A living scarecrow with a flaming pumpkin for a head gets stuffed with candy every Halloween and is set loose on a small Midwestern town where every boy aged 16 to 19 is armed to the teeth and wandering the streets in a tradition called The Run, each one wanting to be the one to bring down the scarecrow before midnight.
Sure, why not?
It’s sort of likeThe Lottery, but with a sentient scarecrow. Dark Harvest is chilling and poignant, and more about humanity than it is about scares. The darkness is human darkness in this little town. We don’t know where it comes from or why, but it manifests in a living scarecrow who must be destroyed. There’s no sense of reason, just like in The Lottery. Just the violence and the lack of humanity that very few in the town can bring themselves to counter. With good reason, of course–small-town politics are forceful and all-reaching, particularly when your roots are very deep.
I like that you don’t get a full explanation of what the Halloween tradition is all about. You never learn exactly why it happens, nor what will happen if the night doesn’t go as usual. The ending hints at what will become of the town, but like all good horror, it’s open and contains a hint of threat. Yet, unlike a lot of horror, there’s still a hopefulness which matches the more poignant sections of the book.
This was a quick read with a nice pace, never lingering too long on anything. Only just enough to scare you or move you or make you wince. Like a really good episode of The Twilight Zone or The X-Files, you get immersed in the story and the creepiness and the exploration of all too human tendencies. With a few eerie twists.
I did a post about Katy Towell and her amazing work last week, and I finished her novel, Skary Childrin and the Carousel of Sorrow a few days ago. I loved it just as much as her animations. If you’re a Lemony Snicket and/or Tim Burton fan, you might like it, too.
The story is about three oddball children who are mercilessly picked on by their peers. They live in the spooky, otherworldly town of Widowsbury, where many bad things can (and do) happen on a regular basis. Like a mysterious carousel suddenly appearing in the woods just outside town. Followed by the arrival of a stranger who sets up a candy stand. And then, people begin disappearing. It’s up to the three girls, bound together by their other-ness, to save the town from the dark secrets of the carousel.
Like Towell’s other work, this story is creepy and dark, with plenty of genuinely frightening and gory moments. Towell’s black and white sketches add a great dimension, but her prose definitely paints a scary enough picture on its own. There’s also an element of melancholy here which works beautifully–it’s a story about powerlessness and rejection and human darkness, and how we cope (or not) with those dark realities.
Enjoy your last full reading day before Halloween!
Oh, the candy is loooong gone, and so’s the Pumpkinhead. Yet the horror novels remain. I got too ambitious with my Halloween reads this year, which is why I’m still working through my leftovers a week after Thanksgiving.
Fitting, now that I consider it. After all, the week after Thanksgiving is the traditional time to finish off leftovers, right?