Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller book FILM FESTEVIL by Terry Cronin and Steven Shea. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
“A film obsessed psychopath escapes from a mental institution hoping to make a splash at a nearby film festival. As bodies begin to drop, it is up to the employees of the festival to combat the killer who is planning to end things in grand fashion on Oscar’s night.”
The beginning to this book is really rather clever as we meet our leads as they are watching various, typical horror vignettes. Using this device allows the basic plot background to happen while at the same time mixing in some fun horror tropes early on in the novel. I enjoyed the interspersed short films as they added a sense of fun to what could have been an overly long setup. In fact, I was a little sad when we advanced past the point of these vignettes as they did a fantastic job of representing the many different sub-genres in the horror realm.
Our main story is something straight out of a 90’s slasher movie with plenty of self-referential behavior. This sensibility works and manages to give off the vibe of the era since our plot takes place at a theater comprised of film nerds. While some of these characters come out more well-rounded than others, most of them fall into the typical archetypes of late 90’s horror movies.
One issue I took with this book is that during a few of the scenes, the names of the women involved kept switching. The first time it happened, I just assumed I had read the passage wrong, but when it happened a few more times I ended up going back to clarify who was where during what scene. After all, even though we “know” who the killer is, horror often likes to provide twists so I wanted to keep track of where everyone was during the events. The killer himself reminds me of a few of Vincent Price’s murderers who operated upon campy tableaus. Each of his slayings corresponds to an Academy Award winning film in some fashion or another, creating lots of interesting and different kills that will sate even the most bloodthirsty of readers. As he goes about his spree he also quotes or makes reference to the many movies he is using as the basis for his tableaus, so even the non-film buff readers will be clued into each of his chosen features.
I will say that I was a bit disappointed in the final showdown. The setup for the finale was fantastic as we are presented with a hero who decides to outwit the killer. Even better yet, we are shown earlier that this same hero has one piece of information that the slayer lacks, but sadly the ending devolves into violence instead of the battle of the wits that we were initially promised.
The writing style itself is brisk and breezy with a constant emphasis on forward motion. This bad boy reads quickly, which feels appropriate given the relatively short runtime of most major slasher flicks. This pacing also helps to keep the suspense going as there is pretty much something happening every few pages.
All in all, this is a fun and quick horror read that keeps the tension high while also offering up some good laughs. While there are some textual issues and I would have liked a better finale, most anyone who likes old school slasher features is sure to enjoy this read. Fans of Theatre of Blood (1973) and Scream (1996) should definitely check this book out.
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