The Cellar (1980) by Richard Laymon


Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The Cellar is a bad novel. It’s trash, it’s dumb, it has practically no redeeming qualities. Every character in the novel is obsessed with sex (and not in a good way, but in a deeply weird, all-encompassing way) and nobody acts or speaks like a normal, sensible human being.

Of course those were the hallmarks of Richard Laymon’s oeuvre, so you get what you asked for when you grabbed one of his novels. The Cellar from 1980 is, however, his first novel so pretty much everything is still undeveloped. It’s all surface, with no depth to anything. Well, in all honesty, most of Laymon is. Plotwise, The Cellar is very basic: there’s a tourist trap called Beast House, which is said to be stalked by a clawed, murderous beast during the night. Several people eventually congregate at the house, Jud and Larry are there to kill the monster, Donna and Sandy are on the run from her crazed ex-husband, and the ex-husband Roy is on their trail because he wants to rape his daughter. Basically.

Roy does a lot of raping and murdering in the novel, and he actually takes a young girl named Joni along for the trip and casually molests her every chance he gets. The writing of these scenes is remarkably pedestrian, which, to really grasp for some reasonable explanation, does underline how much of a psychopath Roy really is. The other characters aren’t any better, and perhaps after reading about Roy’s exploits one gets slightly nervous when Laymon describes Larry, who is supposed to be a good guy, befriending young Sandy. In any case, for most of the characters their only motivating factor to do anything is sex. This also applies to the monsters, who are insatiable and whose sexual organs are described as having a tongue or something that really makes everyone want to have sex with them. Not that they wouldn’t anyway.

The Cellar is so slim it doesn’t have time to get unbearably dull, and it does instil in the reader a morbid curiosity to find out what Laymon will come up with next. But other than that, there is no enjoyment in entering The Cellar. It’s all just too idiotic. Some points are due, however, for the epilogue, set some time after the finale, which does allow for a quite creepy ending and shows the way for the sequels that nobody really asked for (Beast House, The Midnight Tour and Friday Night in the Beast House).

* (1/5)

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