Joe Hill might not be as prolific a writer as his papa, Stephen King, but arguably is gifted with an even more prodigious imagination. Works such as Heart-Shaped Box, Locke and Key, and “Faun” demonstrate Hill’s knack for crafting wonderfully inventive horror and dark fantasy narratives. Hill also gives clever twists to King classics such as IT and The Stand in the epic novels NOS4A2 and The Fireman. His latest effort, The Pram, ventures into Pet Sematary territory, and conveys a strong King vibe as it takes a mundane object–the titular baby stroller–and transforms it into a source of utter dreadfulness.
Mentally reeling from a miscarriage, Brooklyn couple Willy and Marianne Halpenny relocate to rural Maine. Leading from their new home and into the woods is a bridle path bordered by overarching yew trees planted by a peculiarly old-fashioned religious movement called the Covenant of the Sorrowful Leaf. As Willy traverses the sublime space of this eldritch tree-tunnel, he indulges his festering resentment–his anger at God and the universe over the loss of his unborn child. More disturbingly, he begins to hear the sound of a baby cooing within the derelict pram he borrows from the local country-store owner to transport his purchases home. Hill’s tale strikes a perfect balance here between domestic drama, psychological disintegration, and folk horror. Creepiness steadily crescendoes (the remote, American Gothic setting features gypsy moth cocoons and a mutilated raccoon), and the narrative builds to perhaps the most harrowing climax since the night Gage Creed shambled home from the Micmac Burying Ground.
The Pram (free for Prime subscribers, or available as a 99-cent Kindle download) launches Amazon’s new Creature Feature collection today, and gets the weeklong series off to a rousing, hair-raising start.