Don’t Move is the newest novel from writing duo James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth, the former best known for his role on Impractical Jokers and the latter credited for his work on the Awakened and Invasion trilogies. The book follows Megan Forrester, who embarks on a church camping trip as a way to help cope with the devastating loss of her family. Accompanied by the other parishioners and an ill-intentioned tag along, Megan must outwit a prehistoric arachnid hellbent on making a meal out of everyone on the camping trip.
First things first– Don’t Move starts out with one hell of a bang. In one of the grimmest opening chapters I’ve read recently (and maybe ever), Megan loses both her husband and her son in a Final Destination-esque freak carnival accident. The loss is by no means a surprise to readers as it’s mentioned in the synopsis, but there’s no way to anticipate just how dark the actual scene is. The opening is so jarringly violent that it almost felt a touch comical in an over-the-top Monty Python sort of way. It may seem like I’m overselling it, but the opening is probably one of the most memorable parts of the novel for me, in a good way. If I had any doubts about a comedian’s ability to write something horrific they were banished in the first twenty-some-odd pages.
What follows this explosive (or should I say flammable?) introduction is a popcorn monster thrill ride. The writing is snappy, with convincing dialogue and character insights that help push the book to a mile a minute pace that serves the material well. There’s no pretension here– even with the occasional heady reflection on Megan’s tremendous grief and inability to save her family, Don’t Move feels like a blockbuster creature-feature. The authors set out to entertain and do a damn good job of it.
There are big, fun set pieces throughout the novel that do a lot to help flesh out the spider as it strips flesh off the cast. I love when monsters follow some set of rules, in this case related to the spider’s poor eyesight, because it lets the writers play with the mechanics of their villain, which is otherwise just a force of nature. This also allows for a genuinely creepy moment when the spider is able to sidestep one of its supposed rules in what is probably the closest things I’ve ever read to a jump scare on the page. The arachnid reminds me at times of both the t-rex and the raptors from Jurassic Park, which is no surprise given that Murr did cite Crichton as an inspiration in our interview (which you should go read if you haven’t). I’d also be remiss not to mention a later scene that takes place in the spider’s lair where we get a big injection of gore and body horror– this thing ramps up to the very end.
If I have any constructive criticism it would be that the majority of characters are just a hair too thin. When characterization does happen it’s either welcomely subtle, as is the case for the main character Megan, or kind of beats you over the head, as is the case for would-be antagonist Ricky. The former ‘s tragic backstory and previous career as a high stakes logistics manager make her a competent and logical protagonist who is cool under pressure and easy to root for, where the latter leans into leather jacket-clad bad boy tropes just a bit too much to really work for me. Shout out to the later scene from the perspective of two grandparents and their grandson for providing some off the cuff depth to the supporting cast, who are otherwise just here to fall victim to a giant spider.
Overall Don’t Move is a fun, occasionally twisted horror romp that’s perfect for escaping the waking nightmare that is 2020 for a while. If you’re looking for high brow literary virtuosity you should probably look elsewhere, but if you’d like to turn your brain off and just enjoy a giant monster eating people in the woods, this is the book for you. I’d almost certainly keep an eye out for a big-screen adaptation in the near future, as the book lends itself so well to it.
9 out of 10 Spiderlings