The Twisted Ones
October 31, 2020 8:29 PM - by Kingfisher, T. - Subscribe

When Mouse’s dad asks her to clean out her dead grandmother's house, she says yes. After all, how bad could it be? Answer: pretty bad. Grandma was a hoarder, and her house is stuffed with useless rubbish. That would be horrific enough, but there’s more—Mouse stumbles across her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to be filled with nonsensical rants…until Mouse encounters some of the terrifying things he described for herself. Alone in the woods with her dog, Mouse finds herself face to face with a series of impossible terrors—because sometimes the things that go bump in the night are real, and they’re looking for you. And if she doesn’t face them head on, she might not survive to tell the tale.
posted by snerson (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(posting immediately because I'm not sure my personal opinions belong on the original post - mods, please delete if this counts as double posting / post sitting.)

Y'all, this book is a piece of work. It's a solid work of horror, and I sat through all ~400 pages of it in an evening. What actually got me to post this here is... I was knocked over by how much this needs to be animated by Studio Ghibli (and specifically Hayao Miyazaki). I don't know if there actually are any animated horror movies, or how you could translate a work of horror to animation while mitigating the suspension of disbelief inherent to animation, but good grief almighty. The need to see this is almost physical.

Some points here:

1. Ghibli does inhuman like nobody else. They can make it sweet and benign (the guardians of Laputa) to majestic (the forest god from Mononoke) to blood-chilling (the soldiers in the boar costumes, also from Mononoke). I would trust the effigies from this book to nobody else. Add in a really solid audio engineer to really make the effigies' various clacks and taps pop, and I would be hiding behind my couch in delighted terror for the rest of my life.

2. Theme/setting: Spirited Away also kicks off with a protagonist moving to a new place and discovering some disquieting things in their backyard. Totoro handles this more gently; Kiki's Delivery Service doesn't have the supernatural element -- but Ghibli really captures the feeling of moving to a new place, cleaning, excavating a place for yourself. Also, "the woods" loom largely in The Twisted Ones -- compare to Totoro/Mononoke. I'm sure the S. Carolinan woods are different from the Japanese woods, but, details.

3. The "Ghibli anger/protectiveness" hair bristle has never been more justified. They're also not afraid of violence, or injuring characters onscreen. I really liked how T. Kingfisher had her characters accumulate injuries and spent time in a tense scene having the characters mitigate them -- the texture of that fits in with Ghibli's track record. It had the exact feeling of Chihiro pausing to tie up her sleeves in Spirited Away.

4. I don't trust anyone else to animate old ladies honestly, and this work has two really important old ladies. The main character is middle aged. Also, the way they handled Kushana from Nausicaa (sympathetic antagonist, but definitely still antagonist) is the right way to approach Anna.

5. In translating this book to the screen, you'd lose a lot of the narrator's first person inner observations/opinions/commentary. You could mitigate that by having her talk more, but a lot of the tension in the book comes from being alone (or alone with dumb dog). I'd rather have the issue tackled by a team of excellent character animators.

I'm being herded to bed by my cat, but I would be deeply interested in hearing other opinions about this book (animation related or not, lol). It was an excellent evening!
posted by snerson at 9:19 PM on October 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm not the biggest fan of horror (I read some, but not a lot), but I did like this book. Kingfisher is as engaging as she always is, and I liked that one of the biggest plot holes of many horror stories (i.e. why wouldn't you run the heck away as soon as things started getting obviously creepy and weird?) is dealt with in a way that makes perfect sense.
posted by kyrademon at 7:58 AM on November 2, 2020

I haven’t read horror novels for many years, although I used to be a huge fan. But it’s T. Kingfisher and therefore on my list. I thought it was a very effective horror novel and also a good introspective on what family means. It was the best kind of creeping horror that resolves itself into something unexpected.

It’s been a few weeks and I find myself saying to myself "Then I made faces like the faces on the rocks, and I twisted myself about like the twisted ones, and I lay down flat on the ground like the dead ones." I really got to read “The White People” and then read this again, to get all the references.

I have her new horror novel (The Hollow Places) on tap for when I finish my current book, and can’t wait to read it!
posted by gemmy at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2020

I picked it up because of the FanFare post, and just finished. Just... wow.
That was really unsettling.

(I got a similar feeling from a light novel series called Otherside Picnic, in terms of built up creepiness, but the format does soften things significantly.)
posted by Anonymous Function at 12:57 AM on November 3, 2020 [2 favorites]

One of my favorite things about this book: that you have early assurance the dog does not die. Truly appreciated that! It didn't ruin the tension or spookiness factor at all, just made it a much less anxiety-inducing read. Also, I listened to the audiobook of this one, and really enjoyed the performance, which felt personable and real.
posted by yasaman at 11:48 AM on November 3, 2020 [4 favorites]

I loved this book and was also really grateful we knew the dog was safe. I actually googled to check about a page and a half before it was revealed. :)
posted by tangosnail at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2020

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