Squelch by John Halkin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Caterpillars escape from a lab in a small English town. Only these caterpillars are... maneaters! Can Ginny, an unemployed former TV executive, her doctor brother-in-law Bernie, and a pilot save the day or will all of England fall to the hungry caterpillars and their acid-spewing moths?
Chalk another one up to Paperbacks from Hell. What can be wrong about maneating caterpillars?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. But first I'll cover the good points.
Squelch is fun in a b-movie sort of way. A lot of creature features do the reveal too soon and wear out their welcome early, like a porno that's nothing but money shots. Squelch takes it's time, saving the really gruesome stuff for late in the book. The plot comes together fairly organically. I didn't think anyone made any crazy leaps in logic. Not for a horror novel, anyway.
Okay, here's all the shit I didn't like. Squelch suffers from "Why the fuck don't they just run away or stomp the shit out of them?" syndrome, much like the movies Child's Play, Slugs, and about a hundred others. Yeah, flesh-eating caterpillars are potentially scary but they're still six inches long at the end of the day. I kept picturing the vorpal bunny jumping at people's faces in Monty Python and the Holy Grail or the slugs in Slugs leaping at people.
The writing is kind of rocky at the beginning. Either I got used to it or it smoothed out eventually. None of the characters are that interesting and Ginny lost any sympathy from me when she started boning someone she shouldn't have. The solution to the killer caterpillar problem reminded me of something to a Simpsons episode.
While it had some fun gory moments, it felt like what it was: something written to take advantage of the horror paperback boom. It doesn't have a lot of soul to it. Two out of five stars.
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