• A librarian takes dares for cash in this chiller.
Genres: Horror, suspense/thriller
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.