The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss
Hydra/Random House (June 2017)
300 pages; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms
A Halloween story is something no reader of horror fiction should ever miss. A broad statement, true, but The Hallowen Children is another Hallowen tale which has knocked it out of the park. This is a disturbing, claustrophobic, beyond enjoyable read which encompasses everything Halloween should be. Of course, parallels will be drawn to The Shining, but that would be extremely unfair to Brian Freeman and Norman Prentiss. The Halloween Children is utterly original and deserves to be given applause on its own merits. This is an everyman’s horror story—the best, most relatable kind—and holds family close to its dark heart.
Harris is the handyman—a jack of all trades—of Stillbrook Apartments, where things are about to get, well, weird. It appears that the owner/manager of the complex decides Halloween should be canceled this year and no party will take place, no decorations adorning the buildings and grounds.
That’s never a good idea.
Harris lives in his home with wife Lynn, son Matt, and daughter Amber. From the opening diary entries, we learn that the marriage is about as frayed as humanly possible without blood being spilled (for the moment). She is paranoid about her husband’s work around the complex, assuming the worst and believing something is seriously wrong with their son. Parents can have favorites and this usually leads to hurt, deceit, and psychological wounds that have far-reaching effects. Mother sides with daughter and father with son, yet neither parent is aware of what their children are doing, or planning. When the children hear about the holiday cancellation, the slow motion disintegration of the family, community, and soul is already underway.
Freeman and Prentiss are talented, far more than have been recognized by the masses. The storytelling here is near flawless, as is the writing, always a challenge in a collaboration. If this is what they are capable of as a team, I hope more will be on the way. The characters make the story and while this isn’t the Torrance family being torn apart, it’s more frightening. It’s your neighbors, friends, or maybe someone much closer. Able to be read in one sitting, take some time and enjoy it, allowing its effects to take hold. A perfect tale for any holiday. Well, a holiday which includes a fragmented, fragile family, so yes, this is perfect for just about any reader.