Published by Pan
Published on the 6th of May 2011
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actual rating of 3.5
Four old university friends have reunited for a hiking/camping vacation through the Scandinavian wilderness. It becomes apparent quite quickly that they are not the same people as they were in university, and tension and misunderstandings abound. Tensions raise even higher when they begin to encounter strange things after deciding to take a short cut through the forest. What was meant to be a short cut, soon turned into a fight for survival as they are hunted by something not human, yet not animal. Stumbling through dark, damp forest, while fighting their fears, as well as each other turns this from a get away with the boys, into the boys worst nightmare. Dark rituals, pagan ruins and something hunting them from the trees sets a creepy atmosphere to this story, one that you may want to read with the lights on…
So, I found out about this book from coming across the movie adaptation on Netflix. My partner and I watched the movie and when I saw “based upon the book…” in the opening credits, I quickly looked it up and saved it in order to purchase at a later date. It’s been probably over a year, maybe pushing towards two since I saw the movie, but I’ve finally gotten my hands on a copy of the book and read it. And I have mixed feelings about it.
The movie left me with some questions, which I was hoping the book could clear up for me, and in a way it kinda did, but as said above, it left me with mixed feelings. Obviously the movie and book will be quite different to each other while still keeping the same core parts of the story. The book actually begins when Hutch approaches Luke about taking a short cut because Phil has busted his knee, they decide that a short cut through the forest will get them to their destination quicker and easier as they’re cutting through rather than going around like originally planned. This threw me a bit because while I try and keep the movie and book separate from one another, sometimes it’s hard. The movie opens with the friends, and a fifth friend, catching up, talking about going on a hiking vacation together, the fifth friend is murdered in a store robbery and the friends take the trip as homage to their deceased friend. I want to point out, the fifth friend does not exist in the novel, so I’m a little confused as to why that was written into the screen adaptation, but oh well. So! it starts not where I was anticipating, but to be honest, the non existence of the fifth friend didn’t bother me in the slightest, I actually found it better for some reason. They come across the first small house quite quickly, where in the movie it was made out to be a much bigger deal and a real turning point for the story. I really enjoyed that in the novel, so much more happened to these guys. They came across a lot more ruins and it really gave the ‘horror’ aspect of it the roots in paganism that I think the movie tried to portray, but missed a bit.
The story was honestly great and super engaging, a page turner if you will. I was even getting super creep vibes from parts which, lets be honest, is awesome because it’s hard to find a chill inducing book these days. The reason for my low rating, is not because of the ‘misogynistic’ nature of the characters, because this didn’t even play into it for me, it’s a bunch of guys away on a trip who are going to talk shit and not be polished and politically correct, so whatever. It’s not because the word fat is used entirely too much if I’m honest, it can be used as a descriptive word for sure, but I just feel like it was the only descriptive word in Luke’s vocabulary at times, this isn’t the reason for a lower rating though. The reason for my low rating is about the two third mark…a bunch of shit has gone down, our characters (the ones who have survived up to this point anyway) are questioning their sanity, wondering why they ever took the not short cut through the forest, and then Luke passes out. When he wakes up he’s in a house, stripped, in a bed. This is the point of the story that we meet a few extra characters, that I think took the place of the villagers that the characters came across in the movie. It’s not the characters that made me downrate the story, it was the fact that at this point, the story became so unbelievably repetitive that I just about poked my eyeballs out. I’ve got no issues with characters blacking out heaps after physical or psychological trauma, and let’s face it, Luke experienced both, but it was just the fact that the story sort of…stopped…for a while, it just went around and around in circles. And this just bugged the hell out of me. I definitely believe the book could have been shorter and more editing could have been done to the last half of the book because I don’t believe any of the dialogue between our new characters and our terrified Londonite added anything to the story. Yes, a sentence or two solidified my belief as to what our good ‘ol boys were dealing with, but I just felt that it dragged on a bit too much.
My questions from the movie were somewhat answered, but because there was a lot of stuff changed, not just the fifth non existent friend, but towards the end of the movie, the village that Luke and friend encounter and the actual visualisation of the monster seem to have been change quite a bit, artistic license and all, I guess to make it more terrifying for viewers. I feel like I have less questions after reading the book, lets put it that way. I absolutely loved the first half of the book, but really did not enjoy the second half. I feel like the movie may have done the story a bit more justice than the original story.
The characters were written well, just as you’d expect four friends who were friends a decade or so ago who now struggle to get along because they’ve all become different people. Each jealous of what the others do or do not have, struggling to find a connection when one just isn’t possible anymore. It’s not just a horror story set to send shivers up your spine, I believe it’s also a story of realisation and dare I say, growth?
The star here is definitely the horror though, the feeling of being hunted, in unknown territory with no way out showing itself, is absolutely terrifying. The creature was well written, even towards the ending when we were actually “seeing” it, parts of the end portion of the book gave me chills so it’s worth something, even if it mostly bored me.
All in all, I’m glad that I read the book, and I may re-read it at some point. I think I’ll re-watch the movie as well and compare the two a little bit more and see which one did parts better than the other, in my own opinion of course. I feel like this is a story that the first introduction you have to it, whether that be the movie or the book, may be the one that you prefer, so choose carefully.