Come on up to the house is a contemporary horror novella and screenplay written by Dane Cobain.
I am a very big horror fan. And I mean big. Not the gore kind. Don’t give me any of the Saw stuff. I can watch it. But it is not something I would search for actively. I love anything paranormal, anything that has to do with haunted houses, ghosts, demons or little girls climbing out of the TV.
I was very happy when I received the book Dane sent me. I fell in love with the cover right away and could not wait to dig into the fresh, unturned pages. The story is about a normal, British family, hit by the recession that moves into a new house. ( Random but pleasant Poltergeist Flash-back) Although the family does feel that there is something off, and the next-door neighbour warns them to just pack up their stuff and go as far as possible from that damn house, they stay – with devastating results.
It seems that the former tenant, James – a teenage metalhead that committed suicide, has unfinished business… and he will do everything in his power to reach his goals.
Yes YES YES! This sounds indeed like just the kind of book or movie I would gravely enjoy! And I did, in a way.
This story is great, I loved it. But it is no novella material.
I had an interview with Dane earlier this month about this exact book and his writing tips and tricks when he told me he first wrote the screenplay -the other half of the book, and then completed the novella off the screenplay.
And that is precisely how this novella feels: Like a screenplay.
The characters are quite shallow, you do not always understand why they are reacting in certain ways, events unfold too quickly and the way those events are described, and fit into the story, have not always been executed the way they should be.
To give you an example without trying to give away too much:
So there is a funeral going on. Everyone is standing around the coffin and the priest is leading the service. The first person pans to him. In the book, the only thing we read is that he is going on with the service and that he sees someone standing in the crowd. Someone that should have been dead, someone that he buried.
I KNOW what Cobain means. I KNOW this trope from the millions of horror films I have watched. But it does not read, it does not feel the way it should. It feels like – yes… the prose form of a screenplay.
I would have loved to “meet the priest” see the chapter start, for instance, with the priest putting on the robes in his stuffy old house next to the church. The house he hated so much but that he had to move into when he changed churches due to budget cuts ( I totally made that up, but you know what I mean). I want to hear the gossip of the town – the gossip about the way the person died that he is going to bury, through his voice. I want to hear what he is thinking about the people that have gathered at the burial. I wanted to feel his breath stall in his troath as his eyes fall onto the boy, I want to feel how every fibre in his old body is on high alert, how the adrenaline kicks in when he allows his brain to come to the conclusion that the person staring back at him, was buried in this same cemetery only a few years back. I want to feel the fear rageing through his body and maybe – because this is the interesting thing about being able to include a man of god, you can have him question both his faith and his sanity. There are many ways you can make these characters feel less like trope-tastic cardboard cutouts and more like living, breathing human beings. Because in the end – that is what makes you scared, what makes your heart race : being so engrossed into someones character and life, that you see what they see and you feel what they feel just by reading the words printed on the page.
I really missed the depth both into the characters and into the events.
The story feels like a big comfy pillow where the stuffing has been taken out of.
This is a great book, a great story and it has amazing potential: but I would send Cobain back to the drawing room to ad it some kick, some humanity and to draw out the scenes so we can actually FEEL the fear dripping off the pages.
Great job! Just not finished.