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IT CAME FROM THE MULTIPLEX

80S MIDNIGHT CHILLERS

An enjoyable horror anthology with a strong midnight chillers concept.

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A genre anthology offers creepy tales inspired by 1980s horror movies.

A high school horror cinephile goes to check out a rare, locally directed film at his town’s drive-in only to suspect that the space parasites in the movie might be real—and possessing the audience. Some high schoolers perform a dark ritual in order to save the theater where they all work from shuttering, but whatever they summoned turns on them instead. Two couples go on a double date to a movie night at a natural outdoor amphitheater—only to have the picture ruined when a severed human arm flies across the screen. Blood and guts are a lot less campy in real life, as the horror movie fans that populate these stories learn again and again. The theaters themselves frequently become places of genuine terror, as in Betty Rocksteady’s “Rise, Ye Vermin!” in which a cineplex employee enters a theater to find the audience composed entirely of corpses: “Dozens of women in various states of decay twitched and jittered. Jenn stumbled, jolting a fresh new pain through her broken jaw. She tripped into one of the aisle seats and fell into a woman with long, dark hair and a hat. The hat jostled and roaches poured out of her empty eye socket.” The anthology, edited by Viola, mixes stories by horror mainstays like Stephen Graham Jones and Steve Rasnic Tem with tales by relative newcomers, such as K. Nicole Davis. Many of the writers have Colorado connections, which leads to some entertaining uses of locations, like Davis’ “On the Rocks,” set in the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. The book also features frightening illustrations by Smith and retro cover art by Nazzaro that will get any ’80s nerd’s nostalgia juices pumping. The blend of voices working within a loose framework gives the volume some stylistic variety (though it remains—like its source material—noticeably male-dominated). As with any anthology, some of the pieces are stronger than others, but all of them exhibit an understanding for the odd brew of ingredients that make ’80s horror movies so much fun.

An enjoyable horror anthology with a strong midnight chillers concept.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73391-775-9

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Hex Publishers

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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HIDDEN PICTURES

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

A disturbing household secret has far-reaching consequences in this dark, unusual ghost story.

Mallory Quinn, fresh out of rehab and recovering from a recent tragedy, has taken a job as a nanny for an affluent couple living in the upscale suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey, when a series of strange events start to make her (and her employers) question her own sanity. Teddy, the precocious and shy 5-year-old boy she's charged with watching, seems to be haunted by a ghost who channels his body to draw pictures that are far too complex and well formed for such a young child. At first, these drawings are rather typical: rabbits, hot air balloons, trees. But then the illustrations take a dark turn, showcasing the details of a gruesome murder; the inclusion of the drawings, which start out as stick figures and grow increasingly more disturbing and sophisticated, brings the reader right into the story. With the help of an attractive young gardener and a psychic neighbor and using only the drawings as clues, Mallory must solve the mystery of the house's grizzly past before it's too late. Rekulak does a great job with character development: Mallory, who narrates in the first person, has an engaging voice; the Maxwells' slightly overbearing parenting style and passive-aggressive quips feel very familiar; and Teddy is so three-dimensional that he sometimes feels like a real child.

It's almost enough to make a person believe in ghosts.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81934-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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LAYLA

A unique story of transcendent love.

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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