It’s spooky season, so I’m going to do a few posts on things to read during this time! Off the back of the non-fiction series of murder posts, I’m kicking off with murder at a haunted attraction, and then I’ve got a guest post to share with a load of recs for body horror books.
I’m co-writing a slasher romcom with Ezra Arndt, and as a result I’m watching a lot of slashers about snuff films and reading thrillers with murderous showmanship. Sasha is a burlesque performer who thinks murder is the next frontier of performance art, and her growing obsession with an erratic, mediocre hitman hired by her gangster uncle.
I’m reading a range of slashers as well as watching them, because enjoy a lot of the tropes. I’m relatively new to grindhouse and exploitation cinema and the slashers in general, but I’m really enjoying some of the premises and settings, and explorations of character.
Would you recognize a real scream on Halloween?
That’s the question haunting Norah Lewis.
She can’t shake the guilt that’s stalked her since the night her brother was murdered. She heard —and ignored—his last screams. Just like everyone else at the Thicket, a haunted attraction in tiny Declo, Idaho.
But as Halloween approaches, Norah’s personal tragedy is overshadowed by a media circus. Parents’ groups and PTAs lobby for a shutdown while thrill seekers far and wide clamor for a chance to visit the notorious haunted attraction.
Many of Norah’s classmates eagerly plan a visit. And, reluctantly, so does Norah, who is driven to retrace her brother’s last steps.
But the man in the grainy security footage whose masked face is plastered across the news hasn’t chosen the Thicket at random.
And, like Norah, he’s planning a return visit.~ THE THICKET blurb
This book is a solid 3.5 for me, but I rounded up to 4 because I really did like the way the bereavement experience was handled, and the portrayal of messy younger MCs worked well in this context. I also found the characters sticking with me after I finished, and the vibes were what I wanted.
This felt to me like a mix of RIVERDALE meets THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE, or maybe like it was inspired more the SCREAM Netflix series but there wasn’t quite enough depth in the exploration of the relationships and character arcs of the protags for it to quite live up to that for me. (SCREAM series has some issues, but it also has a really good character arc that is developed over the seasons and that I really enjoyed! You can’t really do that with a thriller novel in the same way, so that’s a bit of an unfair picky thing, I think.) The slasher villain is the Plague Doctor (that’s his mask) and he has a POV which helps the pacing, but again I was left with a lot of questions about him as a person rather than Evil Killer Who Likes Hunting. I did like the voice of the POV though.
The concept is fun – I like killers at haunted attractions (hence my FUNHOUSE MASSACRE comp) and there’s a corn maze scene too, which I always enjoy as a trope/setting.
If you’re looking for a slasher with a bit of teen angst and bite-size chapters, this one might work for you.
If you want to watch a comedy horror with more bite and aged-up protags, with a lot more gore and gratuitous everything, then THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE has all that, and has the haunted attraction setting too…