Something for the Weekend returns after a rather long hiatus, but now it’s back, each weekend we’ll be we’ll be looking at a new graphic novel for your consideration and in this first we look at David Hine and Mark Stafford’s very British horror, The Bad Bad Place.
When a gothic Victorian mansion appears out of nowhere, it never bodes well for anyone, and so it is with the community of Faraway Hills. But, as you can imagine, this is only the start of this macabre tale, originally serialised in the magazine Meanwhile.
Collected now by Soaring Penguin, and presented in hardback, The Bad Bad Place – like their previous collaboration, Lip Hook – is very much seeped in the traditions and tropes of British horror; from M R James right through to Hammer House of Horror and beyond. But, it also has a strong stench of H P Lovecraft running right through it’s centre too, with creepy and slimy multi-tentacled creatures crawling from many a page as the story progresses and we learn more about the occupants of Castavette House; the aforementioned Victorian pile that appears out of nowhere to cast more than just a shadow over the local community. As you can tell from the name of the family home, even the names of many of the cast are a nod to horror classics from the past. There’s plenty of Easter eggs to keep horror fans happy as they pour through this episodic recount of the mystery that is the Castavette family and their house of horrors. But, even with all that taken into account, this is very much David Hiena dn Mark Stafford’s baby, even if that baby looks like a defined, demented demon-child.
We open up, firstly, with the strange sight of an ancient town crier – a very Bristish tradition, trust me – regaled in soiled and an out-of-place outfit that immediately draws attention to him. We soon learn that Faraway Hills has been deserted for a good while, and the reason behind this are soon explained by Ned Trench, the teen crier. It would seem that the Castavette Estate has more than its fair share of secrets and a pull on the local townsfolk that is fatal. Furthermore, the sterile new town of Faraway Hills is not all it seems; with the previous settlement better known as Crouch Heath, but cemented over many years ago. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cover up the dark history of the area forever.
As the secrets of the Castavette family are spilled from the lips of Old Ned to a returning denizen of faraway Hills, Jenny – our eyes and ears in this story – the creeping sense of dread quickly draws over events. What are Ned’s own links to this family, and what of the Casavette matriarch, who over the course of the recounting of her story becomes more and more the mad-woman-in-the-attic, but even more so, as she transformed and mutates into the embodiment of bile and revenge; spewing out deformed and deranged offspring that only a mother could love? And, what is the strange pull this house has over the town; drawing each person in like the sirens of Greek mythology calling sailors to their deaths, offering them the promise of their heart’s desire, or so they think.
Once again, Stafford presents the reader with a grandiose and grotesque, as he revels on the twisted deformities of the beastly menagerie on show throughout this joyfully gruesome book; each beastly creation more shocking than the last. Clearly a fan of the horror genre, Stafford and Hine have given us a great accompanying volume to last year’s Lip Hook, and while this isn’t strictly speaking a folk horror, it certainly set in enough of a remote area to feel as though it is a not-too-distant cousin either. I’d like to think that Faraway Hills is juts up the road from Lip Hook in abc ever increasingly weird world of Hine and Stafford’s imaginations.
But, beyond the macabre and downright frightening, there’s love and sacrifice, and tragedy too. There’s even a happy ending, of sorts. But, ahead of that, there’s the horror; framed in the same dark humour I’ve come to expect whenever these two creators get together. All in all, this is a great book for fans of classic gothic horror. And, while ghost stories at Christmas have waned as a popular form of entertainment come the Yuletide, this would be a welcome gift in many a reader’s stocking this Holiday season.
The Bad Bad Place is available now from Soaring Penguin