Author: Adam Cesare
When Don and Nikki decide to bring the elderly Harriet to Mercy House, an old folk’s home, they do it thinking it is the right thing to do. Harriet herself isn’t as convinced and the trip to the otherwise so tranquil facility turns out to be more than any of them bargained for.
At the introductory dinner for the new guest, one which busies most of the staff leaving a skeleton crew on the rest of the home, something comes over the elderly residents. What starts out as a minor disagreement quickly turns into a blood bath, where the residents attack and kill the staff. The residents seem to have transformed, their broken and diseased bodies becoming stronger, healthier, but also driven by desire. This event, which most of the elderly refer to as The Healing, brings them all back to life, but jumbles their brains, making the majority of them unable to speak coherently. It also affects everyone differently, seemingly depending on what they most desired in their infirmed state.
After the initial bloodbath in the dining room the residents split into factions, all with their own turf and agenda. Amongst them one driven by sexual desire and one led by old army veterans, though most seem to be mindless drones driven by the lust for blood. At the same time only a few of the staff and Nikki survive, trying to stay alive and trying to find a way out. To do so they must traverse the dangers and lethal twists and turns that is Mercy House.
Adam Cesare’s elderly antagonists are not zombies, a fact that is very astutely seen by one of the characters, who tries to defeat them with a modified nail gun, but are more akin to Garth Ennis’ Crossed. Driven by bloodlust, desire or power and with little to no cognitive power, they take pleasure in killing staff and at times each other. To some these horrific old timers might be an original idea and age wise they are, but the type of monster is not new and can in some way be compared to the rage driven figures in 28 Days Later, but more to the previously mentioned Crossed of comic book fame. The unique part when it comes to these figures is that the reader gets an insight into the mind of them. This drives the story along in a very interesting way and gives much needed motivation for the characters.
Mercy House is also very aware of its heritage, something very common amongst some of the best in Horror, frequently referencing earlier works in the fiction and even dealing with clichés. This is evidence that Cesare isn’t unaware of those who came before him in the genre and tries to build on it. His style of writing is easy to follow and though initially slow the book picks up the pace and becomes a page-turner by the end, making the reader truly interested in what is going to happen to both the survivors and the residents.
The downside is that other than desire, whatever it might be, the reader is never treated too much of a backstory when it comes to the different characters. Cesare dips into it at times, but leaves too large holes at times to truly satisfy us. There is a part of horror, especially this type, which often deals with a form of karmic retribution and this is hinted at within various players, but never to the extent that is needed for us to truly care for any one of them.
The language is very visual and those who are well acquainted with horror movies will have no problem picturing the events of Mercy House, in fact it would be quite surprising if this book wasn’t turned into a movie, it has all the characteristics of quite the sleeper blockbuster.
All in all Cesare has managed to write an exciting tale of horror. It is not completely original as it pertains to the monsters chasing various staffers, but the setting of a nursing home and the elderly residents as antagonists gives the readers a fresh take on an otherwise saturated genre. Cesare’s style of writing will please anyone looking for a quick read, yet will not leave readers with that truly scary feeling. Although the imagery is quite brutal and the things that befall some of the staff one never becomes affected by it. That is why Mercy House would lend itself better as a movie and hopefully that is where it will end up, because it deserves to be seen.
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