiction. So, when my online pal, David T. Wilbanks recommended THE ELEMENTALS to me, I didn’t hesitate in ordering a copy. Originally published by Avon Books in 1981, it has recently been republished by Valancourt Books ( www.valancourtbooks.com ). Upon arriving in my mailbox, it leapfrogged the all the books in my ever-growing To-Be-Read pile for immediate consumption.
The novel begins with the combined Savage and McCray families attending the funeral of Marian Savage, the I’ll-tempered family matriarch. After witnessing a disturbing conclusion to the ceremony, they all retire to Beldame, three Victorian-style houses situated on the shores of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. One house belongs to the Savage clan, another to the McCrays. The final house is half covered by a huge dune of white sand. Most of the family are noticeably terrified of that house which hasn’t been entered in years. India, the youngest among them, is intrigued by it and ventures to climb the dune to take pictures of its furnished rooms despite the resistance of her father. Her curiosity leads her to realize there may actually be something unnatural residing in the house. The family lounge away the days and weeks that follow laying on the beach and giving themselves into a languid haze of timeless relaxation, secluded away from the rest of the world.
What breaks this spell of peacefulness isn’t exactly spelled out, but a few incidents may have been responsible for spurring the presences in the empty house to become active. Be it India’s clumsy attempts to peer inside, or smarmy family politician Lawton McCray’s designs to profit off Beldame, something rouses them into violent action. Only Odessa, the loyal servant to the Savages, has some idea what it is they’re dealing with, but even she doesn’t know how to stop it.
This is an excellent horror story about a house and its surrounding area that’s haunted by something far worse than any mere spirit. The thing, or things, inhabiting Beldame are incredibly powerful and malicious. Throw out the rule book on how to deal with ghosts, because they do not apply here. The majority of the characters are all well-fleshed out and likable with realistic sounding dialog. The dread that causes the family to avoid the third house so near to them is palpable throughout, and builds as the story progresses to its terrifying finale.
I really enjoyed THE ELEMENTALS and would highly recommend it to any fan of the horror genre.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan