If you weren’t scared of the woods after reading Steve Stred’s excellent The Girl Who Hid in the Trees, then there’s no doubt you will be after reading The Stranger.
Whereas in his previous novella the trees were home to a malevolent, dark spirit, here it’s the trees themselves that possess the evil. Those wooden bastards!
Malcolm has been visiting the same campsite since he was a child. Even with two grown-up children he still makes it an annual holiday to visit the dense woodland. When he arrives with his wife, Sam to do some maintenance work before the winter hits, things get creepy. Fast.
Fans of Steve’s work will be pleased to see the return of the skinny man and his trusted Sedan. But he isn’t the only terror at home in these here woods. No, the trees are in the mood for bloodshed.
A group of wolves watch Malcolm through the window from his back yard, and their behaviour is unsettling to say the least. It seems as though they are just biding their time, but for what, Malcolm can’t say.
There’s a new neighbour in the cabin next door, and when Malcolm meets him the exchange is ominous. Alarm bells should really be ringing for our Malc, but why would he be frightened of the place he’s visited for so many years? That would be ridiculous.
This neighbour, an old native guy warns Malcolm that things may turn sour very soon. Of course Malcolm passes this off as the dude just being old and perhaps a little senile, but when he later comes across the skinny man, something is definitely ‘off’.
Soon the kids arrive to spend some lovely family time together, aww!
But this is a horror story, of course, so things don’t stay lovely for long.
When the family discover a hidden building, almost akin to an ancient castle, the horrors spew forth with terrifying timber.
The trees want what is there’s, and they are prepared to kill for it. Malcolm and his family are certainly in the wrong place at the wrong time. These bark-laden monstrosities are all servants of the mysterious Stranger, and when Malcolm finally comes face-to-erm, kind-of-face with him, he realises his life is in danger for a reason.
The pacing was great in this shortish novella. The claustrophobic setting of the dense woodland was harrowingly realistic and made me glad there aren’t any trees growing right outside my house.
Although much of the horror is ‘suggested’ with animals acting weird, trees seemingly watching the characters, etc, rest assured there’s enough violence and gore to keep any horror fan satisfied.
Horror stories set in the woods are creepy enough at the best of times, but when the woods themselves are the enemy, the creep-ometer is certainly approaching max level!
I’d like to thank Steve Stred for writing yet another woods-related tale, but also scorn him for making me scared of ever going in there again!
Categories: book review