Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Memoriam :: Richard Matheson, Creating Nightmares, and the Science of the Macabre.

As a child growing up in the 1970's I'm hard pressed to name somebody who gave me more sleepless nights than Richard Matheson. Yeah, from The Night Stalker, to The Twilight Zone reruns, to that damned killer doll in Trilogy of Terror (and countless other MFTV boob-tube encounters) they all definitely gave me a bad case of the drizzles. And as I grew older and developed into the cinema nut I am today, I had a blast connecting the dots from some of my favorite books (Hell House, I Am Legend) to some of my of favorite TV shows (Duel, The Stranger Within) and a crapload of highly entertaining movies (The Raven, The Devil Rides Out) via their connecting link: Richard Matheson. 

I honestly have not the words to convey my feelings on the news of  Matheson's passing. So, instead, here's some scribbling I scribbled almost a decade ago while reviewing his novel Hell House and the movie it was based on:

"What I really like about Hell House -- and all of Matheson's work, for that matter, is how he can explain things like psychic phenomenon and Barrett's complex theories so the layman can understand them. I barely survived high school physics but Barrett's intricate explanations on the nuts and bolts of ectoplasm, bio-energy and electro-magnetic radiation made perfect sense to me. 

"Matheson can also bring the reader a wonderful sense of dread and foreboding with an economical efficiency of words that a lot of writers could learn from. One thing Matheson isn't, is verbose. A lot is left to the imagination. He handles the action scenes in the exact same way, keeping things nice and taught as the reader burns through the pages to see what happens next. And his efficiency is actually displayed better in his book, I Am Legend. With a few simple words and descriptions he can make several months pass as Morgan teaches himself the knowledge he needs to fight off the vampire contagion. In Hell House, his characters are likeable, annoying, heroic, sanctimonious, stubborn and a lot more braver than they should be in some situations. And also rightly frightened in others. In other words, very human considering the circumstances."

And lastly, here's a link to a wonderful obit written by my friend Zack Handlen that sums up Matheson's impact and influence on a lot of things I hold dearly better than I ever could.

Richard Matheson

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