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Satanic Panic: A Homage to 1980’s B-Movie Horror

Satanic Panic: A Homage to 1980's B-Movie Horror by [Daniel P Coughlin]

As an homage to 80s B-movie horror, Satanic Panic has so much that the genre offers; sex, death, depravity, and a trio of neer-do-well stars that we follow into the breach.

In the first chapter, a flash-forward scene of terror unfolds which sets the tone for the rest of the book. Even within the next few chapters which introduce our characters, best friends Lance and Brock, then our leading-lady Brianna alongside her skater boyfriend Grady, those first few pages loom over all of their frat-house fueled follies.

For most of the story, sexual panic reigns supreme. Some horror stories are balanced between terror and sex, and this book certainly leans hard into the flesh. Each chapter poses a mental tug of war within the budding love triangle all peppered in-between with the killer’s point of view. These three friends are being stalked, yet the reader is the only audience to how much danger they are heading toward. The most important thing on the minds of Bianna, Brock, and Lance is what is in each other’s pants.

There is an aspect of the Giallo film genre here, in that we don’t see the stalker or who they are, and they fit the black-gloved killer mold to perfection.

Red herrings are used to good effect here. While we spend most of the book with three characters, we realize there has actually been a large cast, and characters, like a professor who is only mentioned for a page or two, are so unique and well portrayed they come back to us as people we met. So, very strong characterization all around.

While some of what goes through the mind of Brianna is incongruent; she is a strong-willed woman but only seems to focus on her looks while alone and thinks of nothing other than the men around her; it doesn’t weigh the pace down as the voice of each chapter is split between the three main characters, the killer, and sometimes the goofy boyfriend Grady who is kept in the dark when it comes to the sexcapades going on around him.

The college theme could be what lowers the stakes here in that there is nothing the characters are striving for beyond the bedroom and the next keg party. Had there been something more on the horizon for any of the teens here, it may have had more impact. And more panic, although the central theme is about trust. The actual Satanic Panic that hit our evening news shows was more of a question of who could a community trust than it was about Satan worship. Even within the pages of this homage to that era, the author makes clear it is more about who is doing evil things than why they are doing evil things.

We do get helpful insight as to how each person thinks but the real mystique lies in how our characters see one another. The dialogue and relations may seem outlandish at a glance, but getting to know each person they all fit and their dysfunction comes across as natural.

If you look for the sexiest story when perusing horror flicks in the bygone era, and want the horror version of a bodice-ripper then Satanic Panic fits the bill with four blazing inverted stars.

Pages: 271 | ASIN: B07RVKDCNF

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Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo: A Twenty-First Century Campus Phantasmagoria by [Christopher Fried]

President Sam Castle dreams of making his third year in charge at Central Ohio University the best yet. But right off the bat, he’s hit by a flurry of events that threaten to sink his boat before it sails on its third voyage. His trials begin with his risky decision to take on a new faculty member laden with controversies. As he tries to defend his decision before the College Board of trustees, he feels relations fraying with his wife, who is away in Tokyo. He’s soon faced with another dicey situation that looks to mar his tenure. Ian, a free-spirited sophomore, dons a Halloween costume that lands him in hot water with the school’s black community and its outside allies. It seems Castle has to make an example out of the boy or risk ruining the school’s reputation. This is not the third year he envisaged. It’s left to be seen if Castle will come out of this in one piece and with the college still standing.

Christopher Fried’s Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is true to its name. It’s a journey into campus life marked by the raucous you’d expect in a relationship between pompous academics, politicking admins, exuberant youth, and the sometimes meddlesome outside world.

The emotional rollercoaster Fried takes readers on keeps things interesting. One moment you’re feeling sorry for someone, the next, you’re shaking your fists at another character’s action in righteous indignation. There’s also a nice dose of silliness that will make you chuckle from time to time.

I liked how Fried wraps his thoughts in an amusing tale. His serious themes shine through alright. But instead of weighing you down, they give you critical things to mull over.

The book touches on issues like some people using societal checks and balances to exert injustice and weaponizing public uproar for their selfish interests. Maybe this would be a lot harder if the public wasn’t so inclined to lynch reported culprits of social injustices without first doing its due diligence. But that’s just me thinking out loud.

Fried also addresses our tendency to lean into extremes. On the one hand, we can be so lax about social issues like racism that they go unchecked. On the other hand, we can blow them out of proportion and try to trace every societal ill to them somehow. Fried’s issue is with the latter.

Whole Lot of Hullabaloo is a quick and easy read that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

Pages: 198 | ASIN: B08LBT4FB3

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