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Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Welcome To The Dark House by Laurie Stolarz

Welcome To The Dark House
(Dark House #1)
by Laurie Stolarz
July 22, 2014

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

I love me a campy, scream-fest B horror movie, and that’ exactly what Laurie Faria Stolarz’s Welcome to the Dark House feels like, right down to the cliche, yet fun scare tactics; predictable, yet entertaining plot; and rigidly characterized, yet amusing cast.

Everyone has nightmares, some people are just more haunted by there’s than others. Seven essay contest winners are given the opportunity of a lifetime and win a trip to an exclusive, behind the scenes look at the new horror movie from famous Justin Blake. The seven strangers find themselves in a luxurious replica of the Dark House from one of Blake’s movies, but the thrills and frights suddenly feel too real. One of the seven is missing, one is talking to herself, three are caught up in a love triangle, and Ivy and Parker are enjoying getting to know each other...but when literally faced with their nightmares, things turn awesomely, creepily deadly!

Cinematic in scope, Welcome to the Dark House combines many horror movie elements, in both predictable and new ways, creating a genuinely fun and spooky reading experience. Yet, like many of those movies, Welcome to the Dark House suffers from a character overload, cheesy dialogue, and slow pacing.

What Welcome to the Dark House and Stolarz get right is the creepy, spine-tingling atmosphere. From the whole Justin Blake horror movie world the author has created, to the isolated Dark House and amusement park, this is an atmosphere and world that will keep readers fully engaged and on the edge of their seats. Blake’s Nightmare Elf and Hotel 9 movies and characters are creeptastic and over-the-top in the best ways possible. The frights and thrills are plentiful, at least in the last half of the book.  The first half is pretty slow as it is spent getting to know the characters and introducing us and them to the Dark House.

The story unfolds from six different perspectives (Ivy, Parker, Natalie, Frankie, Shayla, and Garth), but Ivy is the main character and focused on the most. We get a detailed glimpse into Ivy’s past, nightmare, and general personality, but the other characters not so much. All six essay winner’s each clearly have their role and trope to play (perky, hot girl; bad/tough boy, freak, All-American guy, goth chick, innocent/virginal girl) and are rigidly characterized as such, with little complexity (which may have been totally intentional!). But, that doesn’t mean these characters aren’t amusing and entertaining, because they are!

Once the characters find themselves in the amusement park and must face their nightmares, the real thrills and chills start! Stolarz offers an awesome mix of gory, heart-pounding, outrageous, psychological scare-tactics and frights. This part of the book is a lot fun, even if some of it is predictable and cheesy. However, I was disappointed by the rushed ending and the many questions left unanswered.

My Final Thoughts: Far from perfect, but entertaining nonetheless, Welcome To The Dark House is a fun story to escape into for a few hours. Campy horror fans, who don’t take their horror too seriously, will get a kick out of this book!


Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.


jennifer.essad said...

sounds good for reading around the campfire, spooky fun

Amelia said...

Because of her Touch series, I now associate the name Laurie Faria Stolarz with "creepy crawliness." I don't think I'll pick this one up, just because the summary didn't appeal to me, but it's good to know that LFS continues with the creepiness. :) Great review! Thanks for sharing :)

Amelia | The Authoress

Jillyn said...

This is one of my most anticipated reads, I can't wait to enjoy the creepiness for myself :)