"Mercy House" Book Review
Written by Jonathan Lees
Published by Hydra
Written by Adam Cesare
2015, 259 pages, Fiction
Released on June 9th, 2015
We can all hope for our loved ones, and ourselves, that we all go quietly into the dark night. Life isn't that kind though. Disease, trauma, accidents and assholes all stand in our way to a well-deserved "peaceful" death. For the elderly residents of the live-in facility Mercy House, however, a change is occurring that is giving them a new lease on life... not so much for everyone in their way.
Mercy House is the savage story of an unexplained phenomenon that transforms an elderly home into a nightmarish battleground that could have easily been a chaotic mess of death and Depends™. In the hands of the author, Adam Cesare, however, we are given characters we can relate to or at least understand. It would be difficult not to sympathize with Nikki, trying to live her life with her husband Don, removed from the burden of an increasingly more hateful mother-in-law, or even Mercy resident Arnold Piper, the Korean War veteran, finding his surroundings becoming a darker replay of the horrors he has already endured. Whomever you choose, there is someone to hold onto and hold on you must. Once the change of the older residents takes place, the novel breathlessly rockets ahead and Mr. Cesare places you in an increasingly claustrophobic environment where each step can trigger an attack.
You can hear the characters holding their breath. It's not to say that within the cramped halls of Mercy House you're going be able to keep track of everyone. At least I didn't. You basically have to huddle next to the characters you care about the most since the story becomes an explosion of excess that is not only a joy to read for gore hounds but anyone who enjoyed the levels of societal hell of J.G. Ballard's novel, High Rise, to the cramped tension of Carpenter's invasion film, Assault On Precinct 13.
I found myself strangely rooting for the residents, who are forced into these living conditions due to deterioration or dementia. When the inciting "incident" happens that transforms their physical stature and reduces their thinking to the basest of human impulse, I couldn't help but feel excited for these old folk. They're causing chaos, having copious amounts of sex and giving their younger victims a real hard time, aka pulling their bowels through their mouths. There seems to be so much punk missing from "splatterpunk", and to see it living vicariously through people over sixty years of age is kind of awesome. As we get older, I truly believe we regain a "fuck-all" attitude that not only harkens back to teenage years but is defiantly punk. I can't help feeling Mr. Cesare sees this side as well.
In most ghouls-gone-wild novels, your go-to protagonists would be the ones on the run from the creatures. Adam Cesare seems to have learned from, arguably, the greatest chapter of horror moviemaking, the Universal Monsters, where the most resonant creatures are the ones we feel for. In Mercy House he has implemented a style that is highly cinematic, merciless in its execution and leaves you hanging on for dear life wondering what he'll do next.