First published back in August of 2001, Richard Laymon’s novella ‘Friday Night In Beast House’ formed the fourth and final instalment into the author’s four-book ‘Beast House Chronicles’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Mark Matthews knew if there was ever a time to ask Alison out, then now was that time. In school that day she’d seemed impressed with his gentlemanly side, after he’d helped collect her books up after she’d been knocked down by an idiot in a wheelchair flying through the school corridors.

That evening, when he finally plucked up the courage to call her, his nerves were all over the place. Alison had sensed his nervousness and put him out of his misery. Yes, she’d go on a date with him, but on one condition – for their first date she wanted him to get them into Beast House after it closes for the night. She wanted to spend Friday night alone with Mark in Beast House.

It was her one and only condition. She’d asked previous guys asking for dates to arrange it for her, but none had succeeded in the mission. However, she had a good feeling about Mark. She thought he might be the one to finally pull it off. For him to hide out in the Beast House, then at the stroke of midnight, open the door from the inside and let her in.

The opportunity to not only date Alison, but also spend the night with her alone in the empty house, was enough to motivate Mark. He had to make this happen. Somehow, he had to get them into the Beast House after it closes. So, he agreed. Mark Matthews would make this happen.

Mark would make it so the pair could spend the night together in the shadowy, darkened interior of the infamous Beast House…

DLS Review:
Here we have the final instalment of the highly revered Beast House Chronicles. After the magnificent madness of ‘The Midnight Tour’ (1998), you’ve got to wonder what Laymon’s going to throw at us next?! And I guess, in that respect, some readers might be a tad disappointed with this final instalment.

Essentially, it’s not too dissimilar in plot to sections from ‘The Midnight Tour’ (1998). We’ve already seen kids trying to hide away in the Beast House, to have some out-of-hours fun in the house of so many brutal murders. This final book essentially takes us through another one of these escapades.

Where the story fits within the timeline of the Beast House books isn’t 100% clear. You’d probably assume it followed on from the events of ‘The Midnight Tour’ (1998), However, there are a few small indicators that might not make this the case. For example, if this was a follow-on story, then Officer Eve Chaney appears to be back in Malcasa Point, having gotten over her ordeal in the Beast House tunnels. This doesn’t sing true to the ending of the previous book, where she’s gone through absolute hell, and so calls up Blaze wanting somewhere to stay. Would she really return to Malcasa Point after all of what she went through?!

The guides at the Beast House also don’t appear to be Lynn Tucker or Dana Lake (or indeed any of the other guides we’re familiar with). Instead, we have brief mentions of someone called Thompson, and that’s about it.

There’s also no mention of the slaughter that occurred in 1997. In fact, at one point our protagonist, Mark Matthews, thinks back to the last known murder there, and references those from 1978 and 1979. Although none of these are obviously a solid indicator of where this final instalment sits in the timeline, collectively they do possibly suggest it’s maybe somewhere between ‘The Beast House’ (1986) and ‘The Midnight Tour’ (1998).

Aside from this, the story itself almost feels almost like an extended Fastback, not just due to its relatively short length, but more so the singular plot and overall feel of the tale. Unlike the vast majority of Laymon’s body of work, this book doesn’t cram in the over-the-top horror madness like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not bursting at the seams with sex, violence and bloodshed. And there’s sadly no outrageously wacky derailings from the story’s prevailing narrative, spinning us away from the anticipated direction of the tale (aside from the last handful of pages that is).

Instead, what we have is a plot that follows what feels like a very predetermined pathway, spending the vast majority of the book’s length setting in place the scenario for these two sixteen-year-olds to be in the Beast House alone at night. To be fair, it’s still entertaining to see how we get there…with Mark going to unbelievable lengths to make this happen. There’s also a bucket load of suspense thrown into the mix during all of this lead up to midnight. But honestly, that’s pretty much it (again, until the last handful of pages).

The character of Mark Matthews is a typical one for a Laymon story. He’s a horny teenager who spends half his time fantasising about the women he meets. He stumbles into Officer Eve Chaney and of course that gets his libido going a million miles a minute. We even have him fantasising about the life-like wax mannequin of Ethel Hughes, sprawled on the floor, with her nightgown ripped open. This horny young lad has it on the brain 24/7.

Although most of the narrative is focused on getting Mark and Alison into the house after hours, the story does have a slightly odd moment that doesn’t ever seem to go anywhere. It involves Mark stumbling across the remains of a disembowelled dog, whilst he’s up on the roof of the Beast House. The dead dog looks like it’s been mauled by wild animals, with huge chunks torn from its body and its decapitated head resting some distance away. Obviously this all seems to suggest our beastie friends are still lurking around the place, but aside from the initial discovery of the dog’s corpse, there’s really little other mention of it, or indeed the potential relevance of it being there of all places! How did it end up where it is? Why’s it there at all? I’m afraid it’s just gonna be one of those mysteries.

Now, I’m aware I’ve somewhat eluded to something of typical Laymon-esque merit happening at the end of the book. This is true. The ending is as fucking out there as you’d expect from an instalment into the Beast House Chronicles. It’s over-the-top and absolutely outside of the box of believability. But as we know in a Laymon novel, characters aren’t affected by shit like normal people are. In a Laymon story, fucking anything goes! And man, do we get that in those last handful of pages.

All in all, for a quick read that’ll only take a couple of hours or so, it’s damn good fun. It doesn’t really add anything to the Beast House storyline per se, but instead feels more like a tag on to the overarching storyline. Yes, it references the stuff from the earlier books, but not in any way that expands upon those stories. It’s basically just a bit of Beast House fun, delivering an example of what can occur in that creepyass house once all the doors are locked up and everyone’s gone home.

The novel runs for a total of 161 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Beast House Chronicles’ instalments:


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