First published back in April of 2015, ‘Monster’ was the second full length novel to be co-written by British extreme horror author Matt Shaw and psychological horror author Michael Bray.

The novel was later adapted into the crowd-funded feature film ‘Monster’ (2018).  Just prior to the release of the film, the novel was republished in February 2018 to include the film’s screenplay alongside the original story.

DLS Synopsis:
Ryan and Jema had only been dating for three months when Jema phoned him at work to tell him she was pregnant with his child.  The news hit Ryan like a tonne of bricks.  He loved Jema, but it was way too soon to be thinking about any sort of long term commitment – let alone bringing a child into the world together.

He’d promised to talk it over with Jema later that night.  But at the last minute he chickened out and went to the pub with his workmate.  Only after a few pints and the persuasion of his friend did Ryan eventually pluck up the courage to call Jema back.  He agreed to meet her back at her place where they could talk it over.  However, as Ryan went off to meet with his girlfriend, little did they know it would be the last time anyone would see him alive again.

On the other side of town, thirty-five-year-old Christina Cooper felt like she was dying from boredom during another graveyard shift at the local petrol station.  Her mind kept wondering to the abductions that had plagued their town for over two decades now.  The spate of recent disappearances had not only captured Christina’s interest, but also caused her a great deal of concern.  People were likening it to a modern day Jack the Ripper case.  No evidence, no clues, no witnesses.  It was a mystery and one Christina was more than a little intrigued by.

The disappearances all happened around the same time of year.  Always late July or early August.  Other than a couple of periods of inactivity, each year it was the same. At least one person would go missing.  Sometimes two or three.  But always around the same time of the year.  And always without any witnesses.

With a thirteen-year-old daughter of her own, these disappearances worried Christine.  She couldn’t imagine what she’d do if all of a sudden Courtney was gone.  The loss would undoubtedly crush her.  The fact she could just as easily become the next victim didn’t even cross her mind.  Not until she woke up in an unknown room, devoid of any furniture other than the rusty bed she was tied to.  A large note attached to the dirty bare-brick wall opposite the bed stated “Don’t scream.  He doesn’t like it”.

Ryan woke into a similar nightmare.  One of his arms was raised to where it was attached to the wall, uneven brickwork digging into his back.  He had no recollection of how he got there.  No sense of his location.  Nothing but aches and pains across his entire body.

At first his screams were met by silence.  Then Ryan heard the first sounds of movement.  Someone was coming.  Someone was in this cold, dank building with him.  He wasn’t alone.  Although he soon wished he was.

The man that stood in the doorway was around seven feet in height with a muscular body, and an arch in his back which gave him a slight humpback in his appearance.  His neck was twisted to one side, giving his head a permanent lean to the left.  Even if the light had been better and afforded more visibility –the man’s face would have remained a mystery, as it was buried under a mask made of flesh torn from the features of another man.  What stood before Ryan was surely more monster than man…

DLS Review:
Matt Shaw and Michael Bray are two horror authors with noticeably differing styles.  Nevertheless, as seen in their previous co-written novel ‘Art’ (2014), the two go together incredibly well.  With ‘Monster’ in essence we have a story told through two halves – one of which is set in the past, where we see the characters fleshed out and the all-important backstory built up, and then the other is in the present day, where our two protagonists find themselves in pretty deep shit.

It’s easy to see how the two writers’ styles and strengths will complement the way the novel’s constructed.  Bray’s a man who knows how to write horror that buries away under your skin and gradually, quite purposefully, chills you from the inside.  Shaw on the other hand is more of a full frontal assault on the senses.  There’s no beating around the bush with Shaw’s work.  It’s in your face, unrestrained, and utterly uncompromising.

The novel starts off in the present time, introducing us to our two protagonist-victims - Ryan and Christina.  Both have their own lives to live, which we’re given a small window into prior to their sudden abduction.  Then, from the moment the two wake in the abandoned old warehouse (which the fucked-up Remington family call home), the novel begins cranking up the hard-hitting horror like there’s no tomorrow.

However, before we get ourselves too settled with the pounding rhythm of the tale, we’re taken back to when (and how) this whole hellish nightmare came to be.  It’s here that Bray really comes into his own.  It’s now around half the way through the novel whereby Bray’s main involvement - aptly entitled ‘How To Make A Monster’ - gets underway.

It’s that age old ‘nature versus nurture’ argument, only here nature has very little to do with how this seven foot lurching monster came to be.  You see, it’s really all down to one man.  One violent, psychotic, misogynistic and murderous bastard named Richard Remington.  We see how the man gradually rips apart the lives of those who happen to come into his sights.  This my friends, is where the truly harrowing psychological horror burrows in deep.  It pulls the blinds back on the epitome of domestic violence.  Brutality that’s all too real.  It gets you in the gut and chills you to the fucking core.

Through Bray’s gut-wrenching backstory we get to see who the real monster in the story is.  Our antagonists have become more real, and through humanising them, they each become that much more twisted.  That much more unnerving.

When we’re eventually flung back to the present day, and Ryan and Christina’s perilous predicament, the horror and cruelty has well-and-truly cranked up a gear or two.  Throughout the novel there’s been numerous similarities between the book and Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974).  However, it’s when the tale starts edging toward the finale that we see the real inspiration from the film pouring in.

Think of the scene where the murderous inbred family are goading Sally around their dinner table. It’s possibly one of the most harrowing scenes in the film, and it’s something that Shaw’s zeroed in on, then replicated and mutated into his own version of hellish torment.

In ‘Monster’ we see how this hellishly dysfunctional family have allowed murder, torture, and cannibalism to become the norm in their perverted existence.  It’s terrifying to witness.  But this is what Shaw does.  This is his art.  Expect nothing short of mind-boggling horror, perversion and sadistic brutality to await you in these pages.

And that’s really what ‘Monster’ is all about.  The terrible repercussions of one man’s cruel influence and overbearing dominance over his family.  It’s a story that’s utterly uncompromising in its subject matter and one that doesn’t pull a single punch in its hard-hitting delivery.  It’s also one hell of a read.

The novel runs for a total of 233 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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