Tuesday, 8 April 2014


‘Satan’s Snowdrop’ is a difficult book to read, as it positively revels in an appalling supernatural world of death and degradation, torture and abuse. It’s also hard going because this nightmarish vision is occasionally leavened by flashes of supreme daftness, such as a possessed space hopper that hastens the death of a young boy*. 

The main premise is that a house in the Swiss Alps (by the Reichenbach Falls, in fact) is possessed by the violent spirit of a monstrous, seemingly immortal serial killer and sadist. Everyone who enters the house is in the most dreadful danger, the whole place reeks of decomposing flesh, and the ground it sits on is so steeped in murder that even the flowers bleed. 

Bizarrely, despite the awful reputation of the house, its baleful atmosphere, its terrible smell and the horrible hallucinations it offers to anyone who crosses the threshold, the house is seen as a sought after commodity, and is bought by a crass American and shipped over to the States and reconstructed, one blood sodden timber at a time. 

It’s clearly a bad idea as, within a few weeks his wife is mad and his son is dead (space hopper related, see above and below) and, horribly, the poor boy’s spirit is trapped in the house with hundreds of other ghosts. It’s pretty grim. Ridiculously, even though he knows all about the horrible happenings associated with the property, an Englishman buys the house and, once again, has it dismantled and, this time, rebuilt in the UK, and all the bad shit begins again, but worse. 

It's worth quoting a few of the lines around the awful final moments of the young boy, Tod, simply to illustrate the amount of invention Smith brings to the bog standard literary convention of death by space hopper --

'He had never really studied its face before. Just a few meaningless black daubs, millions like it, mass produced. Now it was an individual. It saw him. It understood'

'He glanced around jurkily, furtively. Nobody. Only that...toy. a heavy-duty rubber balloon. A bag of air. Harmless. But those eyes...'

'A noise behind him, a hollow sound like a big beach ball being bounced. Oh, God, it could move after all. It was alive!'  

'He was travelling upstairs instead of down. And that egg-shaped fiend was following him'

'There was no way of knowing why the dead did not die and a rubber toy became a fearful creature. Perhaps it was better that way'

There’s a passage towards the rather frenzied ending which suggests that the malevolent spirit responsible for all the violence and mayhem was maybe a druid (and, later, a Nazi) but this is clearly an attempt at trying to rationalise the sick nightmarish fantasy Smith has cooked up. It doesn’t matter, really, as anyone looking for cheap thrills and sick violence will already be perfectly satisfied with the book without a hasty, well-that-doesn’t-make-much-sense explanation: it’s a nasty piece of work, but then it's supposed to be.

* Perhaps the most chilling use of a childhood toy since the Satanically possessed slinky in Mario Bava's 1977 film 'Shock'. 

No comments:

Post a Comment