Maggots (UK: Arrow Books, 1986)
Tagline: "The squirming menace..."
Let’s get right into the wormy meat of this one and
praise the cover. If you’re a fan of creepy-crawly horror,
someone who likes their pulp served up red and juicy
with more than a dash of graphic exploitation, you’ve got
to love this artwork. This is the sort of offering that came
out of the UK back in the horror boom of the 1980’s.
Unlike the more conservative American publishers of the
time, the Brits went for the throat. No subtlety, no pretension; just pure
unadulterated grue. And that’s what made these books so collectible to us back in
the days of yore (and even more so now).
The story. Well, you’ve pretty much guessed it, but let me enlighten you. Millions,
billions of mutant maggots are pouring out of the earth, engulfing people,
engulfing animals, engulfing entire towns. Enough said. Jarvis starts us out
slowly, seeing no need to overdue things…at least not just yet. What’s a book
about maggots without a little subtlety, eh? In the first chapter we see “a living
miniature mountain of convoluting, wriggling maggots” that are discovered in a
shed chewing up a hedgehog. By the end of the chapter, it’s on to bigger and
better things as, a few miles away, a removal man steps into an empty house and:
“Covering the entire floor, from wall to wall, lay a writhing mass of maggots.
Together, in the mass, they were shin-deep, squirming and wriggling in their
millions, in their billions, in their trillions.”
Well, he soon regrets stepping into the house at all because it’s seriously Maggot
Central and, like a hunk of meat in a shark tank, he’s the only red-blooded beef
handy, so mutant maggots being mutant maggots, he finds himself:
“…watching in wild-eyed wonderment (as) his own body (was) being attacked and
devoured by the maggots…(they) flowed up his lower legs and engulfed his torso
even as he stood, on bloody stumps now…”
So you get where Jarvis is going with this. I should caution you at this point that
these maggots are disgusting. The ones out in your garbage can are, too, but you’
ve never faced as many as the poor characters in this book have. The result is
that they vomit. A lot. There’s so much projectile vomiting going on, you can
almost smell the hot puke as you turn the pages. If you don’t believe me, check
“…his bulky frame threshing convulsively to the great jets of vomit that left his
body in jerking, kicking eruptions…”
Now that, people, is vomiting. This isn’t your common flu-inspired spewing or
blowing chunks out in the alley after you washed down Captain Morgan with
shots of Mezcal (the worm in the bottle spraying out of your left nostril along with
your stomach contents). This is maggot-inspired puking. And you can’t blame the
characters. A woman gets eaten alive in a shower by maggots. A young couple is
devoured when a scenic waterfall becomes a maggotfall. There’s a maggot
volcano. People die after eating maggot burgers and maggot pie. Bangkok
becomes a swamp of maggots. Rome is under maggot-siege. Moscow’s Red
Square is drowning beneath maggot tidal waves. Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave
disgorges billions and billions of the crawly little bastards. And let’s not forget the
obligatory hot chick maggot-bath sequence or the Maggot-Eating Marathon.
Seriously, it seems that Jarvis had a good time writing this one. What starts as
horror edges steadily into dark satire and, finally, what amounts to a gross-out
contest and finally witty social satire. Jarvis doesn’t take his subject matter too
seriously, but, regardless, even those who might turn up their noses at a book of
this sort will get a few laughs off over this one.
Pros: This isn’t exactly a great book, but it’s a fun book and that cover is certainly
worth tracking it down for. A very inventive Maggot-a-thon on all counts.
Cons: Too bad Jarvis didn’t take this a little more seriously. Guy N. Smith would
have a had field day with this subject.
Overall: Not a bad way to spend a few hours. If you’ve got a strong stomach and a
sick sense of humor like me, you’ll have fun with this one.
3½ bloody skulls out of five.
For our next Guilty Pleasure, we discover:
"A new peak in horror..."