“Sandcastle” is a refreshingly creepy sci-fi mystery set to words and pictures. This graphic novel, published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams ComicArts, lures you into quite a gripping tale. It fits right in with my current favorite summer movie , “The Conjuring.” It’s not set in a haunted house but it comes close. How about a haunted beach?
I’d love to see a graphic novel version of “The Conjuring,” by the way. It would slice and dice the story into something just as spooky if not more so. Your eyes rest on one panel, are pulled by one thing and then another. If the pacing is done right, you can easily slip into more than you bargained for. With drawings, you get an added sense of ambiguity. How, for instance, are you expected to know for sure that the kids back in the first set of panels have somehow changed? You can create this uncertainty with other mediums for sure but drawings carry their own special energy.
The story itself is right in tune with what we all seem to want to read these days while also having a timeless quality. There’s a certain hint of the Apocalypse mixed in here. There is also a “Twilight Zone” or “Lost” vibe. It’s a story involving a bunch of people that fate has thrown in together for a most extraordinary event, one they may not survive, one they are most likely not going to survive. And there’s a nice dash of the fantastical to make it all the more eerie.
It is a very understated story filled with very understated characters which can make for the best fiction. No one in this story is a hero or even all that likable. Even the most innocent or noble among them is less a shining example and more an average person pushed to the limits. That is a big theme here, being pushed to the limits. Just how much can one human being take? If a person is stretched far enough from what they know, have they lost their purpose, their will to live?
Without spoiling much of anything, the action is set into motion when a pretty young girl decides to disrobe and take a dip in the lake. As so often happens in life, her actions coincide with a most random person who is wandering about right at that moment. He’s a miserable looking man. He can’t help but find himself staring at the beautiful naked woman in the water. He didn’t plan to look in that direction but he couldn’t help himself. She, in turn, suddenly dies. And he is suddenly in a most dangerous position for an odd man out. He will quickly become a murder suspect. But that is only the beginning of the devilishly complicated horror that lies ahead.
This all told in a vividly cinematic way. That is much to the credit of writer Pierre Oscar Levy, a documentarian by trade. The translation by Nora Mahony is pitch perfect too. The art by Frederick Peeters is quite striking throughout, a blend of realism and cartoony embellishments. Many of the characters have severe features, coupled with severe temperaments, which Peeters takes delight in expressing in all its ghoulish beauty. These are mostly people who have already been beaten down by life and now they must deal with the worst beating they will ever get. It’s a wonderfully strange story.