Deep Level: Richard E. Rock

I’ve read many a horror tale or two and the first thing that struck me about Richard E. Rock’s “Deep Level” was its focus on the characters. I really like that. I like it that we care very much about what happens to the people who become netted in the web of horror – and Rock’s web is pretty vile. It plays on our fears of the dark, of enclosed spaces, of rats and of spiders. Overlaid by our concern for the four people who end up having to confront them, true horror is made.

Deep Level starts off as an urban exploration adventure, into the bowels of the London underground. Rich, a narcissitic, borderline sociopath – takes three female friends with him down into its furthest level, bricked-off because someone in the past realised a deep malevolence lived within. But Rich, intent on fortune and recognition, wants to uncover its secrets and video their – his – discoveries.

A gruesome stage is set, yet Rock manages to make each character totally believable through flashbacking into their lives and what brought them to this place. Some of the motivations are quite complex and are delivered in very relateable dialogue. Rock cares for his creations, made obvious in how he weaves in their backstories. I would have liked these to have been over with by the time they grappled with their demons, though. I think they were included in order to intensify the horror – real people involved in real events. Personally, it threw me out of the narrative at times. It’s a balancing act.

Overall, it was fab – and I’d have loved more, especially if greater time had been given to the club, where the true evil lay. Bones for a prequel, perhaps?

Four friends. Hidden tunnels. Deep secrets revealed.

‘Slowly, gingerly, they crept back down the stairway, one step at a time. As they neared the bottom, they turned their head torches towards the end of the tunnel and the platform beyond, and then all sense of reality left them.’

When Rich stumbles upon a secret Victorian underground network, he sees not only a great historical discovery, but also a way out of his humdrum life. He convinces three of his friends to join him, and together, they venture deep into the maze of tunnels beneath London’s bustling streets.

A rude girl made good. An aspiring writer. A cinema usher from Wales. A bookseller who dreams of being an urban explorer. Four friends trapped together in one nightmarish situation as they realise some things are kept secret for a reason.

Will any of them manage to escape the horror that lurks in the Deep Level?

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