Shadows Burned In is a fresh take on the old haunted house story we all know and run away screaming from in terror from, which has other agendas. In fact on closer inspection it really isn’t a ghost story at all. Sure there’s a creepy house with a creepy back story and other supernatural moments but this is something much more ambitious.
Set in the near future, where schools are now mostly closed and children learn from home in virtual classrooms and spent most of their spare time playing online immersive games, Elizabeth, a young girl relocated to her father’s home town becomes fascinated with a derelict house with a shady past. Her father David too has a connection to the house as we see from flashbacks to his youth, but is battling the demons of his own childhood while trying to come to terms with the slow disintegration of his relationship with his wife and daughter.
We also see a glimpse of prison life as an ageing prisoner Wayne Alan Kitts attempts to make a brutal and daring escape at any cost, with horrifying repercussions. The author makes no attempt to sugar coat this character or his experiences at the hands of both prisoners and guards. He is a violent machine bred by violence who has passed the point of no return and aims to use his escape to commit even more vile acts. There’s no redemption, Shawshank or otherwise to be had here, which makes him more frightening than any supernatural entity.
It’s a story of contrasts, of conflict, of opposites. It’s a serious study of the cycles and effects of abuse on different generations. Part speculative fiction, part coming-of-age drama that also looks at the brutality and inhumanity of prison life, all overshadowed by a looming structure that serves to embellish the story rather than dominate it, Shadows Burned In is a tense, absorbing debut with an important message for the modern reader.
Anyone who’s ever worked retail knows that creepy feeling when the store is closed at night. A space just a few hours ago teeming with people all of a sudden empty. Lights are off and shadows dare you to cross them, the slightest sound amplified, the hairs on the back of your neck standing up as you head for the door telling yourself not to look behind you.
Horrorstör takes the haunted house concept and transfers it to retail, injecting (and ejecting) new blood into what’s fast becoming a tired and stale genre. A group of employees are asked to spend the night in the store to investigate strange happenings. As the night unfolds they discover this is one night shift that may never end.
Horrorstör has a lot going for it. Part satire, part social commentary, part pant-wettingly scary horror, it’s got a lot to say but thankfully doesn’t do so at the expense of the scares. We get a fascinating insight into the psychology behind retail as well as the downright bullshit involved in corporate interaction and treatment of employees. We’ve all been there at some stage and lot like Ricky Gervais did with The Office, using those familar mundane events and classic characters we quickly become invested in this story, the beauty of it being that is gets us comfortable on our minimalistic chairs before scaring the living bejeesus out of us. While proceedings are initially lighthearted, things quickly take a turn for the worst and Horrorstör lives up to it’s name, becoming a horrifying and unsettling experience, blending the best in horror imagery with an equally terrifying narrative reminiscent of familiar sources like The House On Haunted Hill, Scream, The Shining and Silent Hill.
Unashamedly fashioned on retail behemoth Ikea’s catalogue (in this story it’s a lesser quality knock-off called Orsk) the book is beautifully designed and peppered with useful maps, employee tips, valuable insight into Orsk operational practices and even some forms you may want to fill out at some stage. Throughout the story we constantly see references to the pretentious furniture names like Kjerring wardrobes, Brooka glassware, and Liripip sofa beds as well as references to modern pop culture, trends and technology that are now redefining how modern horror is evolving.
As a package, Horrorstör works on every level. It’s a fun, hilarious, flat-packed frightfest that dares to think outside the Låda.
Published by Quirk Books
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