Review: Horror Movie by Paul Tremblay

cover of Horror MovieHorror Movie by Paul Tremblay
William Morrow (June 11, 2024)
288 pages
Reviewed by Haley Newlin

In his classic, fatalistic tone, Bram Stoker Award-winner Paul Tremblay cleverly assembles a haunting level of empathy between readers, the narrator, and characters in Horror Movie. At times the story felt all-too real, which will appease fans of Tremblay’s previous work like A Head Full of Ghosts (2015) and The Pallbearers Club (2022). Down the road, maybe even a few weeks from now, the characters’ names from Horror Movie may evade you but you’ll never escape the reality-bending and unsettling “horror void.”

Written from the perspective of THIN KID narrating his autobiography in the present day, THIN KID from the original movie, and THIN KID during the reboot, Horror Movie achieves a claustrophobic triad effect. With each development, I became more ensnared, and so did the cast members, a group of student filmmakers: Cleo, the tortured, imaginative screenwriter; Karson, an actor and a provider of comedic relief who suffers from parental indifference; Valentina, the director, and smart one who everyone hoped rubbed off on them and a “compromise is the enemy of integrity and art,” kind of leader; and THIN Kid, the aloof “method actor” behind the mask. The characters play rough versions of themselves in HORROR MOVIE, the no-budget film.

HORROR MOVIE never reached post-production and only three of the film’s scenes were released to the public. Still, the snippets, plus the buzz of what happened on the last day of filming summoned a cult (not that kind) following. Some years later, THIN KID is the only surviving cast member, and filmmakers want to use him in the reboot. Perfect, because he kept and preserved his monster mask.

As memories of the original film’s secrets and tragedies worm into THIN KID’s head, the line between reality and something otherworldly, supernatural, warps and spirals.

*Enter the horror void*

Here, HORROR MOVIE means everything and nothing all at once. It’s where “monsters are mirrors,” and the demons of the past lurk. It’s where the world as we know it, is inevitably doomed.

The void is closer than we think.

This is where Horror Movie takes on a sort of metafiction style. Tremblay did not beat these pages with jump-scares, but a cunning, palpable dread. Most impressively, this develops in the confines of an abandoned school. Readers will be turned around again and again in the dark, and left to the guidance of unreliable characters, and an equally unreliable narrator.

Of course, there is some fun in this novel, too. I mean, it’s Paul Tremblay, after all. Horror fans will appreciate nods to films like The Creature From the Black Lagoon (THIN KID’s mask is similar), Psycho, and Night of the Living Dead. Horror Movie is a creature-feature, in a way, intertwined with psychological horror.

This book has plagued my brain for days after reading it (Thanks, Paul). It’s been an existential trip of a book hangover that I recommend everyone takes.

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