Independent Publication | 2019
Filed Under: I see you found my trophy room, Dalton. The only thing missing is your ass!
Ugh, damn it…
This is such a bummer.
I really wanted to love this, but nope, couldn’t get there. It was just meh for me. It’s got all the things you expect from a slasher story – unsuspecting victims being gruesomely murdered in the woods by a psychotic killer – but, really all it has are things taken from other slasher stories. A lot of this felt off, like it was simply a copy of a copy rather than a story with something of its own to say. And it wasn’t exactly scary.
The plot invests in giving the cannibal killer a backstory, but I found it kind of boring, with pieces that didn’t totally connect. He was living independently off the grid, has excellent hunting skills, can make pants out of human skin and has escaped detection as a prolific serial killer for years, but he’s also intellectually disabled with the linguistic skills of a third grader? And he’s a cannibal, but also interested in keeping women as pets? Um, okay.
The killer was a mishmash of every other killer from other slasher stories and that felt kind of lazy. Like, just put Leatherface, Jason and The Hills Have Eyes cannibals into a cabin in the woods and then fold in the cheese. And voila! It’s this fucking guy.
The opening chapter was deceiving – a promising bloodbath with some creepy moments that got me excited for what this novel could be. But after the eleventy-hundredth chapter about college students thinking about weed and sex and “the friend zone,” the sparkle of the first chapter had worn off. The bulk of chapters are spent getting to know the main group of college students who are very clearly about to be killed as they head out for a wild weekend at a cabin in the woods. There are also two ghost hunters making a documentary. They were my favourite part of this novel.
The young people marked for death are stereotypical copies of every other young adult in a slasher. Not too much thought or effort seemed put behind them. They spoke like how adults think young people speak, but don’t actually. It was forced and silly, and the dialogue was super cringe most of the time.
In a slasher movie, a plethora of shallow characters works because they are just meant to be killed in a visually cool and disgusting way, never sticking around for very long. But here, we spend a lot of time getting to know the players without actually getting to know them aside from their shallow problems and pointless conversation. Irrelevant information and scenes seemed to be included because they appeared in these kinds of stories before, not because they made an impact on the plot. And then all these kids die in fast, anti-climactic ways that just didn’t match up to how much page time they had beforehand.
Things happen at the beginning and the end of the book, but everything else feels like filler – lame flirting and shallow conversation. And those things were not more interesting than scares and kills, which I would have preferred be more constant and evenly paced throughout the plot, instead of saved for the ending.
Truthfully, I’m always wary of slashers novels, because even though they are some of my favourite movies, that kind of story doesn’t easily translate from what we love about them on-screen to the written word. In my opinion anyway. And I haven’t found one yet that really works for me.
In order for a slasher novel to work, the pacing needs to be right, the characters should be vibrant and the emotions tangible. I think the writing in this novel was lacking in all of it.
The writing isn’t great. The prose are basic and odd turns of phrase are constantly used. The narrative jumps back and forth between reading modern and reading like it was taking place in the 90s. The college kids are using Instagram and smartphones, but also know what Roadhouse is enough that it’s their first choice of pop culture reference? Give me a fucking break. I don’t think my 21-year-old even knows who Patrick Swayze is, because he sure as fuck didn’t know who Jack Nicholson was.
“He was like the best Joker ever.”
“You mean Heath Ledger?”
Get the fuck out of my house.
Also, what was with the ghosty sister showing up randomly? Like how did that make sense at all to this plot? That felt like a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks plot element.
Anyway, since this is a slasher, let’s get into something I’m calling Twisted Totals, à la Joe Bob Briggs.
1 Cabin in the woods
1 prisoner in a barn
1 Rucksack full of human flesh masks
1 Pile of ears
9 Dead bodies
1 White guy with dreads
1 Pair of human leather pants
1 Bag of human jerky
2 Darts to the face
1 Emotionally tormenting ghost sister
Skull splitting, Leg chopping, Neck slashing, Head smashing, Tree impalement
Machete shit, Chainsaw shit, Axe shit
And finally, mommy issue-flavoured misogyny.
Fucking Highlights include:
The character who was literally named Chad, for saying “We should have just fucking gone to Puerto Rico instead.”
Local dude Harold for his theory, “Methinks there’s some human eating humans out there.”
And the killer for knowing his limits, saying. “I am sorry… My brain… It cannot handle taking care of two Barbies.”
Overall, was this terrible? Almost. I’ve never lied to you before, and I’m not going to start now. It was… whatever. It could have been so much better, but it could have been worse, too. It’s pretty much on par with other slasher novels I’ve read. The writing isn’t great, but it had fun moments and wasn’t a total waste of my reading time.
I was expecting something amazing after all the glowing reviews I read for this, but once again, I’m the asshole. That’s fine. For me, it needed better pacing, less cliché characters and better editing, but this is totally a genre that is difficult to write and to get right, so for not creating a total trainwreck that had a strong opening chapter and good moments of gore, my rating is what it is.
It’s a local legend. No one is sure if this “Camp Slaughter” place is real or not. But a group of college kids renting out a cabin deep in the woods of Pennsylvania will soon realize the truth. They’ll realize the danger, too. Or rather, the cannibal out in the woods will bring the danger to them…