Frontier life was horrific.
The realities of the stark land, the scarcity of food, the hunger, and the growing desperation and isolation set a perfect platform for the horror genre. In fact, conditions were already terrible enough that a supernatural element becomes almost superfluous.
But that’s what we get here in this reimagining of the Donner party. On their journey, a group of 90 settlers headed west get stuck in the snow and must survive a freezing, starving winter. Meanwhile, something monstrous in the woods is picking off their weak members and mutilating them, one by one.
The question is where the true terror lies. Are the creatures really the most terrible thing? Are the elements? Or is it the people themselves, when they inevitably turn on one another? Conflict is at every turn.
The story of the Donner party, even before this fictional retelling, is horrific enough that adding the supernatural element seems a bit like overkill. Watching your loved ones slowly (or quickly) die brutal deaths, knowing yours is forthcoming, provides enough material to fill a bookâ€¦ And actually has, several times over. Still, this addition to the Donner literary stable is a welcome one with new things to consider.
There’s a lot to digest here (pun intended).
With the expansive cast of characters, it’s tough at times to keep up with who is doing what, whose backstory fits in where, mentally build all of the family trees and their branches, and then pile monsters on top.
But oh, what a haunting tale this is. Man v. man and man v. nature conflicts within The Hunger both make the supernatural threat seem like a stroll in the park in comparison.