The House by the Cemetery – John Everson

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The House by the Cemetery is meant for horror fans. You know who we are. We’re the ones that go to the midnight showings of classic Carpenter, Craven or even Argento or Fulci flicks. We have the wal-to-wall collections of horror Blu Rays. Halloween is our national holiday. And we go to haunted houses, no matter how crappy of an attraction they are. That’s us and that’s who Everson wrote The House by the Cemetery for. We get it. We understand the industry and HOUSE has everything that we love about it.

A dilapitated house sits vacant by an abandoned cemetery. Outside of thrill seekers, it’s been dormant for many years. But the rumors are passed down from generation to generation. This place was used for a cult killing by a group of witches back in the 1960s. Stories of ghosts hitchhiking nearby, strange happenings and haunted tales permeate the local legends for years. The house is a royal pain in the ass for the county. Law enforcement has to chase off ghost hunters and thrill seekers every year. So when a local entrepreneur comes calling and offers to turn the property into a haunted house attraction, the county jumps at the chance to alleviate this headache and score some bucks in the process. Mike, a down-and-out handyman, is hired to renovate the place so that they can turn it into the tourist attraction that it was envisioned to be. Wouldn’t you know it, Mike learns that every rumor has a grain of truth somewhere and you can’t keep a good witch down.

While HOUSE has a fantastic setting that is just screaming for a horror story to be written about it, the characters are the glue that hold this story together. Mike is a likable guy that you can easily relate to. Katie is that mysterious, flirtatious girl you’ve seen work her charm on numerous lonely guys, over and over. The cast and crew, putting together and running the attraction, all have personalities that we know like the back of our hands. It all feels comfortable and familiar. This is how Everson is able to pull this story all together. Sure, there are some parts where you kind of roll your eyes, maybe a character should ask a few more questions, but they’re not deal breakers. HOUSE is easily the best thing Everson has written. The guy has talent and you can see it in his past catalog. Hell, you don’t get a Bram Stoker Award for being a hack. But, for me, HOUSE is the story where he put it all together. Atmosphere, character development, dialogue, interesting storyline, an homage to the genre that I know and love, and suspension of disbelief. Some writers age like a fine wine. Here’s to hoping for an extended run of this particular vintage very soon. It’s intoxicating.
4 1/2 Secret Rooms out of 5
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The Siren and The Specter – Jonathan Janz

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There’s atmosphere a plenty in Jonathan Janz’s latest, THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER. Creepiness and dread oozes from each subsequent page after page. David is a cynic. He has to be. It’s his job. Debunking hauntings has paved the way for a decent living. Now David’s college pal invites him to Virginia to write about the place he and his wife just bought, the notorious Alexander House. Chris and Katherine hand over the keys and David plans on staying in the house for a month. Their motive for having David write about the house is clear. Publicity. David is a best-selling author and they want him to write about his experience to drum up publicity as they plan to make the house a tourist attraction. David doesn’t mind. He’s disproved more haunted houses than he can count. In fact, he’s yet to find any credible evidence to support hauntings and his skepticism has sold a ton of books. Why should the Alexander House be any different? Well, guess what? This house isn’t like all the rest and it’s due to Judson Alexander, the man who built the house back in the 1700s. He was one nasty S.O.B.and he’s not ready to vacate the premises anytime soon.

SIREN has a lot going for it. Janz creates interesting characters and David is the one that’s fleshed out the most. So much so, that his character has created some nice discussions when we read this as a group. To some, he’s an egotistical shit head that deserves all the nastiness that comes his way. For others, myself included, I found that his college past seemed to lead to an unfortunate turn of events, but not one that he should be solely blamed for. Characters with this much layered depth stick with you, rattling around in your psyche, long after the story has been put back on the shelf. That’s a good thing. Emotions run deep in SIREN. You have characters you feel for, some you relate to, and others that you absolutely loathe. There’s a lot there. Sometimes too much. And thats the only negative that I have. Specters make up the mother load of story. Ahh…but it’s called The SIREN and the Specter and I felt the siren is a little out of place in the tale. I simply think that it didn’t add anything and really wasn’t necessary. Others may think otherwise. Have yourself a go at it and decide for yourself.

3 1/2 Skeletons in the Closet out of 5
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