Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
What the hell do you mean you don’t know what a VHS tape is? GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN!
Ahem…sorry about that. Anyway, let’s take a look at another one of my other favorite novels of 2017, shall we?
Every weekend, shy kid Billy and rebel bad boy Tom have a video night in Billy’s basement, which consists of eating lots of food and watching all types of horror films. Since this story takes place in the 1980s, the mismatched best friends are blessed with by potent combination of bad dialogue, great plots, and bizarrely effective practical effects that made horror movies from that era so good.
On this particular evening, they’ve managed to convince a couple of ladies to join them — one of whom happens to be Billy’s next door neighbor/dream girl. Unfortunately, it also happens to be the same night as an alien invasion is taking place.
This is no ordinary extraterrestrial takeover, though. Instead of spaceships or little green men, the life form is more fungal/viral in nature, overtaking human hosts and using them as murderous vessels, all at the behest of a ruthlessly efficient and homicidal queen.
Do four hormonally charged teenagers stand a chance against a species hellbent on taking over their town — and eventually the entire world?
Once again, we get another book this year that knows how to make a scary monster. In this case, author Adam Cesare does a superb job of it via multiple passages from the various aliens’ viewpoints. From the cunning leader down to the near-brainless muscle, the creatures’ psychology is explored and expanded in a way that makes them feel almost uncomfortably personal. This could have easily ended up being a boring narrative choice, but Cesare frames it all in a manner that makes the aliens even scarier once you really get to know them.
Cesare is also a master of writing action sequences. Unlike some authors who think it’s cool/edgy just to throw as much gore as possible at the reader, he mixes in a perfect balance of blood and bashing heads, never allowing the narrative’s pace to get bogged down in the pools of blood that it leaves behind.
Character-wise, Billy and Tom are great. If you are a kid who grew up in the ’80s and are the type of person who reads this site (and others like it) daily, then you’ll probably find one or even both of them to be extremely relatable. There’s also a police officer who seems like he’s going to be a pretty minor part of the story, but ends up having what might be my favorite story arc in the book. I won’t give away the character here, but you’ll definitely know who I’m talking about once things start getting weird…or weirder than they’d initially seemed, at least.
Beyond Billy, Tom, and the aforementioned cop (and the aliens), the rest of the cast is indivdually paper thin. They might as well have had shirts identifying which 1980s horror character cliche they represented.
While this does help the main characters to stand out, it also made me get annoyed by them so much that there were actually a couple of “good” ones I was hoping would get killed.
Aside from that, though, Video Night is one heck of a good time. Even if you aren’t affected by the wonderfully rendered 1980s setting (which means you are either very young or have no soul), the story itself is more than enough to entertain you–and make you wonder if your old VHS collection is still lying around somewhere.