Horror and humor are two things that can be remarkably tough to blend successfully. Several movies that do this spring to mind: Evil Dead 2, Slither, Return of the Living Dead. But aside from some of Harlan Ellison’s short stories, I’ve been hard-pressed to think of books that are both comedic and creepifying.
But now I’ve read David Wong’s John Dies At The End, and know that that funny horror can be achieved in the print medium.
Originally published online, Wong’s story tells of two college dropouts, David Wong and his friend John. One night at a local party, David and John meet a faux Jamaican who can levitate and offers people a hit of a drug he calls “Soy Sauce”. The Soy Sauce isn’t so much a drug as it is an entity that doesn’t just alter perception but takes the user into other dimensions where things can get extremely weird and very dangerous. David passes on the opportunity but John, one of those “I’ll try anything once” types, takes the Soy Sauce, and the two soon find themselves battling demons in our world and in alternate universes – more than once these two slackers who can’t hold down even the most undemanding jobs are the unlikely saviors of our world. Shenanigans ensue.
Wong’s story hits the right tone at the beginning and never once lets up. Try to imagine Lovecraftian “there are things we were not meant to imagine” horror served up with buckets of gore a la the Evil Dead films or Peter Jackson’s early movies and told in a witty, self-deprecating tone reminiscent of Kevin Smith (David and John have a definite Dante-and-Randall vibe to their conversations) and you’ve got a good understanding of what John Dies At The End is like. Wong adroitly walks the tightrope between humor and horror (though in its last third the book tips more toward horror), so that the tension of a looming apocalypse or the horror of having a car stolen by a man made entirely of cockroaches is relieved by a good chuckle.
The book isn’t flawless – it’s episodic, and a bit overlong. But it’s a fun, refreshing addition to the horror genre, creepy and gross without being overly repulsive, funny without being mean-spirited. Wong is apparently at work on a sequel, and I for one can’t wait.