THE WOODS ARE DARK
Okay, guys. Glad you made it this far down in the reviews. Why? Because this is, without a doubt, Laymon's best book.
It can be read in one sitting and is a prime example of how Laymon is able to put normal, everyday characters in extreme situations and watch them fight for their lives.
Neala and Sherri and the Dills family never really stood a chance.
This book has a ripping first chapter that guarantees that you won't be putting the book down. I've given people who don't read Laymon the first chapter and told them to read it. They have all come back and asked to read on. This book is infectious, it drags you in like the woods drag in the characters.
The first chapter is only 10 pages long. Go into a bookstore. Pick it up. Read those 10 pages!
You will then buy the book, I can guarantee it!
This is Laymon writing at his fastest, sharpest best. A must have for all Laymon fans.
Buy a copy.
Heck, buy two and give one to someone you know.
They won't put it down!
Reviewed by Steve Gerlach
Caught the Warner Books paperback in 1981. The experience stuck.
Perhaps Laymon's most pared-down read, WOODS begins its assault on the
first page and never lets up.
Mixing the primitivism of THE HILLS AND EYES and, later, Jack Ketchum's OFF
SEASON, and the unstoppability of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and Gary Sherman's DEAD
AND BURIED, Laymon's dialogue is, as usual, right on key, effortlessly capturing the
current vernacular and slapping you in the face with its horror without stopping to
What separates Laymon from the others, with, in my opinion, the exception
of Jack Ketchum and Bentley Little, is his unwillingness to kowtow to prevailing,
bullshit "community standards" or self-censorship. He kowtows to his imagination
instead. Wish more writers would.
Reviewed by Mark Savage
While I was visiting the U.K., I walked into a Waterstones and did
exactly what Mr. Steve Gerlach told me to do. I picked up The Woods Are
Dark and read the first chapter. After that, I was hooked! I just had to
buy it! I began to read it, and couldn't stop until I finished it.
Neala and her friend Sherri are traveling the backroads of California,
thinking that they're in for a relaxing vacation of hiking through the woods.
They then would find themselves shackled to one of the six dead trees in the
woods. Waiting for Them to come.
The Dills family are heading up to the mountains for a fun vacation and a
family outing. What harm could it do to spend the night in the small little
town with a seemingly nice motel? Soon these people would also find
themselves shackled to the trees, waiting for Them to come in the dead of
night. The Krulls who have a ravenous hunger for human flesh... These six
people are gonna have to work together if they want to get out of the woods.
I really enjoyed this book. Instead of him having the climax
dragged out until the end, all of the blood and guts are straight in your
face. And believe me, there's pleanty of blood and guts!
Even though this isn't one of Richard's best books, it's still very
entertaining! The only things that I had wrong with the book are the
characters. They were a little underdeveloped. This is too bad, because
some of them seemed like they could have been interesting people. Also, the
history of the Krulls is a little vauge. Where did they come from? How did
they get there? This is never really explained. And what's up with the
cabin in the forest? All of the Krulls seem to be afraid of it. Was the guy
with the machete a ruler of the pack? Why were they all intimidated by him?
Finally, the (spoiler) thing in the pit is never explained. Was it an angry
god that needed to be fed? We never really know.
Other than those things, I still found the book to be enjoyable. It's
still a pretty good effort for one of Dick's earlier novels. If you like
lots of brains, blood and guts, then you should really read this book. It's
pure Richard Laymon! The Woods Are Dark gets a 9/10.
Reviewed by LLaskaris@aol.com
Well if you are looking for a real scare read this book. Having read numerous horror novels by both Laymon and other authors I am yet to find a book that brings out fear in my heart as The Woods Are Dark did. I can no longer walk through bushland (as we call it here in Australia) in the dark without becoming shit-scared.
Quite a short book (too short in fact), the action starts on page one and continues at rapid pace for the rest of the book. The night I finished reading The Woods Are Dark I was outside having a quiet smoke but simply could not finish it for fear of what was going to jump out at me from the shadows. Instead I had to rush back inside saying to myself “Richard, that book was a pearler”. When a book makes me stop doing something that I wouldn’t normally think twice about I rate it highly.
The Woods Are Dark is worthy of a 10 out of 10 but I’m afraid it loses half a mark for the ending which seemed a bit rushed to me. It probably only seemed rushed though because the action is thick and fast until the very last page! I only hope Richard decides to write a second book about the Krulls as I believe it would be as worthy a sequel as The Beast House was for The Cellar. Without a doubt his scariest book ever. Great stuff.
