The Midnight Tour is the final chapter of Richard Laymon’s Beast House Trilogy. It is fitting that the book seems to encompass everything that made the series an utter joy to read. Please don’t read this review if you haven’t read the previous two books.
The Midnight Tour
Cemetery Dance (1998)
After the events of the second book, the Beast House is now a national tourist attraction thanks to Janice Crogan. Janice was one of the few survivors from The Beast House and she has cashed in on her story big time! There have been two books published and an entire series of films that all deal with the rich history of the house. The once quiet town of Malcasa Point has been inundated with curious tourists who arrive by the busload. Janice even runs a Beast House Museum in town.
Another new addition to the town of Malcasa Point is the Midnight Tour. For the paltry sum of $100 visitors are treated to an evening of all things beast. The evening ends with the Midnight Tour of the Beast House which gets into some of the more “graphic” details that the regular tour may leave out. Of course there are various characters that share separate stories but are ultimately brought together by the Midnight Tour, only to have all hell break loose. It is the same tried-and-true formula that Laymon implemented in the previous two novels and the results are no less shocking here. In fact, the last 50 pages of The Midnight Tour may be the most intense of the entire series.
The Midnight Tour is quite long compared to the previous two entries and much of its bulk is devoted to the retelling of the Beast House’s origins. Of course this may turn some readers off, but I ate it up. The Beast mythology was the most intriguing part of the entire series for me and I loved hearing the various interpretations of the tumultuous events that led up the final conflict at the Beast House. It is truly fascinating to hear so many interpretations of the same events. There is also a large portion of the book devoted to Sandy Blume. Readers will remember Sandy as Donna Haye’s young daughter in The Cellar. Sandy’s story is told through a series of flashbacks that bridge the gap between the end of The Beast House and the beginning of The Midnight Tour. While the Sandy character did get a bit stale and unbelievable at times, it was a welcome addition and it was the thread that really tied all three stories together.
Focusing more on atmosphere and less on splatter, The Midnight Tour really showcases the evolution of Richard Laymon as a writer. While I certainly love the balls-to-the-wall intensity of The Cellar, it is interesting to see Laymon slowly establishing the tension and dread in the story. In The Midnight Tour he has a very strong command over his writing and is able to manipulate the mood better than in any of his other works. There is nothing better than being helplessly left in the hands of a master as he guides us through some horrific terrain.
Aside from the writing, Laymon has also matured as a storyteller. He is able to take some pretty gutsy chances with the narrative. I like to equate The Midnight Tour to Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. The name of Janice Crogan’s novel is The Horror and it does not take any great stretch of the imagination to assume the The Horror bears a striking resemblance to The Cellar and The Beast House. As characters reference The Horror, I feel like I have read it. It is a very interesting approach to the story. The reader almost feels like the first two books in the series were works of non-fiction as opposed to the first part of the fictitious series.
The Midnight Tour was a fitting end to the Beast House Trilogy. It stayed true to the conventions that were set forth in The Cellar while putting its mark on one of the best genre series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. This series should be mandatory reading for all genre fans.