Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Apartment

Mark and Steph live happily in a nice house in South Africa with their daughter Hayden. Their peaceful life is marred by a home invasion that ending with stolen items but no physical injuries. The psychological harm has taken its toll and the family no longer feels safe in addition to hidden resentments that cropped up as a result. Steph is desperate to get away and heal, so she jumps on the chance to do an online house exchange for a week where she and Mark stay at a delightfully quaint French apartment and the French couple stays in their house. When they arrive, it isn't quaint, but empty, shoddy, and home to vagrants. They also feel a more sinister presence, but don't have the money to stay anywhere else. They will wait out the week. What's the worst that could happen?

When I heard about this book, I was excited that Blumhouse Productions is getting into horror. The studio can be innovative and creative, but their films are overall hit and miss. Anyway, this story has a lot of good things going for it. The family could be any middle class family that struggles financially and suffered such a psychological and monetary blow in the home invasion. A lot of people can relate and I found them mostly sympathetic until they started falling apart. The structure of the narrative alternates perspectives between the couple in every chapter, sometimes backtracking or leaping forward in time. The type of nefarious presence used is interesting and not well defined. Even after reading the story, I couldn't tell you specifically what is was. The rules governing it were unique and made sense. The decision to cut away from the violence made the book more compelling and allowed the reader to make what happened as gruesome as they could imagine. Only in one instance was it a little confusing to the plot.

My biggest problem with the book is Steph. So many wives in horror books and films are stereotypical, unsympathetic shrews. I'm not sure if it stems from the misogynistic view of marriage that these women were awesome and then turned horrible after giving birth and a few years of marriage. It's gross. Anyway, she is simply awful. She has a deep seated resentment of Mark's behavior during the robbery. If he had fought back like she wanted, one or more of them would have probably died. She doesn't have empathy or patience for his extended grief over his daughter's death from a previous marriage. He has problems getting close to Hayden because of his grief and Steph takes offense instead of being understanding. She attributes his behavior to hatred or resentment, creating this bizarre imagined conflict between the two. I assumed she didn't know about his grief by her behavior, but then she mentions it and I lost all sympathy for her. The entire situation is her fault because she didn't thoroughly research a place in Paris or ensure the one she chose had some reviews first. On top of this other moronic behavior, Steph completely avoids voicing her concerns or feelings until they explode out. All of this could have been avoided with some honest conversations and good research. Steph is the real villain of this whole piece.

The Apartment started out as very promising, creepy horror. The writing is pretty good and engaging, but it totally falls apart with Steph, the most infuriating character to read about. It's a disturbing trend in films that mothers and/or wives are unsympathetic shrews that only serve to make the main male characters look better and have understandable resentful feelings towards her. Other than that, the book has an interesting concept in an unspecified nefarious presence with its own rules. It never becomes over explained and I like the mystery surrounding it. It would be easy to write a completely different book about the same presence. I would give Blumhouse Books another chance even though I had some real problems with this one.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins  

1 comment:

M.A.D. said...

I think I'd like to read this, but I don't care for this annoying female characters. Take The Walking Dead, for example - far too often Lori came across (to me) as hypocritical & shrewish, and dear LORD her constant whining/bitching drove me up a wall. I kept waiting (hoping lol) for her to get eaten by a zombie ;D