Friday Night in Beast House by Richard Laymon

Ever wonder where hormonally charged youth in Malcasa Point take their dates on a Friday night?  Maybe they take in a movie and grab some dinner or it could just be a simple walk on the beach?  Nope.  In Malcasa Point, the kids get their thrills on Friday night by sneaking into the infamous Beast House and having the time of their lives.


Return to Malcasa Point… two young lovers meeting at midnight for a very special date… meeting at the Beast House… after hours… in the dark… it’ll be a night they never forget!

 The premise of this novella is quite simple.  Mark is a typical young man who will do anything for a date with the most attractive girl in school, Allison.  After finally mustering up enough courage to ask Allison out, Mark is elated when she agrees.  The only problem is that Allison insists that the date take place in the Beast House…… after hours. Not one to let logic (or his sense of personal safety) stand in the way, Mark agrees to the date and formulates a plan to sneak into the Beast House and hide out until the staff has left.  Mark’s plan is executed flawlessly and the two teenagers spend a night together that will change them forever.

 This novella was released 6 years after Richard Laymon’s untimely passing and the final result is a work that feels like it is not quite finished.  The characters are entirely one dimensional and there are elements of the plot that don’t seem to be thoroughly fleshed out.  Take Mark for example- there are times when he seems innocent and sincere and other occasions when he comes across as a malicious little snit.  In one scene he is fretting over the prospect of lying to his parents and then a few chapters later he is frightening young children who are taking the Beast House tour by mimicking the sounds of the beast. The audience can never “get close” to him because there is no consistency with his characterization.  As a reader, this is a very difficult thing to overcome when trying to get caught up in a story.

 The other aspect of the story that didn’t sit right with me was the scene with the beast.  In an attempt to keep the spoilers to a minimum, I will say that the beast engages in activities that are consistent with previous encounters but it just didn’t seem right here.  Maybe it was the age of the children or maybe it was the reaction to the beast’s attack but the scene did not really flow with the rest of the story and completely took me out of it.  A more fluid and realistic ending probably would have served the story a little better.

 It should also be noted that there were some strong similarities between Friday Night in Beast House and Laymon’s final novel The Traveling Vampire Show. These two stories tell the tale of a young man coming into his own in very bizarre settings while grappling with the inner conflict of good vs. bad.  The difference is that The Traveling Vampire Show’s Dwight is a much more emotionally developed character than Mark.  This is what makes the coming-of-age angle work so well in The Traveling Vampire Show and, conversely, what makes Friday Night in Beast House a bit of a “ho hum” affair. As a bit of trivia, in both The Traveling Vampire Show and Friday Night in Beast House we find the protagonists hiding out atop a refreshment stand when they have unique run-ins with a canine. 

 The story is an entertaining little romp through the world that Laymon superbly created with The Cellar but it is far from his best work.  The sensuality and gore that define the Best House Chronicles are present but the strong characters and cutting narrative seem to be sadly absent.  If you’re willing to look past some poor characters then this story is a fun little voyage into that crazy placed known as Laymon Land.