Cinema of Shadows by Michael West
Review by Daniel Cann
Welcome to the Woodfield Movie Palace. The night the Titanic sank, it opened for business… and its builder died in his chair. In the 1950s, there was a fire; a balcony full of people burned to death. And years later, when it became the scene of one of Harmony, Indiana’s most notorious murders, it closed for good. Abandoned, sealed, locked up tight… until now.
Tonight, Professor Geoffrey Burke and his Parapsychology students have come to the Woodfield in search of evidence, hoping to find irrefutable proof of a haunting. Instead, they will discover that, in this theatre, the terrors are not confined to the screen.
Author Michael West has managed to produce something that is chilling, suspenseful, haunting and horrific. It also manages touches of much needed levity, not bad for one book!
Kim Saunders is a troubled young woman and together with her student friends from Stanley University (the plucky and feisty) Tashima, Kevin and Joss join Professor Burke in an investigation of the Woodfield before it is demolished. They are at pains to point out to anyone who asks that they are not on a ‘ghost hunt’.
These are all believable characters who all suffer with their own fears and neuroses making the tension and suspense all the more palpable.
The Woodfield is a place with almost a century of tragedies, accidents, fires, murders and suicides… the perfect place for a haunting. West is a skilled story-teller expertly holding your attention and building the intrigue and mystery before dishing out the frights! He has managed here to turn the familiar, a cinema, into a truly terrifying place where malevolent spirits and demons lurk in the shadows.
What I particularly enjoyed was the schlocky ‘B-movie’ feel to the proceedings. Along with all the shocks and jolts there are plenty of pop-culture references and it is clear that even if his protagonists are not having a great time West certainly is. Fans of novelist Stephen King and filmmaker John Carpenter will enjoy this.
Interestingly both Kim and Professor Burke are facing up to the demons of their own pasts as well as the ones waiting for them at the Woodfield. In fact, the cinema is probably the novel’s biggest personality of all.
West also manages to write female characters well, here they not the usual clichés you find in horror films, i.e. helpless screaming victims or monosyllabic vixens but rather sophisticated, intelligent, strong and defiant heroines so kudos for that as well.
‘Cinema of Shadows’ is an excellently crafted and constructed tale where something monstrous and unworldly exists in quiet rural Indiana. West has proved he is an extremely accomplished horror author and I very much look forward to his next project.
Published 2011 by Seventh Star Press
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