All too often, horror that is described as “extreme” is predictable, repetitive, and has nothing more than cheap shocks on offer. In its worst examples, extreme elements are added to art in order to compensate for the artist’s lack of talent, and sees the author/director/musician breaking taboos in order to give themselves an edge, and therefore a cheap selling angle.
Duncan Ralston’s Woom confidently transcends these flaws. It is by turns transgressive, nauseating, tragic, and shockingly brutal, and should be read by anyone remotely interested in boundary-pushing horror. In that same vein, it should be avoided by the squeamish or those unprepared for a challenging read.
Woom blends the cynicism of Chuck Palahniuk, the greasy and believable characterisation of Irvine Welsh, and the vivid ghastliness of the more literary examples of pulp horror, in order to create a multi-layered tale that keeps its cards close to its chest right up to its abhorrent finale. To avoid spoilers – as Woom is a pungent dish best served without prior knowledge – let’s simply say that the book’s plot revolves around the traumatic events that have taken place in one room of a seedy motel, and the culmination of each of these atrocities.
While Woom’s contents may be considered shocking, it is to Duncan Ralston’s huge credit that the book does not feel as exploitative as many within the genre do. Recurring themes of motherhood, the inextricable links between birth and death, and the elusiveness of redemption give the book a depth rarely found in material this strong, and despite occasional scenes that brought a sick smirk to my face due to the sheer audacity the author would have needed to have written them, Woom drips not only with bodily fluids, but also with storytelling prowess. One of Woom’s most impressive features is the fact that Ralston manages to weave such seemingly disparate tales into one coherent narrative, and delivers a climax that feels both inevitable yet also unexpected (at least to me).
If you like your horror visceral, disturbing, and to possess a rare twinkle of originality, buy Woom and pass some time in Room 6 of the Lonely Motel.