“There’s really no such thing as a casual horror fan.”
When I read that line in Brad Carter’s book, Saturday night of the Living Dead, it dawned on me how true that was. Throughout the novel, the name-dropping (Bruce Campbell, John Carpenter, Wes Craven), the discussion of legitimate horror films, the homage to different horror genres (zombies, B-films, Lovecraftian, religious fanatics) kept me interested and wondering what might be next. Every little bit of trivia planted in the story reflected back to an author who knows his horror films. Every mention of this person or that movie had me flashing back my own memories, which fleshed out the world Carter created.
The premise of the story is simple enough, like a basic p.lot summary of a screen play: a self-made man finds success in gore effects for movies (much to the disapproval of his family), heads home for a funeral, finds himself haunted by a ghost and must fight against the apocalypse.
But like a synopsis only giving a generalized overview, in the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing and knows their audience, the book actually develops deeper than that: creating characters who are relatable, even if their situations are not.
Ryan, the black sheep of his family and our hero, has to puzzle together the answer to a riddle assigned to him by the ghost of a woman he pined his teenage years away for. He attempts to balance his work, the women in his life, and the ghost’s vague instructions. He ends up writing a screenplay for a gore-effects-driven feature, buying the abandoned drive-in theater in his hometown, and premiering his film—and then all literal hell breaks loose. He discovers he must avert Armageddon, and with the help of a group of rag-tag friends, happens to succeed . . . at some cost.
I liked Saturday night of the Living Dead for its tributes to horror classics and ease of reading. It was a long novel, however; the huge amounts of time covered (the whole story, in truth) were explained away as Ryan relating the events that happened to a vague but menacing government agency. There were some jumps from chapter to chapter that left me confused until I realized this was the frame story to it all. One instance of deus ex machine may have made me shake my head in another novel, but when zombies are climbing out of a movie screen, cultists are taking down the zombies and regular people alike, and the landscape is slowly becoming alien as another dimension seeps through to our reality, it can be forgiven.
It was simply enjoyable to read something from an author who is obviously a fan and having fun with it. In the hands of someone who wasn’t, the hodge-podge of genres wouldn’t have worked as well. If you’re a fan of blood-splattering horror films with a nod to the incredible, you’ll enjoy this book.