Points of Light Halloween Edition: Locke and Key
Welcome back, as we pop open another coffin, and peer inside for some more ghoulish writings. Today, our work takes us into the dark world of Lovecraft, MA, and the haunted Locke family estate, in the world of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s graphic series, Locke and Key.
Note: This review will only focus on the first four volumes of LAK, as I haven’t not yet finished the series.
Locke and Key is the story of the Locke family (mother Nina, and her three children, Tyler, Kinsey, and Boyd). After the gruesome murder of their father, the family moves to their ancestral home of Keyhouse in the town of Lovecraft. There, the children slowly uncover the dark secrets of their house and their father’s past, as they discover magical keys scattered throughout the house. Each key holds a special power (separating a spirit from its body, erasing memories, controlling shadows, and switching genders). But the children are also hunted by a boy named Zach and a creature called the Dodge, which both seek the house’s greatest secrets- The Omega Key, and the Black Door, which combined will release all the demons of hell.
What Writers Can Learn: Character Building/Drama, Myth-building, Mystery
Locke and Key might be based in magic and supernatural forces, but its greatest strength is its strong characters. The Locke family is a group of people that manages to grab sympathy and disgust from the readers. Nina is a self-pitying alcoholic, still mourning the death of her husband, which has damaged her relationship with her children. There is an especially dramatic scene where Nina finds a key that can repair damaged objects, and attempts to use it on her husband’s ashes. The resulting failure causes a further rift between her children and herself, as the readers both pity her and are disgusted by her inability to move on from her grief. But ironically, that grief has had both a negative and positive impact on her children. While all three still suffer from their father’s murder (Tyler feels guilt over their last conversation, Kinsey cannot forget the fear she felt while hiding from the murderer, and Bode is simply too young to fully grasp the growing rifts in his family), it also causes them to bond. When Bode proves the power of the keys to his siblings, they are quick to work together to find a solution (albeit with some misuse- Kinsey uses a key to literally remove the emotion of fear, Tyler tries to impress a girl with another), they work to keep the keys safe and protect each other when the Dodge begins to attack. Because of this, we are given glimpses of real family drama mixed in with the supernatural for a more memorable and gripping tale.
Of course, the supernatural element needs to be as strong as the characters, and we are certainly given that with the mystic keys. Not only are the keys’ powers unique (how many stories have a key that can make someone a giant, or make music into an irresistible suggestion), but they are the driving force of the whole story. The children discover the keys one by one around the house, and there is never a pattern or reason to their discovery. For example, the Giant Key is found as part of the floor in one room, while the Animal Key is found in a frozen birdbath. So every story brings the chance of new discovery. But at the same time, the keys unlock more than new powers; they work to unlock more of the puzzle of their origins.
Through their dealings with Zach, The Dodge, their schoolmates, and their exploration of the house, the children learn that their father was part of a group that originally dealt with the keys and was responsible for sealing the door, scattering the keys, and imprisoning the Dodge. So in discovering the keys and dealing with the Dodge, the children are also presented with a rare chance to connect with their father after he has passed on. However, that mystery is made more urgent by the constant threats the keys place on their lives, so this is a mystery that must be solved on pain of death and the end of the world the price of failure.
While LAK might not be an outright horror story, it never shies away from blood and gore in its mysterious tale, without resorting to slasher-level madness. Instead, it brings together family drama and a supernatural drama, linking them so that one simply does not have impact without the other. This makes for a rich story that can demonstrate both genres effectively, appealing to authors that desire tales of the paranormal, or of a family in pain learning to piece things together. It also shows a talent that every writer should try for- creating a story that can weave itself slowly and effectively. A good horror film makes the viewer addicted- needing to watch for the horror and being unable to turn away, no matter how long it takes. Poor horror films, like poor stories, make the horror obvious, with no questions for the viewer expect for when something will pop up. LOK unfurls its dark wings slowly, entrancing us not only with horror, but a family in turmoil and a supernatural mystery to boot.
Next week, the Halloween series comes to end, and to close the crypt, we’ll be reciting a few childhood stories. But these stories removes the sparkle and adds some long removed blood. But until then, children of the night, enjoy the music.