Sunday, 11 August 2019

Cannibals

eBook cover
Author: Guy N Smith
First Published: 1986
Pages: 208

There is something about the depiction of 'common-folk' in old horror films that always makes me laugh. Maybe that was always the intention of the movie makers - to provide some light relief before and between the scarier moments. All good films such as those produced by the original Universal Monster or Hammer House of Horror studios gave the viewer an example of the well meaning but misguided locals, or the terrified villagers cowering behind closed shutters of their cottages and German expressionistic inspired buildings.

Guy N Smith serves up this type of atmosphere in spades, making it the central point of the plot in his 1986 novel, Cannibals. While reading I couldn't shake off the feeling I have when I'm watching something like Universal's 1935, The Bride of Frankenstein, or Hammer's 1961 offering, The Curse of the Werewolf, where a group of villagers pick up their torches and pitch forks and gather into a mob to hunt down the 'monster'. (Smith even has one of his characters use a pitch fork at one point which was a nice touch).

Smith populates his village with suitably colourful characters, and he gives them their heavily accented speech patterns. At the beginning of the novel the speech text seemed over done and comical - and it was this that set me off with my old horror movie comparison. Thankfully, I was able to set this aside and enjoy the blood-curdling ride Guy had in store for me with his story.


The village at the heart of this story is located in Scotland. Invacurie, is home to Doug Geddis, who decides to break from tradition and invite 'outsiders' into the area by slowly but surely building a series of holiday homes on his land. Unfortunately for the holiday makers who pay to spend time in his rough and ready abodes, they are very close to the mountains and in particular a place called Blair Long where a set of ancient caves hold a dark secret that the villagers have been guarding for hundreds of years.

Invacurie welcomes a set of characters that Smith wastes no time in introducing. Eddie Drake and Sarah Bryant are the first to arrive, freshly divorced Eddie is a university lecturer and Sarah his student/lover. Following closely on are the Halsey family; Frank, Cynthia and their two children Jamie and Vicki. Frank works at a small local bank branch as a Head Clerk but pretends to be the Manager because of his domineering wife Cynthia who is never satisfied and determined to climb the social ladder. Interestingly Guy N Smith's father was a bank manager - and Guy followed him into the same business so I wonder how much of Frank's character and outlook on life was based upon personal experience.

Lastly there is Phil Drake, a young policeman, who has followed his wayward older brother in the hope of talking some sense into him. Phil is determined, reliable and resourceful. Just the type of character you want to have on hand when you are about to encounter a group of cannibalistic three-eyed inbred throwbacks who are fed up of a diet consisting of the villagers occasional dead body and Tom the shepherd's flock.

In the grand old tradition of horror books/films, a succession of characters makes their way up to the caves at Blair Long. Each of them meet a truly grisly end. Just when you are doubting the intelligence of the characters, one of them suggests making a run for it, and the novel actually becomes quite engaging and exciting as the last few attempt to escape from Invacurie with their lives. This is despite the lack of help from the formerly mentioned villagers who quite frankly leave them to fend for themselves.

Smith provides us with a slew of additional characters to get eaten by the cannibals, he is quite adept at introducing them, fleshing them out (forgive the pun), only to then sacrifice them savagely within 10 or 20 pages. But that all adds to the excitement and keeps the pace high in this very fun and trashy pulp horror book. I enjoyed it right to the end after a slightly dubious start.

As with the vast majority of Smith's work, Cannibals is available in eBook format at the reasonable price of £3.52 here in the UK. Like many of his other works the eBook sports an original cover from the physical book, which is always a very welcome change from any generic photo-shopped effort.