Il Popolo Rosso, review of Adam Nevill's new folk-horror

Il Popolo Rosso, review of Adam Nevill's new folk-horror

Il Popolo Rosso

The Red People, Adam Nevill's folk-horror novel, is the shattered idyll of apparently peaceful bucolic lands, regurgitating the unspeakable horrors of ancient secrets. A chilling work published in Italy by Watson Edizioni, which closes around the reader a suffocating web of ancestral horrors and ritual practices that have survived millennia. A reinterpretation of the Lovecraftian cosmic horror, which insinuates itself into the two protagonists imprisoned, despite themselves, in the trap woven by a community that does not accept strangers, strongly anchored to a past of brutal traditions. The art of telling horror is at its best in The Red People by Adam Nevill, former author of The Ritual from which the homonymous feature film available on Netflix was based. We tell you about his new work here.

Blood Red Caves

In Brickburgh, a town in Devon, things are about to change. When Matt Hull flies over the coast on the wings of his hang glider, he notices something unusual from above: the mouth of a cave, which he decides to explore. Inside, man finds evidence of an ancestral cult of mysterious divinities painted on the walls, and hundreds of animal and human bones in equal measure. The discovery draws archeologists from all over, unearthing brutal and unspeakable prehistoric practices. Anyone who dares to investigate too much, however, vanishes into thin air.

Katrine, a fashion and lifestyle journalist, has recently moved near Brickburgh to escape from a painful past in London. Recent discoveries on her coast leave her so upset that they cause her vivid and horrifying nightmares, which tie in inextricably to rumors of a possible drug ring that she would rationally explain why so many people are mysteriously disappearing. Like Lincoln, Helene's brother who jumped off a bridge six years ago and whose body has never been found: like others, he had come too close to the Brickburgh Caves, recording its gruesome sounds on CD. This is why Helene, the single mother of a six-year-old girl, intends to investigate and find out what really happened to her brother, unexpectedly tying her life to Katrine's while both are trapped in the web that the "red people" always hold. more around them.

There is no escape, from The Red People

Suffocating and claustrophobic, despite the wide and majestic setting of Devon with its cliffs, beaches, the hills, the land that host the farms, even the vast skies flown over by hang gliding. Thus it is possible to define Il Popolo Rosso, which through its two unfortunate protagonists transmits the constant feeling that there is no escape. From the narrow corridors of caves that have become ossuaries over the centuries, the only silent witnesses of nameless barbarism; to the interiors of houses and farms where it is not possible to find a hiding place from the lurking threat from the frightening "red people". Adam Nevill's novel does exactly what a horror novel should: it terrifies the reader by squeezing the characters it narrates in a suffocating grip, made up of the same retrograde community, even with subjects conniving at unexpected levels of society.

In the folk declination given by the author, the oppressive sensation of a threat always lurking, of which anyone among the characters encountered by the protagonists on their path could be the author, is a constant that accompanies the climate traditionalist, strongly reactionary, in which events take place. Strangers are not welcome (and they find out the hard way with horrific outcomes). At village festivals the values ​​of the past and traditions are flaunted as indestructible banners. Progress and the future try to use the past and supplant it when new houses and new services arise in the area, after the sensational discovery of archaeological finds. In vain. Since only the shining facade of a rot so rooted in the territory that it is its true lord and master.

How much dare you go deep?

The Red People who give the novel its title is the horror (although not the only and not the most dangerous, paradoxically) that lurks in this locality in Devon, crawls unseen and carries out its atrocities by attracting anyone who has the misfortune to discover its macabre practices. It is the Midsommar community. It is the village of Innsmouth. Precisely in this latter regard, Adam Nevill's novel proves to be more Lovecraftian than he would have us believe. The horrors resulting from the uncovering of an ancient Pandora's box are imbued with a mystery so deep and inaccessible to the protagonists, that it sucks up their awareness like a black hole of frightening misunderstanding. It is the cosmic horror that, from the stars beyond known space, finds its place in The Red People in the cavernous and remote depths of the earth itself: unknowable to the core, keepers of secrets that no healthy enough mind should ever access, are the cause. of man's madness or realization of being just an infinitesimal grain of sand in the immense hourglass that makes up time.

Here were remains that all too clearly reminded her of being just a particle on a huge piece of rock formed by collisions and monumental processes, in the distant deep space, which occurred billions of years ago.

The three-dimensionality of the work is not discussed, which can be traced not only in the atmospheres and in the narrative of ancestral horror in a small and retrograde community, but also in the two protagonists. Katrine and Helene are not two mere scream queens who suffer the assaults of their attackers. They are two authentic women, each with a painful experience, forced to spend every last shred of their strength to cope with the terrifying madness in which they found themselves immersed. With the realism of struggling, struggling, even making mistakes, the two protagonists fight (each in her own way) to escape the horrors of the "red people" and represent a small masterpiece of characterization. To them, we owe the most adrenaline and claustrophobic sequences, when they are not in horribly gruesome situations that force them to witness unspeakable practices.

On the level of human knowability and madness , Nevill basically tells of a fall from the height of his knowledge on the world: the one that Katrine and Helene do, who for a long time cannot accept what is happening in their lives constantly looking for a rational explanation. A fall well represented also by a secondary but decisive character: Matt Hull, hang glider who embodies a modern Icarus, flying high over the skies of Devon and then plunging into a destructive spiral caused by the "red people" after seeing, below, how much it should have remained hidden from all prying people (If you get it wrong, you end up in the sea and you are dead, remember Hull as he flies). The editing of the work, on the other hand, can be decidedly improved, with a large number of repetitions accompanied by typos. A big pity, considering that the translation seems to be excellent even in the presence of dialogues that include deliberately incorrect slang and syntax in the "rural" language of the red people, still profoundly ignorant. Something that we are sure can be solved, after the first publication of Il Popolo Rosso, with subsequent reprints.

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