I read this book for the first time two years ago and was floored at how much I enjoyed something that was outside of my “preferred genre”. I was swept up in how vivid and realistic (or at the very least, plausible) everything was: characters’ actions, motivations, reactions to violence, and the violence itself. Having no experience with cannibals I cannot comment as to their authenticity.
The plot isn’t what makes this book great. It isn’t so different from what people have seen before: young couples rent an isolated cabin in the woods and get hunted down and brutalised by a crazy family of feral cannibals. If you’ve ever read a few horror novels or seen a few horror movies this isn’t really outside the norm. For me what sets this book apart is how gruesome and grotesque it is without being over the top or simply being a vehicle for psycho, cartoon violence.
Reading it the second time around I really noticed the Jack Ketchum’s gift for setting an incredible rhythm, a pace where the story doesn’t creep along or where the violence doesn’t rush in and overtake you completely (as I find is the case with a lot of horror). Everything seems measured and controlled; the opposite of the torture porn that seems to be the hot thing in horror now.
Violence to showcase the author or filmmaker’s ability to show just how disgusting they can be is boring. Aiming to shock someone (especially at the expense of plot) is lazy and dreary. Off Season delivers shocks and thrills without anything ever feeling compromised or inorganic.