There seems to be a rise in a new form of entertainment these last few years, that of the live action experience. While "escape rooms" seem to the most prevelant, there is also a niche for those who would prefer to be scared rather than think about puzzles.
The House by the Cemetery is an old, derelict building known locally as "Bachelor’s Grove" and is situated within the grounds of an ancient, crumbling cemetery. Rumor has it that the ghost of a witch haunts the place. What better location for a haunted house attraction?
Mike Kostner, a struggling divorcee living paycheck to paycheck, reluctantly takes on the task of getting the run-down house into a safe and sound building that still looks cosmetically like it's falling apart. It isn't long before a strange, attractive girl, Katie, turns up and offers to help him with the repairs. Along with her friend Emery, Katie seems quite dedicated to making sure the house re-opens.
The book faithfully recreates that 80's b-movie horror vibe (although it is set in the modern day) complete with people acting irresponsibily at times of danger and plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments. The idea of real murders being committed around a haunted house experience is brilliant - the perfect cover for those who are looking for victims. There are tons of pop culture references from the old classic monsters Freddy and Jason through to the more modern films such as Suspiria and special mentions to the films of the Italian director Dario Argento.
There is a nice slow build as Mike repairs the building and gets to know Katie a lot better, until he is entirely under her spell and doesn't bat an eyelid as the body count begins. I'm not sure if he is just not that smart, has no moral compass or is actually under the power of the witch but whatever the reason he doesn't seem bothered that his new love isn't really alive. When the house is finished and opens to the public the action begins and doesn't let up till the end. It has to be said that the ending is spectacular and worth reading the book for alone - a total blood bath and seriously impressive.
This is the first book I've read from Everson, it's one of the launch line-ups from Flame Tree Press. The author has a easy reading, relaxed style that manages to make the shocking bits stand out in contrast. When the blood does hit the fan, the scenes are descriptive and dynamic - with almost film like quality. I wasn't really convinced by some of the characters though. I felt like I was supposed to know who the paranormal investigators were and perhaps they've appeared in other Everson stories but I felt like I was excluded somehow - I think a bit more background would have been good. Mike also is an idiot, seriously the guy doesn't seem to care that he's sleeping with a dead witch and I didn't buy the bewitched bit.
Overall though The House by the Cemetery is a good book, it's got a lot of style, some great references to other horror material and that ending is just to die for.
Written on 5th November 2018 by Ant.
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