[Book Review] The Cruel Cultism of Adam Nevill’s ‘Last Days’

LastDays

Acclaimed UK horror novelist Adam Nevill follows up last year’s American debut (The Ritual) with a brand new foray into the twisted world of religious cults. In Last Days, struggling filmmaker Kyle is offered a considerable amount of money to shoot a documentary about The Temple of the Last Days, a once popular religious cult that self-destructed in the 1970s. After decades of silence, several members of the cult are ready to revisit locations and offer detailed accounts of their twisted experience, and Kyle is expected to shoot it all. Eleven days, six locations, three countries…100,000 pounds.

With the assistance of best buddy cinematographer Dan and reclusive editor Finger Mouse, Kyle agrees to take on the project. But as he delves deeper and deeper into the history of The Temple of the Last Days, the cult’s twisted secrets threaten to tear his world apart. With Last Days, Neville has crafted a genuinely scary story full of nerve-jangling moments…even if it runs a bit long at 500+ pages.

St. Martin’s Griffin will release Last Days in the U.S. on February 26. Read on for the full review.

In the acknowledgments preceding Last Days, author Adam Nevill cites the many sources he consulted when crafting his tale of a modern-day cult. From the sects of Medieval Europe (The Pursuit of the Millennium) to the mass–suicide orchestrating Jim Jones, (The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People), to Stalinist tyranny (Koba the Dread), Mormon fundamentalism (Under the Banner of Heaven), and Charlie Manson’s family (Helter Skelter), Neville’s nefarious Temple of the Last Days is a hulking, Frankenstein monster of a cult seemingly constructed out of the worst parts of history.

The crafty Nevill builds suspense by revealing the cult’s evil progression through the eyes of his protagonist Kyle, an acclaimed but financially unsuccessful documentary filmmaker. As Kyle visits each location, he narrates the grim historical details of The Temple of Last Days, and with each subsequent chapter the true depth of the cult’s depravity is revealed. Under the thumb of manipulative leader Sister Katherine, the members progressed from wife-swapping, to rape, and eventually to murder. The children were even raised in a barn with dogs, under the theory that dehumanized children would be more conducive to possession. But possessed by what? Not Satan, necessarily. During the mysterious Night of Ascent––the night the cult was ultimately destroyed––some serious shit went down. And Kyle, though simultaneously skeptical and scared, has agreed to film every dirty revelation…even if he loses his own soul in the process.

There’s nothing like scaring the shit out of a couple of skeptics, and there are moments in Last Days that are so frightening, it feels like Neville is giving your heart a bare-handed squeeze. And as a rudimentary crash course in the art of guerrilla filmmaking, Last Days is top notch. At the same time, Nevill has a tendency to pad out his story with repeated information and overly detailed dream sequences. It still ranks as pretty great stuff, but a 100-page weight loss would tighten the pacing and flex the frights. Sometimes a good editor makes all the difference.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Skulls

  • Send-More-Cops

    I thought this was a pretty excellent book that really kind of fell apart once it hit its third act. For me, it boiled down to introducing a character who, while little more than an ancillary thing designed to move the plot toward the conclusion, killed all of the momentum that Nevill spent so much of the book building with believable characters. While I was really disappointed to have the book derail so quickly, it’s a pretty wonderful read otherwise.

    • Ryan Daley

      I agree with all of that. Definitely some third act problems there.

  • PedJun

    I haven’t read this one yet, but I already have it here waiting. However, I loved his previous book, The Ritual, which was amazing even though it wasn’t very easy to read and it was also a bit too long. But it was very, very good, though.
    Oh, and good review (even if I only read it diagonally because of spoiler alerts…)