Last Updated on February 12, 2024
Michael David Wilson takes family dysfunction to a terrifying new level in House of Bad Memories, a horror novel that will leave your head spinning and stomach churning.
Denny loves his infant daughter, May, and wants to be the good father that she deserves, in sharp contrast to his own abusive stepfather, Frank. But the stress of fatherhood seems to be taking a toll on Denny as he starts hallucinating about his estranged stepfather everywhere he goes. Denny even finds himself looking more and more like Frank when examining his reflection in the mirror. After Frank ends up dead, Denny is kidnapped and held hostage by his psychotic half-sister, Jade, who tortures Denny for information and suspects that he may have murdered her father.
House of Bad Memories is completely unhinged. If you are a reader who checks trigger warnings, then this novel is not for you. I’ve never seen so many sadists gathered together in one book, all more than happy to torture or humiliate the perpetually confused and increasingly delirious Denny. When I thought Denny’s situation couldn’t get any worse, Michael David Wilson ratchets up the gore to retch-inducing levels.
Somehow this works because all the violence in House of Bad Memories is balanced by a wicked sense of humor that reminds me a bit of The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan. This is a difficult balance to achieve, and Michael David Wilson pulls it off brilliantly.
In between all the torture and morbid humor, House of Bad Memories addresses a number of interesting themes, including the emotional extremes that people can reach in their personal relationships. House of Bad Memories magnifies these emotions to unsettling levels, taking our human imperfections to irrational levels.
Michael David Wilson also strikes a perfect balance between physical and psychological elements of horror. The reader experiences the same disorientation as Denny, uncertain of who is dead and who is living. Wilson builds the suspense until the very last brutal sentence.
Overall, House of Bad Memories explodes with physical and emotional wreckage and is not for the faint of heart. But readers looking for an unflinching familial horror with plenty of wry wit should definitely check this out.