The Handyman Method
“a horror tale designed to scare the dickens out of the reader.”
When viewed from a distance, it all begins harmlessly enough.
Trent Saban and family are moving into their new home in Dunsany Estates. Trent is on compensatory leave after an incident in his workplace where a co-worker ‘went postal," and Trent saved the day by stepping in.
“The firm had tendered indefinite paid leave. ‘Call it a hero’s pension,’ were the HR delegate’s exact words. Old Man Tate promised to bring Trent back gradually, to make sure he wasn’t suffering any adverse psychological effects.”
What no one other than Trent knows if that he isn’t a hero, and his stopping what could’ve been a massacre was a complete accident, while he took credit where credit wasn’t due.
Trent is currently feeling a coward, of not being manly enough to actually fight a man gone berserk.
With that on his conscience, Trent and family have moved away from the notoriety and into a situation much more dangerous, though they’re as yet unaware, where his nonexistent courage will be put to a more frightening test.
Immediately, there’s trouble in Paradise when Trent discovers a large crack in the master bedroom closet, a “gruesome crack slashing up the closet wall.”
Already contemptuous of aid from the real estate agent, and his own stinging self-recrimination, Trent decides to repair the crack himself. And who does he turn to for help?
With some search engines and assists from Reddit home improvement forums, he discovers The Handyman Method, the perfect video channel for a man who knows nothing about home repair but is determined to prove he can do it as well as the next guy.
Host Hank the Handyman is friendly while reeking companionable masculinity. Soon Trent feels as if he’s being assisted by an old friend. He repairs that crack in nothing flat.
Meanwhile, son Milo has discovered his own puppet-like handyman in a YouTube clip called Little Boy Blue, with a creature capering about with toolbelt and hammer, echoing Hank’s words in childlike terms.
When other defects in the home appear, Trent becomes more enmired with their repair. He’s getting well-known at the home improvement store. The other customers call him by name. They commiserate. They trade tales of repair woes, and gradually more personal information. Trent gets into an actual fight with one of the other men. Video Handyman Hank begins calling Trent by name, egging him on when his wife asks him to do chores Hank considers “unmanly.” The YouTube segments become filled with salacious and vicious suggestions of what Hank should do to overly aggressive neighbors and wives who try to force their husbands into female-based niches.
By now, there are weird sounds in the wall, faint stirrings, and occasional glimpses of something hiding there. Milo’s pet turtle begins a nasty and deadly transformation. Milo is responding to suggestions made by Little Boy Blue as his father reacts to Hank’s taunts.
And then, the worst-case scenario happens. Someone dies at the Sabans’ new home.
“I can show you, too, T-Man.” Little Boy Blue tittered from the bloody drain. “Would you like to see what Ned saw?”
Father and son are slowly nudged toward a disaster not of their making, because of a bargain made long, long ago by people who swore to love and protect them.
Those with half a literary interest will immediately perk up their ears when the name of the subdivision is spotted: Dunsany Estates.
Cue the creepy music!
The moment Trent discovers the crack in the wall (which could well be a metaphor for the cracks already occurring in his life), things begin their downhill slide. There are so many inklings and warnings in this story, the reader may actually begin looking for them as he carries on.
With hints of Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home, and twinges of Robert McCammon’s Bethany’s Sin, the underlying horror is nevertheless much more deep and original.
By now, the reader will be dreading the outcome and probably trying to outguess the climax—and when the realization of what is actually happening comes?
You have to keep reading.
As for the themes of The Handyman Method?
Myriad. Take your pick.
It’s a tale of human alienation—or about tacking gender characteristics on individuals given no choice in the matter, the stereotype of how someone is expected to act as opposed to how they want to act—or is it a denunciation of parental irresponsibility?—or simply the writers’ attempt to write a horror tale designed to scare the dickens out of the reader?
Any or all of the above, it certainly does a bang-up job of the latter, while offering food for thought in the bargain.
Read it and see.
Kudos, Cutter and Sullivan!