Reviewed by Sean McWilliam
Paced at a breathless clip, and synthesizing elements of such genre stand-outs as Wes Craven's THE HILLS HAVE EYES, Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and the entire '80s splatter-movie ouevre, this ferociously propulsive, highly cinematic novel is an all-systems-go survival-run which
ranks among the all-time great Laymon reads. In this, the story of a disparate band of unwary victims AND former victimizers on the run from a clan of cannabilistic savages, Laymon serves up an intriguing pot-pouri of gore that succeeds as much in the way the author tweaks genre expectations as much as lavishing his material with his usual all-hang-out approach to violence and erotica.
What makes "The Woods Are Dark" , a prime example of ever-forward Narrative Thrust if there ever was one, so intriguing, is his ability to uncover the nastiness in protagonist & antagonist alike. Case in point: Johnny Robbins, the stalwart hero, is himself compromised from the very start. He, like the rest of the town of Barlow's sickko town fathers, is an accomplice to murder from the very start. His reasons for saving BOTH girls intended for The Krulls cannabilistic soup-pot, aren't the most exalted by any shot: he wants to
get into the pants of Neala, the comliest of the duo, and has to be talked into saving the nice little nuclear family that's also targeted for extermination...
Which brings up another point...unlike many splatter movies, ala THE HILLS HAVE EYES, where the nuclear family bands together to put paid to the marauders, Laymon cleverly foils expectations by having the mom, dad, sexy daughter and her eager beau do NOT wind up being our focal point (though
young miss Cordelia gets major sympatico points - she certainly braves the gauntlet more than anyone else in the book), and their survival is NOT assured from the get-go. In fact, it's their adherence to sentiment and emotional ties that wind up destroying them.
"The Woods Are Dark" is about survival: those who make it to the end of the novel (and the denouement is definitely open-ended) will triumph because they are able to meet the inbred crazies with an equally savage defense...and Laymon excells at offering down-beat and unflattering portrayals of his ostensible identification figures.
What's also fascinating is the intriguing notion by the book's end that the Krulls might have been a laudable force reining in an even greater evil that Johnny Robbins' Krull-bashing heroics aside, might be unleashed due to the intrepid band's victorious stand. By the time the breathless climax whizzes by, with Neala, Johnny, the latter's sister Peg and her uncommonly able daughter Jenny driving off toward an uncertain future (it reminded this reviewer of THE BIRDS' last images), there's that niggling fact...the Thing in
The Pit, no longer pacified by the Krulls, isn't getting its marrow substitute thanks to Johnny and Co...and is up and about...
Undeniably, a classic.
Reviewed by Todd French
Being one of Laymons earlier novels, this one is pretty much pure grue, and less thoughtful and deep than later books such as ISLAND or ENDLESS NIGHT. Nevertheless, it`s a pretty short novel which rolls along at a steady pace, and will probably take you no longer than 3 hours to read. It comes across as being best read in one sitting, preferably just before night falls and you take a stroll in the woods.
Briefly, the story involves a strange tribe of degenerates thriving in some small-town woodland. A bit like Jack Ketchum`s OFF SEASON and sequel you might think. Not really, as these degenerates have a symbiotic relationship with the townspeople who kidnap visitors to the town and offer them up as sacrifices. Lovely. Then the nasty guys can hack, chew, punch, rape and generally bugger up your day, until you`re either one of their tribe yourself, or sprawled across the countryside in several seperate parts.
THE WOODS ARE DARK is not nice. It`s written in a no-bloody-bars-held-at-all-mate style and the violence and sexual perversions are laid on so thickly that you might just need a couple of Aspirins on standby to keep the blood-pressure down.
Being an early and therefore fairly roughly-hewn book there are a few flaws; the ending is a little hurried and uncredible, the characters don`t
always seem to make logical steps, and the main highlight and Corporal Nasty of the book is glossed over in very rudimentary style.
But let`s not detract from the book; it pulls you in from the first chapter and doesn`t let you go until it`s shown you a little piece of hell
on earth. For the unitiated horror fan, this book will revolt and shock, and if your grandmother finds it you should probably pre-order a pacemaker for when she`s finished.
In my humble opinion this book isn`t one of Laymon`s finest, but as a no-punches-pulled horror adventure tale it succeeds admirably. I did like
the book, it`s just if I`d read it five years ago I would have liked it more. Give it a whirl; for horror junkies it`s worth the time it takes.
Rating 7 / 10.
Reviewed by Mike Carter, England