By Anne Rivers Siddons
Anne River Siddons is a contemporary writer better known for her fictional novels set in the south. However, her second novel The House Next Door is an exceptional story for the horror genre. It is said to be one of Stephen King’s top ten favorite horror novels. Any book Stephen King mentions as noteworthy I heed and read.
There are so many haunted house novels on the shelves of bookstores waiting to be plucked, but with limited time, it is necessary to distinguish the remarkable from the trite. Indeed, The House Next Door is an original story with a shocking revelation. Envision a haunted house; labyrinth of dark passage ways, stain glass windows, dusty ornate Victorian furniture, creaky floors that moan in pain is the conventional image of a ghastly house that bring dread to its occupants. Fear creeps into the hearts of neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy cause by a beautifully modern constructed home on a lush greenwood plot. The house is alluring, bright, illustrating the promise of a foundation to start a family, to sustain a family, but the house preys on weaknesses to achieve its ultimate goal, bleeding the happiness out of people; soon that will not suffice its desires.
It is obvious that the story is dated circa 1970s. For instance, there are no mobile phones. Social norms are apparently different giving a snapshot of the life in an affluent society of do-gooders. Siddons draws the reader into the world of the Kennedys. Mrs. Kennedy, Col narrates, informing the couple’s status quo and their psychological lucidity that dwindles in the peering eyes of their coequals.
Throughout the story, I ponder what is the cause for the house to have a baleful presence. It is this constant inquiry and the unfolding of dreadfully sexually charged events in each part of the book that kept me reading. The end is surprising and alarming that ultimately answers my question.
In 2006, The House Next Door was adapted to a television movie for the Lifetime network. It has received mix reviews. I have not seen it, but as many novels adapted to film, there has been significant changes to the plot. It will be airing on June 29th, at 6 p.m. on Lifetime.