You know those stories about the zombie apocalypse where there’s some humor and features a couple of zombies you almost feel sorry for or think are cute?
Yeah. This ain’t that.
Highway to Hell is a 74-page novella written by extreme horror writer Armand Rosamilia. Yes, I know it was published nearly two years ago, but I’m just now getting around to writing about it, so it’s new to me.
Rosamilia has done an interesting thing with this little piece of disturbing genre literature: He’s redefined one of the most popular storylines in horror today. It’s like completely changing the vampire myth to make it possible for said bloodsucker to be out during the day. And sparkle. But not suck. Figuratively. Or literally? Fuck, I don’t know. I haven’t worked this out completely and I’ve been drinking.
With the popularity of The Walking Dead and movies like Zombieland and 28 Days/Weeks/Months etc., the dystopian nightmare that is the dead rising from their graves and taking over the world has become a little played out. But in the first couple pages of Highway, Rosamilia changes the game. How?
He’s not called an “extreme horror” writer for nothing. In the very first pages of the story, when zombies are fisting their victim and violating them in the most brutal, sexually-depraved manner possible, it’s safe to say this isn’t your father’s zombie story. Some authors, especially horror authors, will attempt to go for the shock value and ride the story on that and that only. Rosamilia is different, however.
His characters are relateable. You feel empathy for them. You understand them. You get them. As a reader, you can understand their bravado and at the same time, their insecurities. These are real people. Zombie apocalypse stories are nothing new at all. While, in my opinion, Max Brooks did it best with World War Z, what Rosamilia has done in a very short span has made the reader not only feel a kinship with the protagonists, his style of writing truly makes you want to know what’s going to happen next.
And then there’s the zombie rape. The cannibalism portrayed in the vast majority of zombie movies focuses on a longstanding worldwide taboo. What Highway to Hell has done has made a zombie attack feel even more personal. It’s safe to say, most people don’t feel they will ever be a victim of a cannibal, especially one who intends to dine upon you whilst you still live. Rape and sexual assault, however, is a different animal. The idea of being violated in that manner is something real, something tangible. While it’s a base fear many women have, it’s something men are terrified of in a very dark place they rarely, if ever, speak of. The rape of a woman is horrible. The rape of a man is, in that man’s mind, horrible, unnatural, and nearly impossible to ever recover from. That is what makes Rosamilia’s story all the more terrifying. The idea of being eaten alive is gruesome; the idea of having your genitalia and various orifices violated in as graphic, gruesome manner as possible is truly disquieting.
Rosamilia isn’t for everyone. I equate what he does to music, specifically metal. If someone tells you they’re a metal fan, more often than not, they’re talking about Metallica, Slipknot, Godsmack, and maybe, maybe, Slayer. When you bring up bands like Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore, Cattle Decapitation, et. al., that “metal” fan is looking at you like you just ate the head off a kitten. Rosamilia’s writings are like those latter bands. He’s not for everyone, but if you can get past the squeamishness of the subject matter, you will be entertained.