Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: 'Blood Farm' by Sam Siciliano

1 / 5 Stars

‘Blood Farm’ (336 pp) was published by Pageant Books in September, 1988. The cover illustration is by Hector Garrido.

According to the author bio in the inside back cover page, ‘Blood Farm’ was Sam Siciliano’s first gothic horror novel. Accordingly, I was willing to overlook some of its flaws. But in the end, there were just too many to make the book an enjoyable read…….

‘Blood Farm’ opens in Davenport, Iowa, in February 1972. Lithe, attractive co-ed Angela Rosalba is hitchhiking a ride to nearby Iowa City. It’s bitter cold out, well below freezing, and potential rides have been few and far between.

A hearse (!) stops to offer a ride. The driver is Mike Michaels, a hippie and Vietnam War vet. Angela has some misgivings, but accepts a ride. Mike is en route to pick up a coffin at a farm in the remote town of Udolph; after that, he’s proceeding to Iowa City.

As the hearse makes its way to Udolph, the snow gets heavier, and soon a blizzard is in sway. After various adventures and laboriously communicated Portents of Doom, Mike and Angela arrive at 'Blut Farm'….a rundown mansion in the middle of nowhere.

Some frightening dogs, and enormous, ravenous pigs, roam the outskirts of the farm. But they’re nothing compared to what awaits inside…..the pale, stooped Doctor Blut, and his beautiful daughter Ursula.

Angela and Mike will soon discover the truth about Dr. Blut and his farm….and it’s not going to be pleasant….

‘Blood Farm’ is subtitled ‘An Iowa Gothic’, and the concept certainly has merit.

I lived in Ames in western Iowa for more than two years, and the Winter months are the worst time to find yourself residing that state. 

It’s not so much the cold and snow – I encountered plenty while growing up in Upstate New York – rather, it’s the realization that square mile after square mile of flat, featureless, wind-scoured corn and soybean fields lie all around you. It's the realization that there is nothing out there....for miles..... that make the season so depressing. 

It's one thing if you're living in a major metro area like Des Moines, where there is some degree of distraction from the emptiness. But if you have the misfortune to live in the middle of nowhere, like Storm Lake, Boone, Sidney, or Decorah, then you'll wind up like a disturbing number of young people wind up: frozen to death after a night of desperate boozing....
There are no mountains, or forests of conifers, to alleviate the dreary sameness. After every snow, there’s nothing to see but sterile white fields stretching away to the horizon. The visual and psychological monotony are only relieved at night, when it becomes too dark to see anything.

Unfortunately, ‘Blood Farm’ is too poorly written to adequately exploit the ‘Iowa Gothic’ concept.

For one thing, the book is too long by at least 80 pages. Too much of the narrative is devoted to overlong exposition, and tedious descriptive passages that could’ve benefited from better editing.

Author Siciliano inserts a number of sex scenes that are more than a little contrived , and reminiscent of the way the teen knife-fodder in the ‘Friday the 13th’ and other slasher movies would titillate the audience with some groping and gasping in the creepiest, most disconcerting of locales, just prior to our hapless young lovers being skewered by Jason.

The sex scenes also have liberal splatterpunk content, revolving around the molestation of female characters by the lead villain. Such segments are unpleasant, while contributing little to the overall narrative.

The novel’s denouement is so lengthy and over-written (the villain spends an exorbitant amount of time delivering speeches about – Bwaa Haa Haa ! – the horrible deaths he will mete out to our heroes) that it took some resolve on my part to plow through the verbiage to the conclusion.

Summing up, ‘Blood Farm’ may have had the seeds of a worthy, vampire-themed horror novel somewhere within its pages, but the final product falls decidedly short.

1 comment:

zybahn said...

Sounds downright awful, but what a great nostalgic (though unoriginal) cover. The town of Udolph is obviously a reference to Ann Radcliffe's Gothic romance The Mysteries of Udolpho. Any other obvious Gothic references?