I am a fan of thriller and horror novels. This book will have you keeping your light on at night. It is a very good read and if you are into spirits and hauntings, you will definitely enjoy this one!!!
First, I must say that I bought this from Audible and my review of the story is linked with narration. The narration was laughably bad. It was similar to my 2nd grade teacher reading a story and trying to keep us interested by putting emphasis on every word of the sentence with that annoying attempt to make every sentence sound as if it ended with "WOW!".
That said, the story had an interesting B-movie premise. A haunted house reality show with rigged effects unknown to the participants to provide the viewers with chills and thrills. It could have been a wonderful read. I found the dialogue cheesy, at best, and not the good B-movie type cheese; the silly fanfiction type cheese where the author doesn't realize how bad the writing actually is. I found it hard to follow which characters were speaking and which characters were which and with whom. And the characters were, also laughably, cliched to the point of knowing ahead of time what they were going to say or do (when you knew who was speaking or acting) because it is a character you've seen or read a thousand times. The actress desperate to regain stardom, the actress just starting out desperate to upset the star, the good guy, the good girl, the mean girl, the money/ratings hungry director/producer. That's really all you get from character development, no depth, no introspection, no explanation. Just cookie-cutter characters with a basket full of predetermined dialogue based on a label.
There really wasn't a lot of time spent on atmosphere, as, I believe, the attempt was at splatter horror. The problem is that without any exposition on the characters or environment, it read like a transcript or description of the happenings in the aforementioned B-movie. Something like, "wasn't it cool how that guy who we have no idea who it was died? Don't worry about who it was, wasn't the death cool? While he was taking a LEAK even! Cliche cliche giggle giggle."
As a horror fanatic, I wanted to like this. I am all for quick popcorn horror, even if it is sub-par, but this was just silly and trite on every level. At times, I was almost embarrassed for the author. I would accept it if a teenager had written it. Or some movie fan had quickly banged out fanfiction on a weekend. The writing, dialogue, and plot were so poorly executed that I am in awe that it was published. The audiobook version was embarrassingly bad and I would go so far as to say whomever directed/produced that version should look elsewhere for a career. I used the rare return feature on Audible, the only book I have done that for and trust me, with over 300 books in my Audible library, I've gotten some stinkers. Try "Crimson Orgy," and see the difference.
Edo van Belkom, Scream Queen (Pinnacle, 2003) Ah, a return to the glory days of eighties horror. Back then, there were your great writers, there were your A-list writers (who were good, but rarely approached greatness, and never with any regularity), and then, as A Christmas Story wryly tells us, there were "the nameless rabble of victims," those all-but-anonymous genre writers whose work is now lost to the wind. (That the same can be said of many of the greats in no way makes the two in any way similar.) For every John Holt, Edward Levy, or Michael Paine writing in the eighties, you had ten Ken Eulos, Saul Wernicks, and William Hills. These days, the ratio seems to have been turned on its head. You can find great horror writers under every rock. Poppy Z. Brite, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Charlee Jacob, Carlton Mellick III, and their ilk have raised the bar for literary horror far past any place I could have hoped it would go when I first discovered that avatar of literate horror, Clive Barker. Nowadays, you have to search pretty far for the genre writer, the guy whose books are going to sell a few hundred thousand copies and then fade into obscurity. Scream Queen falls solidly into the realm of genre fiction destined for obscurity. But like the best work of Eulo, Wernick, Hill et al., while it sticks around, those few hundred thousand readers who take van Belkom up on his offer to ride through this funhouse are going to have one hell of a trip. Scream Queen gives us such an obvious premise it's amazing no one's actually pulled it off yet: two brothers who direct low-budget horror films stage a reality TV show, Scream Queen, the winner of which gets the lead part in the brothers' new movie. All the winner has to do is spend the night in a hunted house (rigged with tricks, natch, to scare the contestants), then have the public vote on her as the best of the contestants. Simple, right? (And brilliant. Expect it to happen in real life in the next couple of years. That's a reality series even I would watch.) The only problem is that the haunted house the producers and their team have tricked out really IS a haunted house, and the ghosts therein are not very happy to receive guests. The action starts early and continues pretty much nonstop (there are some slow points for setup, but the writing is such that even they go by quickly). This is a slim novel, by modern horror standards, three hundred pages even. They fly. The reader is likely to find himself jarred at least once per page by stupid typos (and the obviously far overpaid editor never met a homonym he didn't misuse), but after a while you gloss those over and just get on with it. Nothing here is likely to make you say "boy, that was unexpected!" or think van Belkom has a line on the next great idea to move the whole genre forward. If this were a movie, it'd be turn-your-brain-off entertainment. As a book, it's fluff, but readable fluff.***
Amazon lists this book as having 352 pages. All copies I have seen end at 300 and it really feels like there is something missing. Brothers who have made a name for themselves making cheap, grade-B horror films have a new project: a reality-show where contestants have to spend the night in a haunted house. Being a horror novel, the house is, of course, haunted by some real nasties. Jody, a farm girl looking to improve her luck, is the contestant we are rooting for. Unfortunately, after a slow beginning (setting the stage), and a little foreshadowing, the plot and body count speed up and then the book just stops. End. Finis. Nothing more. Even if there is a publication mistake and there are fifty missing pages, it is hard to see how this one would be saved. There are some interesting scenes and the manifestation has an interesting twist, but it just isn't really worth the time.