After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama's Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier - and is now ready to kill again....
A haunted house story unlike any other, Michael McDowell's The Elementals (1981) was one of the finest novels to come out of the horror publishing explosion of the 1970s and '80s. Though best known for his screenplays for Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, McDowell is now being rediscovered as one of the best modern horror writers and a master of Southern Gothic literature. This edition of McDowell's masterpiece of terror features a new introduction by award-winning horror author Michael Rowe. McDowell's first novel, the grisly and darkly comic The Amulet (1979), is also available from Valancourt Books.
©1981 Michael McDowell (P)2016 Valancourt Books, LLC
Will read anything within reason.
I had never heard of this author but when I read that he was highly rated by Stephen King I really had to give this a listen. I was certainly not disappointed. This is like a Roger Corman film, scripted by Tennessee Williams and with elements of The Shining thrown in. From the very beginning, which opens with a very peculiar funeral, you know you are in store for something strange and genuinely disturbing, but what makes this exceptional are the vivid characters in the two families and their beguiling history.
I loved R C Bray reading The Martian and he gives another excellent performance here. Overall this is a real treat for fans of horror, American Gothic and almost anybody who likes a thumping good story.
If you love suspense, horror and the supernatural but can't stand a slow build up, this book is for you. By making you love the characters, it moves the story along without you noticing and makes you feel like something is about to happen at any moment.
Some genuinely funny moments as well, enhanced by the performers excellent southern drawl. Please listen to this- it's a superb piece of writing.
"Amazing novel by an all but forgotten author."
Just a small warning: there is a prologue in the original novel missing in this supposed unabridged audio version, which - in my opinion - is essential to the story.
Nevertheless, this is without a doubt one of the finest novels of the supernatural I have ever read. I recommend this highly. I read my own somewhat tattered paperback original every year, and will likely continue to do so.
""Savage Mothers Eat Their Children""
I had not experienced the horror writing of Michael McDowell, and readily admit I didn't recognize him by name. But that was yesterday.
"The Elementals" is among the finest horror novels I have ever read. Although written decades ago, this story can compete with today's bestsellers in the same genre.
McDowell captivates by opening with several generations of a southern family sitting in their living room and are told a horrific story regarding their ancestors. I will never, ever, forget it. I felt like McDowell had picked me up and dropped me onto their sofa.
There is a father/daughter relationship that brings witty humor into the story. Both of these characters are fleshed out and consistently captivating.
This book is raw, it's original, and it is frightening to the core. You would shelve this author between Stephen King and Clive Barker in the library of your mind.
"Another amazing experience"
This is the second novel by Michael McDowell which I've had the pleasure to experience. The first, Cold Moon Over Babylon, was just as good if not better. Both novels have exactly what I look for when I'm in the mood to escape reality - dark atmospheres, mystery with a hint of supernatural and characters so real they might as well be sitting beside you. Combine that with fluent and deeply descriptive prose and you have these two 5 star novels. Oddly enough, neither Scott Brick nor R.C. Bray have ever been on my list of likeable narrators. In the past I have found the gruffness of their voices too distracting, however, the ease at which they both were able to perform several characters with different voice inflections definitely gave me a new appreciation of their talent.
I don't want to go into the details of the story, but I don't really even need to. If you give this a chance, I promise within the first chapter you will be so hooked by the overall performance you won't care what its about, you'll listen just for the sheer pleasure of it.
Its a true shame that Mr. McDowell will never be writing another novel and that there aren't more of his other works available in audio format.
I never write reviews, but this book was so worth it. As as bonafide horror enthusiast, I have listened to my share of duds. This was not one of them. I was actually scared. Really. The writing was superb and the description of the Alabama gulf coast gave this story it's eerie air. Go ahead and use the credit. You won't be disappointed.
"EAT MY EYEBALLS"
This is more about rich families in Alabama than a horror. Written in 1981, it fits the style of writing of the time. Start with very little that is scary and than build from there. This starts with an interesting funeral scene and than creepy talk about live burials shortly after. Than we hear " don't go in that house it is scary" for several hours. The book goes over five hours before the word Elemental is even mentioned and than it turns out to be another word for spirit. Everything happens in the last hour. The characters are likeable and there are some funny parts. The book is not bad, but it is not much of a horror.
