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The House of Daemon by John Wagner
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The House of Daemon

by John Wagner

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Recently added byJonArnold, TheoClarke

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What terrified me as a child were all-powerful entities; unstoppable forces who toyed with their prey. There was Sutekh, the godlike Osirian from Doctor Who who revelled in death and destruction; the Terminator, glimpsed only on the cover of the novelisation and from the blurb; Doomlord, a shapeshifting alien who’d decided mankind should be destroyed and could also transcend death. And there was Daemon, a malevolent entity who turned a newly-built house into a fantastical psychotic playground. And yes, funnily enough, he looked quite demonic.

The House of Daemon is part of the long lineage of haunted house stories; if I were to take a guess I’d imagine it was conceived following a viewing of one of the then current series of Amityville films. You can tell this is an 80s story as the hero, Elliot Aldrich, is wealthy enough to build a house for his wife as an anniversary present and yet we’re expected to be broadly sympathetic to him. He and his wife Cassandra (along with an unfortunate builder and a professor of parapsychology and his students) are tormented by Daemon, who turns each room of the house into some nightmarish fantasy realm. It’s a beautifully executed concept which allows the imaginations of John Wagner and Alan Grant to run riot; we get war, horror, fantasy and even a touch of SF over the course of the story. Perhaps the nature of the ending’s a little unsatisfying – legend has it that it was changed at the editor’s request – but given this is essentially horror for a juvenile audience perhaps that’s no bad thing.

All this comes wrapped up in some beautifully Jose Ortiz artwork; expressive and with a fabulous command of line and shadow. Childhood memories can cheat; the layered accumulation of years, critical facilities and cynicism meaning stories don’t quite sweep you up as they did then. Not here though; it’s an object lesson in telling a story in three and a half page chunks including cliffhangers. Despite the memories of terror I was glad of the opportunity to revisit this house. ( )
  JonArnold | Apr 30, 2016 |
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