Since I started this blog up there’s been one title I’ve looked forward to reading again more than any other, and here we are, ten books in, ladies and gentlemen, I give you House of Hell!
It’s sometimes tricky to do these introductions as I’ve found that with some titles I really do have absolutely nothing of worth to say about the book or I just can’t remember anything about it, but with this one, I do have a few comments to make. I should quickly just jump in and state that I realise that I am actually setting myself up for a big fall here, as while the 8 year-old in my head tells me this book was awesome, 31 year-old me may have a very different opinion! Regardless, in terms of style and theme, I think I’m gonna enjoy this one.
What I do remember from the 80’s takes me to a couple of places, one of which was my grandparents house. They lived some distance from me and it was a big event to go and visit them, my grandfather was a strong Catholic, we’re talking picture of the Pope hanging in their living room, quite unlike my agnostic parents and my atheist self. He was quite aghast at seeing his young grandson curled up in an armchair reading a book about hell. Poor chap. I also remember being taken out by my dad of a weekend to walk in the Dales and a Fighting Fantasy book would often accompany me to read on the journey out to wherever we were going that day. I’m pretty sure that House of Hell came along on a trip to Howarth, which apparently has many haunted buildings. My dad would always bore me to death by taking me into a new-agey shop called Spooks that sold crystals and the like. Some friends and I recently went walking in the area and before we hit the pub afterwards I had to grab a picture of the place as it’s amazingly still in business all these years later.
Film is a big passion of mine, but for every beautifully shot, stunningly acted piece of cinematic art I’ve indulged in, I’ve watched ten-fold number of awful straight-to-DVD horror trash, hunting for that hidden gem that should have gotten a theatrical release. Stuff like House of Hell is a big reason my brain became fascinated by the macabre and one of the earliest Fighting Fantasy books I read was Phantoms of Fear, a book which had horrendously twisted illustrations by Ian Miller and House of Hell is blessed with a similarly abhorrent creation. I am most disappointed to discover his Fighting Fantasy work is not more plentiful. Interior illustrations by Tim Sell are not without their evil traits either as @ffantazine on Twitter recently told me, one image was actually removed from early editions as it featured a bit too much nudity. Thanks to Titannica for the cursed image in question… not exactly up there with the imagery created by the ending of Richard Matheson’s Hell House, but maybe not for kids I guess…
House of Hell has seen a fair amount amount of attention in recent years, although given the love I have seen for it from my Twitter followers, perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised! You probably know of the excellent Tinman Games mobile version of the book, but what boggled my mind when I heard of it a few years ago was the House of Hell movie!
I was amazed that a Fighting Fantasy film was being made, let alone such a relatively obscure title being the focus, why House of Hell and not Deathtrap Dungeon or Warlock of Firetop Mountain? Although as I type this question having just watched some production video diaries, I answer it in my own head: budget. The official site of the film has all the information there that is available for public consumption, the key selling point appearing to be that it allows the audience to decide the flow of the story with multiple scenes available to choose from, but as to it’s current status, I don’t know. The production companies forum thread has unfortunately not been posted on for some time and their Twitter account hasn’t been used in three years. Oh dear. Hopefully it will at some point see the light of day.
Until then, I’d best get reading… hold me.