Review by Frank Plowright
Graveneye begins with what will be assumed to be the standard foreboding narrative voice often used for horror stories, but Sloane Leong’s smarter than that. It’s only a couple of pages in that she reveals the narrator to be the remote old house occupied by the feral Ilsa and her newly appointed maid Marie. It’s an indication that as Graveneye continues it may seem to supply the commonplace on occasion, but actually dives far deeper.
Readers may resist recognition of that to start with as the sugar coating is Anna Bowles’ art, which is not at all the traditional horror form, supplying full figures, but with cartoon exaggeration. It’s extremely impressive in contrasting the more timid Marie with Ilsa’s savage needs. When it comes to the house itself, the third main character, Bowles applies a structure to the construction, which is both observer and enclosure.
Leong shows early that Ilsa is a monster, and as we know what Marie doesn’t, the instruction not to venture into the basement hangs a terror over everything that follows. Although it may not seem to be the case at the start, Graveneye is very character-based. There’s a perversity about the narration, the house relishing Ilsa’s excess and sharing a love of blood, almost fetishistically gloating about having cut Marie’s hand, and its goading narration is also voyeuristic. Ilsa and Marie, while complete opposites, each fascinate the other. Marie is drawn to the darkness she senses within Ilsa, searching out clues as to her activities, and seemingly excited by horrific discoveries, while Ilsa is puzzled by an attraction to someone so weak whose life she could snuff out in an instant. Very gradually we learn more about Marie, and why Ilsa’s strength and capacity to face death is so attractive to her, and the more secrets are laid bare, the more unpleasant Graveneye becomes.
It’s all very clever with a deep dark mood established exceptionally well, leading to a final chapter of what is a form of very familiar horror given a new twist for being set up meticulously. It’s a grim, extended finale to a story exploiting the simmering emotional tensions of the best horror, and giving them a new life. You won’t forget Graveneye in a hurry.