Tiffany Yeager -Staff Writer
John Darnielle’s horror, fiction novel “Universal Harvester” first appeared on bookshelves in February 2017. In this story, mysterious home video clips somehow end up on VHS tapes in a movie rental shop. As one of the workers at Video Hut, Jeremy Heldt, receives various complaints from movie renters and eventually becomes engulfed in the mystery of these disturbing clips.
Upon the first customer complaint, Jeremy doesn’t really think much of the comment. However, after two similar complaints in two days, he starts to wonder about the specifics of the faulty VHS tapes. Taking the tapes that were complained about, Jeremy watches each one thoroughly, looking for any sign of error.
The first movie appears to be perfectly fine until the screen cuts to black. After a few seconds of nothing, a black and white video appears in place of the film. This creepy home video clip lasts for about four minutes and shows barely any movement at all. He rewinds the movie, replaying the scene a few more times, and tries to grasp its meaning. The contents of the clip make Jeremy uneasy and he finally turns it off, trying unsuccessfully to get it out of his mind.
After finding a different disturbing clip on the second film, Jeremy turns to his friend Stephanie for advice. Stephanie watches the clips with Jeremy and immediately dives into an investigation. She wants to know who made the clips, how they got on these tapes and why they were put there.
Stephanie watches these ominous clips many times. Coming to the conclusion that each clip was made at the same place, she starts researching right away. Stephanie figures out the location where the clips were filmed and excitedly tells Jeremy about her discoveries. It becomes apparent, however, that Jeremy wants nothing to do with the mysterious home movies anymore.
Eventually Jeremy notifies Sarah Jane, his boss, about the faulty tapes. She, too, becomes interested in the eerie clips somehow embedded onto these VHS tapes. When Sarah finds out about the location that Stephanie originally discovered, she becomes the first of the three to visit the farm house in Collins.
The story starts to change, as perspectives and narrators switch throughout the book. You learn about the owner of the farm house where all these clips were filmed. The novel takes you through the beginning of Lisa Sample’s life, her parents’ history and leads up to the end of the book where you finally find out exactly what these clips are and why they were made.
A very short and easy read, “Universal Harvester” tells such a unique and interesting story in so few pages. The details given about each character and their lives, both past and present, make it such an intriguing novel.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in reading a smaller stories with strange mysteries.