Barker’s a head hopper. This technique distracts me. But with that said, I love The Yattering and Jack. A terrifying view of hell, for me, consists of chaos, but adding in bureaucracy humanizes monsters and forces them into the confines of the mundane world of status, education, jobs, rules and structure--the world of humans--and creates comedy. However, Barker realizes this and uses the humor to add color and depth to his story.
Part of the depth presents the question, who was the monster? To answer this, I consider the idea of “the other,” which basically determines that the Yattering (which makes sense because he’s the demon and all) is the monster to Jack but also, inversely, Jack is a monster to the Yattering. Jack is a victim, but so is the Yattering. The Yattering doesn’t want to be there and hates Jack. Even though Jack is human, he’s in on the game, knows the rules, and puts up a fight. The Yattering, as demonic as he might seem, is presented with the same terms of defeat: the descent into madness. The Yattering loses, and in his moment of frenzy, breaks the rules of the game and becomes Jack’s servant.
Barker plays with notions of terrifying. Two clear examples spring to my mind from this story. The first regards the climax, in which I was laughing while I read. The Yattering makes a Christmas turkey dance around the kitchen, then proceeds to spin everything in the living room until each item combusts. Being assaulted by dead poultry and shrapnel from an explosive Christmas tree do no terrify me, and I don’t believe Barker intended to do so. He meant to make light of a terrifying situation, a poltergeist, to add a unique spin and interpretation to the subject. He succeeded.
The second example of Barker playing with the notion of what’s terrifying concerns the Yattering’s character change. At the beginning, the Yattering is a sexual deviant causing mayhem and wanting to be promoted in his career. After losing his temper, losing the battle, he quickly changes and gets described in innocent terms (tail between his legs and childlike eyes), as if he’s just misunderstood. I thought this was hysterical. Not only can humans beat monsters, but we present a fate worse than boring day jobs, literally, a fate worse than hell. Again, Barker succeeds in making readers question the norms of horror.
So, Jack suffered, fought back, and won, giving a hopeful message to readers. I appreciate that because without some structure, some basis for the protagonist to succeed, the story is pointless and hopeless--I feel as if I wasted my time reading along. On the other hand, too much structure can cause a piece to become comical, but Barker knew what he was doing and played up the comedy in the story, mixing it elegantly with the horror. Head hopping aside, this was a fun yarn. Well done, Mr. Barker. Well done.