Jealousy is at the heart of this brutal horror story pulsing with axe-wielding gnomes and blood-spewing cats.
This carnival of sexual violence, obscenities and gore is offset by the love that binds a gallant group of teenage friends, two of whom are struggling with personal tragedy. Ethan is haunted with guilt over the murder of his kid brother, and Shay, the new beauty in town, is fleeing a tortured past. Imagine Shay’s horror when, on her first day at school, a strange boy blurts out her secret in public. In a nice creepy touch, when the boy is questioned, he has no memory of having said anything. In walks the school bully Viktor Sols, a lipless, pallid, dead-eyed psychopath. He sets eyes on Shay and desires her completely but then gets killed, and a weird savagery is unleashed. A powerful mind-hacker (a straight Harry Potter rip-off) makes the youngsters want to rape, masturbate and kill. The same sick force murders people on a blinding, videogame scale. Subtlety is not Shaw’s strong suit. When Shay is abducted, Ethan and company set out to rescue her. Nothing, however, prepares them for the twisting evil within the sinister bowels of Sols House. Shaw has a sharp ear for the trendy, hormonal banter of the schoolyard and the unspoken racist abuse that students have to battle (“ugly Chink bitch”). There are evocative flashes—the stone of the Sols family crypt is “the color of bones,” teeth patter to the floor like “enamel hailstones”—and an earnest if unoriginal flogging of the supernatural arsenal (howling storms, open graves, midnight knocks, the undead). Unfortunately, all this is submerged in a tedious torrent of overwriting—“two boys were wading through the gaze of every kid in the room like a disease advancing upon a nascent civilization”—and sub-climaxes that never seem to end.
An overcooked contemporary Gothic splatter-fest.