A Review of Adam Nevill’s Last Days
Dem Bones, dem Bones . . . A 2012 supernatural novel by British author, Adam Nevill, Last Days
is a page-turner, a cautionary scare fest about what can happen when you trade your free will to be part of a group. The story shifts between 2011 and the late sixties.
Ah, the sixties, a time of free love and brotherhood.
They gave us raised consciousness, flower power, great music and Twiggy. The sixties also brought us riots, a raging war in Viet Nam and Charlie Manson.
In 1969 London, The Last Gathering was in its third year.
Guided by Sister Katherine, The Gathering was a community of young people searching for a meaningful life. Sadly, all that peace and love went away when Sister Katherine changed her soothing tune. Then came the ghosts and “presences.” People started having out-of-body dreams. And those teary confessions made in therapy group? Sister Katherine, the bitch, kept records. No one could leave. Eventually, Katherine dubbed her flock “The Temple of the Last Days.” And they were. In 1975 the cult died in an orgy of murder and suicide.
Now, it’s 2011 in London. “Have you ever heard of Sister Katherine and The Temple of the Last Days?” asks movie producer, Max Solomon.
“Yes.” Kyle answers. Kyle is a guerrilla filmmaker, specializing in documentaries that highlight the bizarre and the supernatural. “Last Days,” Kyle knows, was a Manson-like cult, ending in the 1975 death of most of the flock and the beheading of their leader, Sister Katherine.
Max wants Kyle to make a documentary about the Last Days.
Kyle knows there’s something “off” about Max, but Kyle is in debt. Each cult survivor is to be interviewed at a location once occupied by the cult. Reluctantly, Kyle accepts. And Max makes the calls.
Quicker than you can say Gloria Swanson, Kyle’s first subject, Susan, arrives at the old house where it all started.
As Susan uses high drama to begin her account of the cult, Kyle and Dan, Kyle’s cinematographer, stifle a laugh. The flower child has wilted into a bony old crone. As Susan remembers the peace she found in the early days, her eyes shine. But when she recalls the change in Katherine, the “presences,” the dreams and the Last Days, it’s no longer funny.
After Susan leaves, it grows dark.
As Kyle and Dan begin recording footage of the empty rooms, they hear sounds—bumps, footsteps, shrieks and growls. Something has entered the house, something with teeth. Terrorized, they scramble out the front door and into the night air.
In his shabby flat, Kyle reviews his footage, hoping that what had scared him was all in his head.
It wasn’t. The camera caught a stain on a wall, an image of something bony. There was also a shadow, “ . . . a pair of haggard legs beneath a shriveled groin . . .” Does he want to continue the project? Dedicated to his craft, of course Kyle does and Dan agrees.
Nevill’s account of the filmmaking process impresses, making credible Kyle’s commitment to his film in the face of mounting danger.
The next interview is Brother Gabriel at a deserted French farmhouse. Things go south, especially when Kyle enters Sister Katherine’s boudoir. The merde really hits the fan. Along with seeing lots of stains, Kyle feels something touch him.
He discovers that he’s been tagged. He is “it“ (bony stain-wise), a marked man.
Though fascinated by what he learns, Kyle is repulsed, scared for his life and afraid to sleep. His dreams have become a front row seat to the bony stain games of Katherine’s little angels.
After confronting Max about the mess Max has dumped on them, Kyle begins to dream of a hellish landscape, full of death and hunger.
Stalked by nightmarish creatures bent on his death, or worse, taking him permanently into the awful landscape of his dreams, Kyle begins a frantic attempt to save himself. But from what? What is Max not telling him? Why does Dan still think it’s all in Kyle’s head?
They fly to Seattle to interview Martha, a former member and tabloid “It” girl whose beauty has faded into grim middle age.
Martha reflects on the cruelty members inflicted upon each other to gain favor. She wonders why. A look at the social media doings of any group of middle schoolers might answer Martha’s question.
Determined to finish the film, Kyle swings from excitement to despair.
Then Dan disappears. Remorseful for having exposed his friend to danger, Kyle accuses Max of using them as pawns. Max tells Kyle that he and Max can survive by working together to destroy something hidden in a hell on earth, where the Last Days goes on and on.
Months after reading Last Days, I found myself rereading and enjoying it.
On a personal note, should I discover any suspicious wall stains, they can say hello to my little friends, soft scrub and Mr. Clean.