The Roo: Alan Baxter
Reviewed By Ben Walker
For something that started out as a twitter gag, you might be worried that The Roo‘s jokey concept of a murderous kangaroo hopping around the Australian outback only goes so far. But like You Might be the Killer proved, get the right people involved and a few 140-character posts can become so much more. Alan Baxter’s glorious bloody novella does just that, starting out as a freaky monster movie before making a stand in support of victims of domestic violence. Along the way, you might notice a few familiar names, as both writers and reviewers of indie horror get dragged along for the ride, not all of whom stay intact.
A book about the outback wouldn’t be a genuine experience without some colourful local slang, and there’s plenty on offer here, to the point where you might feel a little lost. I’m a big fan of imported Aussie TV like Prisoner Cell Block: H and Let the Blood Run Free, so I was lapping it up, and I was especially glad to see “don’t come the raw prawn with me!” being used. Fortunately, for those who don’t know a dunny from a dag, there’s a glossary at the back.
The titular creature is less Kangaroo Jack and more Rawhead Rex, devouring and decapitating the local populace with demonic strength and cunning intelligence. It’s a B-movie monster in every sense, turning up when it’s least convenient for the characters, withstanding all manner of punishment like some kind of marsupial Terminator, and constantly one-upping itself when it comes to gory kills. One setpiece where characters desperately try to hit the beast with their trucks ends in one of the most gloriously daft, over-the-top kills I’ve read in a while.
Unlike some B-movies, the characters here are worth a damn, and while a few are obviously thrown in as fodder, those who take a stand against the horror while stumbling across the reason for the madness are both fun to be around and grounded in reality. This leads to some satisfying moments where the worst of the locals get what’s coming to them, as well as some moments of tragedy when those who deserve better don’t make it. And that’s what makes this more than just a wacky concept. Even with all the monster mayhem, there are moments of raw emotion as The Roo’s origin is revealed, and some tragic choices have to be made before the end.
So should you buy it?
Something is wrong in the small outback town of Morgan Creek.
A farmer goes missing after a blue in the pub. A teenage couple fail to show up for work. When Patrick and Sheila McDonough investigate, they discover the missing persons list is growing. Before they realise what’s happening, the residents of the remote town find themselves in a fight for their lives against a foe they would never have suspected.
And the dry red earth will run with blood.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.