Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Review - The Bedeviled by Thomas Cullinan

My second favorite Clint Eastwood film is the 1971 Gothic tale The Beguiled, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Cullinan. Director Sofia Coppola remade the film in 2017, and, though it wasn’t nearly as good as the original film, I still liked it. I had never got my hands on a copy of the 1966 novel until Penguin Books published a new edition to tie-in with the remake. Unfortunately, I have never gotten around to reading the book, but it’s on my to-be-read list.

Thomas Cullinan (1919 - 1995) was a playwright, television screenwriter, and the author of four novels - The Beguiled, The Besieged, The Eighth Sacrament, and The Bedeviled. The latter, published in 1978, was his only venture into horror. Valancourt Books reprinted the novel (Paperback * Kindle) with a brand-new cover in 2019. The ebook was on sale for a limited time on Kindle for $2.99 earlier this month. I had no plans of reading it right away, but thanks to a few sleepless nights, I ended up devouring Cullinan’s dark Gothic possession story.

Set in 1976, The Bedeviled centers on Maggie Caine, her husband Jack, their teenage son Duff, and their daughter Franny. After losing his job, Jack believes the best step the family can do is to put their New York home up for sale or rent and move to his family’s farmhouse in Ohio. While Jack and the kids love the idea, Maggie doesn’t care much for living in the middle of nowhere, especially with a creepy cemetery on the property. Shortly after arriving at the farmhouse, Jack falls and breaks his hip, leaving the family no other choice but to live in the farmhouse for the immediate future.

On the same night of Jack’s accident, Duff attempted to molest Franny, who’s now scared to death of him. Later, Duff assaults their father’s live-in nurse, Stephanie, and attacks a classmate at his new school. While Maggie confronts him about his actions, he acts like nothing has happened. Maybe it’s his hormones? Or maybe it has something to do with the spirit of his great-great-grandfather, General Duffin Caine? Whatever the reason is, Maggie will go to desperate measures to protect her family.

Final Thoughts

I have always loved well-written ghost stories with a Gothic atmosphere, and The Bedeviled falls into that genre. Told from the point-of-view of Maggie Caine (the wife and mother of this story), the first chapter hints about the grim ending. The narrative sucked me in by the end of page one, and little did I know then that I was about to enter a world of Civil War ghosts, the occult, incest, possessions, and murders.

The Bedeviled is a sick and twisted story, and I loved reading every word. Thomas Cullinan weaved together the right blend of Southern Gothic, horror, and family drama. I'm surprised Hollywood has never attempted to adapt it; though it would never be as good as the book.

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