Bray is great as usual.
"Scary fun and authentic!!"
I actually might. Simply put this is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard! RCBray hits yet another grand slam ( like The Martian ) and the story moves along with enough detail to make it worth a second run through.
Gosh, there is a lot. There are a few where villages are not quite "right" and upon the final unveiling the truth is exposed. Anything in that genre is reflected well in this offering.
The descriptions of life on the gulf are extraordinary and worth the credit alone.
The relationship between India and her father is touching.
This book made me LOL, flinch, listen again, and overall react with a big'WOW". Seriously intense at times, funny at times, and always moving forward with living characters and fantastic accents and overall tone by RCB. I HIGHLY recommend this book to ANYONE. It is not for the faint of heart necessarily, but it is compelling and so very entertaining. TOP recommendation!
"Best Case of the Creeps"
One of the best atmospheric settings in Gothic horror...in So. coastal Alabama, on a mere strip of land, bordered by a stagnant lagoon and cut-off from the mainland at high-tide by the gulf, sits a quiet trio of private Victorian summer homes called Beldame. Owned by the McCrays and the Savages, the families have spent summers in Beldame for decades, but the third house is now uninhabitable--the encroaching sands have drifted over the windows and porches of the house and poured into parts of the interior, breaking out windows and pushing doors inward. But that is not the only reason the house is left empty. There is something menacing about this third house that is slowly being swallowed by the sand. Shadows, sounds, lights, and other...elements.
Beldame is the main character, possibly (?) a living, breathing entity on it's own, but McDowell has created a group of characters worthy of any of the best Southern Gothic classics -- memorable characters with rich backstories and histories entwined with scandal, superstitions, and strange traditions. Throw in a lush or two, and you have a cast that could be out of a novel by Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers. 13 year old India McCray is a girl wise beyond her years. She entertains herself on this remote skiff of land by using her photographer father's camera taking pictures of the abandoned house that she has become so curious about, venturing a look inside.
You feel blocked-off from civilization as you read, even a bit claustrophobic -- the sand creeping closer with every breath of air, threatening the other two houses -- you can almost imagine it between your toes, mixed with the smell of salty air and the fetid lagoon. Even the dimensions of time seem warped.
This is a great *haunted house* story! One that would have remained unknown to me had it not been re-released. Stephen King said of author McDowell...[that he is] "the finest writer of paperback originals in America today." Previously I read Cold Moon Over Babylon; both good old-school horror, but this one was my favorite of the two. The remote location, the characters, the strong flavor of the South...a great spooky read.
"the holy grail of southern gothiv horror. perfect."
Perfect pacing. Oozingly ominous and terrifying.
I'm so happy I found it. Up there with Ghost Story for me.
"Michael McDowell at his best"
As a longtime fan of Michael McDowell, I was thrilled when Valancourt Books began reprinting his largely forgotten novels from the 80s. The Elementals is their first audiobook to be released of his work.
McDowell's knack for writing believable Southern dialog is amazing. His dark sense of humor runs throughout the Elementals.
And when it comes to pure horror, no one can top McDowell's concise yet visually descriptive writing. He was simply one of the best ever published in the horror genre.
R. C. Bray does a wonderful job narrating McDowell's words, and bringing the character's to life.
I highly recommend The Elementals, whether you choose the printed version or the excellent audio book.
"Gothic Southern Horror"
I would recommend this listen to anyone who loves a good horror story with a hefty dose of southern gothic. It's not exactly a ghost story, but it's also not a ghost story and has several flourishes of grotesquery that I'm sure will stick with me for a long time.
My favorite characters in the book are Odessa Red, the long-employed black servant who understands the workings of the "elementals" of the story and India, the thirteen-year-old girl who is visiting her wealthy families ancient beach home property for the first time.
The suffocating heat and sugar-white sand of the Gulf Coast make for a compelling setting with very striking imagery, especially when the sand begins to seep into one of the houses in an unstoppable and unnatural invasion of grit.
I would have loved to have listened to the whole book in one sitting, the story and setting being very compelling.
I should disclose that I won a free copy of this audiobook in a drawing from Valencourt Books, but as a fan of Michael McDowel's other books, this being one of the few I haven't read, I would have purchased a copy and listened anyway.
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