In the world of House Amok, nothing comes before family.
From the twisted mind and pen of Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus respectively comes House Amok, the latest title from IDW Publishing’s Black Crown imprint, a tale of a family road trip gone wrong and the role of conspiracies and paranoia in the destruction of one American family.
House Amok follows Dylan Sandifer, one of a pair of hyper-intelligent twins who are apparently at the centre of a huge conspiracy, forcing their family into a violent, rollicking road trip. However, in reality, the entire Sandifer family has been infected by an ancient evil that causes horrifying shared delusions (folie a famille, if you will), forcing the family into a psychotic fight against an enemy that doesn’t actually exist. Dylan soon finds herself snapped out of this delusion and finds herself on a blistering fight to save her family and prevent them from killing even more innocent people.
Sebela creates a truly scary story on a number of levels, shading the family in various shades of grey. The father of the family and aspiring vlogger is diving into conspiracy theories long before the family find themselves infected, while the mother is severe and driven, the steel in the quintet. Best of all are the children – sullen teenager Tyler is hiding a lot from his family and it’s heartbreaking to see promise turned poisonous when he becomes a killer at his family’s behest. Equally Ollie, Dylan’s more outgoing and expressive twin, is a fantastic advertisement for never trusting a twin in a horror story. Even our heroine and narrator Dylan is twisted and morose as she recalls the events that broke her once-normal family.
The art, courtesy of Shawn McManus, is beautifully rendered with pops of blood reds and infernal oranges set against the drab greys and cool blues of the real world when it punches through the veil of darkness that the family are steeped within. The imagery itself is hauntingly macabre; slices of haunted faces and crying children as the targets of the insidious ‘conspiracy’ prove suitably horrifying while the blank, crazed eyes of the Sandifer family chill to the bone and Dylan’s fevered visions of demons are painted in sinister scarlet.
The series bears not unwarranted similarities and therefore comparisons to the recent Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House in which another family finds themselves beleaguered by a powerful evil and must strive to fight it. However if the Crains of Hill House are able to resolve their traumas and escape their personal malevolence, the Sandifers feel doomed to repeat it, trapped in a loop of their shared psychosis, a downward demonic spiral, even for the survivors.
House Amok therefore is as much a toxic family fable as it is a tale of shared delusion and the darkness that lurks so easily beneath the surface of mankind. The series is a rollicking horror story and a warning about the dangers of a herd mentality, and one that should be read by every horror comics buff… just maybe not around the rest of the family.
House Amok is available now, from IDW Publishing.