Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Books: In the Dark • Richard Laymon

• A librarian takes dares for cash in this chiller.

Genres: Horror, suspense/thriller
Released: 1994
Verdict: &&1/2

It's as if Who Wants to Be a Millionaire producer Michael Davies whipped out a horror novel: Mild-mannered (and somewhat unlikable) librarian Jane Kerry finds a note that leads her to a book containing $50 and another note. The second note contains instructions that lead her to $100. From there, the money and the perils multiply with each successive note signed by Mog, the "Master of Games." Her only lifelines are her moxie and a handsome new friend named Brace. The author was onto an intriguing concept that seems in some ways to foreshadow the reality TV games to come. Just how far will a person go for a stack of 16 fresh $100 bills? The best of these mischievous missions finds Jane donning a negligee and crawling inside a coffin in an abandoned, decrepit house. It's both believable that she would do it and genuinely unnerving. From there, however, Laymon goes completely over the top, and the fragile thread of believability snaps. The compelling concept presented an opportunity to delve into the character's psyche as she wrestled with the impulse to keep pushing her limits and raking in the cash, but Laymon never gets beneath the surface of that angle; he instead takes the lightweight path, throwing in gore and sex at the point where the missions should have become psychologically challenging. I'm willing to give Laymon another shot, however — he churned out more than 30 novels and apparently achieved greater success overseas. Still, despite, a posthumous Bram Stoker Novel of the Year Award in 2001 for The Traveling Vampire Show, In the Dark suggests he's more Koontz (who, appropriately enough, penned an intro for the book) than King.

// Is it also a movie? // The cover art, according to the credits page, is from the movie Richard Laymon's In the Dark, but a quick search at All Movie and Imdb reveals that there's no such release, nor any credits for director Clifton Holmes. A Google search turns up a now defunct page for a production company called Gemineye; the Internet archive, fortunately, has it cataloged here. The movie was completed but apparently never released beyond a few screenings that garnered some positive press and comparisons to The Blair Witch Project for its black-and-white, gritty style. Laymon also gushed about the movie, the first screen adaptation from his prolific body of work. It seems the movie might have been more enjoyable than the book. Perhaps this will show up on DVD someday, although, six years later, that seems unlikely.


Anonymous said...

I am a great fan of Richard Laymon novels, and have found out a movie has been made based on his novel 'In The Dark', i would like to see this movie but i cannot find it anywhere.

Jebb said...

It seems like a no-brainer for a straight-to-DVD release, particularly since some positive buzz was generated by the initial screenings, and Laymon himself loved the movie. Perhaps the production company going out of business has left it in permanent limbo. Although I found the novel to be flawed, I would definitely watch the movie.


Anonymous said...

Hi, the book was pretty good, and I have the movie, which doesn't do justice to the storyline of the novel. Still pretty good, and VERY hard-to-find! One for sale on Oztion.com.au at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I have a copy of this on DVD - its a great low budget movie and its true its a little 'blair-witch' in the way its presented but remember this was filmed and shot wayyyyy before Blair Witch achived critical acclaim. Its very hard to get hold of a copy but hopefully one day it'll see mainstream release and many of Laymon's novels thoroughly deserve

---- Reticent Romeo ----

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of richard laymon for a long time .Before people here in the us know what a great writer he was.He was up there with many greats to name a few stephen king and a other one that many have not heard of robert r mccammon.I would love to see some of laymon books turned into movies since soon there wont be any more books we can remember him the greatest way possible in movies that can live on for a other generation to no such a great writer.