Vintage ephemera, or: Even the 1880s had B-grade horror

The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli, 1781

The Haunted HotelThe Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Wilkie Collins has apparently written better books than this, and given he was a friend of Charles Dickens, he certainly moved in literary circles. The story builds up well, but the finale is a retelling of the murderous plot (that by this stage one could have guessed) that is retold in the form of a proposal for a play by the evil protagonist (or at least the first person we meet in the story). The "haunting" is rather light-weight, and the ending asks the reader is "there any explanation of the mystery of your own life and death?" What does this mean? Is this a B-grade novel from the 1880s? It would seem so. Like Downton Abbey meets a PG-rated horror movie. Like any period horror movie where the build-up is ruined by the sight of the evil spirit or alien. It was scary until the spectre is revealed and then the climax is a slow-paced decline into lameness. It has some entertainment value, and some historical value, but the experience is ephemeral and rather wasted on the modern reader.

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