I think anyone picking up Depraved from the shelves of their local bookstore, or browsing online, will be under no misconception as to what they’re about to let themselves in for. Let’s just say that this isn’t a mysterious-noise/creaking floorboard/wind-whistling down isolated town-house corridors in the middle of the night-type of a novel. This is Depraved.
Tennessee-based horror writer Smith tells a tale of several individuals who’ve become lost deep in redneck country, and entrapped by a backward, oft-inbred society that treats outsiders with as much contempt and disregard as perversely possible.
Those taken face horrific outcomes to their predicaments, and Smith adds to the Deliverance-styled theme with a salubrious interspersing of murderous rampage, demonic corruption and near untold deviance.
If you’re looking for subtlety in your horror novel, then look elsewhere. This fast paced, engaging and exciting read lives true to its namesake, and then some. Splatter-punk meets 1980’s horror Laymon-style. But to simply compare Smith to other genre writers would be to do him disservice – even if it’s to greats like Laymon – for his style is unique, his words though shocking are select, and he really knows how to write this stuff well. The fates of other innocents, and not-so innocents, caught up in the horror mostly unravel in the course of a single day, and it was interesting on reflection as to how much the characters change under the nightmare scenarios as they did.
From the start, as a key character embarks on an act of revenge for a heinous crime committed against them, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be a slow or boring read. It’s also apparent that the paths of the characters aren’t as clear as you might think, with plenty of often brutal twists and turns adding to the carnal body-count.
The reader gets to see from both angles of this depraved world, with the debauched locals as well their captive outsiders adding to the mania as the novel reaches conclusion. It’s Smith’s own story telling knack that separates this from other horror pulps out there, but that it’s still unashamedly slick, bloody and shocking is no bad thing.
All in all, Depraved is a welcome member to the horror pulp stable. Its schlock, tongue-in cheek moments deliver what the horror reader wants in bucket loads, and Smith knows and appreciates his audience. If you like your horror with gore, buckets of blood and vice-like vice, you could do much, much worse than giving Depraved a go.