Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Prey by Richard Matheson. Originally published in 1969. Approx. 8 pages.

If you were going to try and compile a short list of Richard Matheson's most iconic contributions to the horror genre, it would be a guarantee that Prey would make it to the Top 5. Better known for its film adaption: "Amelia", story three in the Trilogy of Terror television movie, Prey follows Amelia, a timid woman who gets trapped in a horrifying encounter with an African fetish statue come to life. Based on how old you were when you first saw it, the segment was either the scariest or most hilarious thing you had seen in your life. I'd estimate, under 10 years old, scary, over 10, or if you just listen to the sound effects, hilarity. If you have never watched it, take 16 minutes and check it out here:

It's kind of required Halloween viewing. I fell into the under 10 category when I first saw it, plus I was terrified by any movie with evil little things running around, so I was scared pretty thoroughly by it.

These being the other little critters that traumatized me. Damn you 1970's made-for-TV horror movies!

Point being, "Amelia" is still effectively scary today, partly because of a great Zuni fetish prop, and more importantly because of its pedigree as a work written and adapted for the screen by Matheson.

So, without that evil little "He Who Kills" doll running around, does Prey deliver on the chills? Very much so. Matheson makes the best of an economical word count here. In the first paragraphs you know all that you need about Amelia; she is something of a pushover, someone easily controlled. Thirty-three years old, still single (essentially a spinster for the day and age), and living under the absolute control of her mother.

Matheson's focus in writing for the Zuni fetish hunting doll, AKA "He Who Kills", is to play up what makes it scary. When writing about a homicidal, seven inch tall living doll, there is an absurdity that cannot be avoided; the author's duty is to make it a horrifying, incongruous nightmare, instead of a laughable oddity. The scary parts the Matheson centers on are all the "sharp edges". The focus is always on the doll's rows of shark-like teeth, and on the appropriated kitchen knife which is always in play, whirling like a cyclone. The comedic aspects of a half-foot tall doll chasing you diminish greatly when it keeps carving your feet and ankles to ribbons. Also, to make the danger of the doll surpass its size, Matheson infuses He Who Kills with the strength of the entombed spirit, allow it to go beyond physical limitations.

There is a brutal chase, punctuated by painful moments which will make the reader wince in sympathy with Amelia plot.

Best of all, the story ends with a solid ending, as Matheson is smart enough to adhere to the theme of controlling forces.

So, if you haven't enjoyed these two horror classics, you can probably both read the story and watch the clip in around half an hour. And there are few better ways to spend half an hour during the Halloween season.

You can read the entire short story here, even though there are some typos. Enjoy!

Final Score:


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