Anyone who’s ever watched a horror movie knows: don’t go into the woods.
Rob adores his boyfriend, Liam, but is having trouble getting along with Liam’s best friend, party-girl Mia, and her handsome, troubled boyfriend, Galen. Rob makes some unwise decisions to get along, but the most dangerous is going with them to a remote cabin on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Hartinger gleefully piles up the horror-movie clichés. Along the way, they encounter a menacing old woman carrying a crossbow, and she’s far from happy to see Mia. After the drive along muddy back roads, Mia realizes the woman is angry that her family has sold land to clear-cutters, ruining property values. The teens make the best of it with skinny-dipping, drinking, and a game of “Three Truths and a Lie.” Mia reveals a disturbing secret, which she says is a lie, but Rob is unsettled. Then the outhouse is knocked over and their gas tank punctured, all after their satellite phone has disappeared. It’s not long before the paranoia spirals until they all suspect one another, and not everyone makes it out alive. Though the cast is not particularly diverse racially (Galen’s “golden-brown” skin notwithstanding, there’s no solid indication that these teens are anything but white), placing a couple of gay boys at the center of a psychological thriller is a refreshing spin on a very old trope.
The story is suspenseful, with excellent pacing, self-aware humor, and a twist that Hartinger pulls off as well as the best slasher films. (Thriller. 14-18)