Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-034-7
Raven Bochner should be feeling at the top of the world. Not only did she pass her Bar exam, things are going great with her boyfriend and she gets a job at one of those booming tech companies in Portland. Okay, so she gets visions of some kind of doom coming upon the world in 2000 – this story takes place in 1999 – but hey, who takes these things seriously anyway, right? Discovering that her bosses and colleagues send human sacrifices to some kind of rat god, however, can be a bother. Will our heroine manage to put a stop to such unworthy behavior, or would she end up as rat chow too?
Sean Munger name drops the famous Italian horror movie directors Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci in The Rats of Midnight – their films are the favorites of Raven’s boyfriend Eric – and in many ways, this story does feel like it is structured similarly to those directors’ more famous films. The build-up is very slow, and the sense of terror is supposed to keep building up until the denouement hits me in the face and makes me cringe in horror. Is supposed to, that is.
To ensure that the story continues for as long as it is, and not, say, coming to an end by page 150 as the heroine runs screaming to the cops and ends up committed in a nut house, the author has Raven often acting as if nothing has happened. Seen a man being devoured alive by rats? Okay, back to work… ooh, how should she handle the boss’s request? Hmm. Creepy things? Scary things? Okay, but Raven shows more trepidation and consternation when it comes to navigating the politics at her workplace,
Raven’s psyche is not exactly the healthiest around, so I spent a while wondering whether everything unusual here is a manifestation of her increasingly fractured mind. That would actually allow her behavior to make a lot of sense. However, the author chooses to go a more conventional route towards the end. This makes the fact that the heroine seems to float through the story from start to finish as if she is on some kind of emotion-numbing drugs even more bewildering. She doesn’t feel like a character in her own right, just a blank slate of a protagonist, sort of like a puppet.
The Rats of Midnight, therefore, is too distant and cold for me to let it get under my skin and give me a scare.