Halloween Fiend by CV Hunt
Publisher: Grindhouse Press | Release Date: Feb. 16, 2019 | Pages: 102
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Halloween Fiend by C.V. Hunt is a mixture of Halloween lore, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and small town gossip. A bizarre monster haunts the town of Strang and becomes obsessed with a schlubby man that just wants to be left alone. Halloween Fiend does its best to not overstay its welcome, keeping the pace quick and the scares creepy.
Our first big character is the town Strang, and it’s at the center of everything. The place is practically a ghost town, with a handful of citizens waiting until they get a dot that marks them as a sacrifice for the monster Halloween. Hunt keeps us in the dark as to why Halloween is there and why no one is doing anything about it. I appreciate these open ended questions. Too many stories blow it by explaining away everything. We don’t need to know the monster or town’s backstory. In fact, this helps ramp up the creepiness. The nightly ritual of placing an animal in a cage on their porch and listening to the monster eat is extremely unsettling. They do this every night; somehow they have an unlimited supply of guinea pigs and cats. I’m not sure where they are getting them, but I would imagine this might raise questions.
Hunt takes a big chance on her main character, Barry. He’s a mess of a man that is the exact opposite of a hero; running from his chance to take a stand, never having the nerve to reveal his feelings for a girl, hell, he even has a heart attack. But, I love that Hunt did this. It’s a refreshing take on the reluctant main character. This guy is making decisions that will keep him off of everyone’s radar. And he has no problem whining about his issues, in fact this is almost a little too real. It borders on annoying listening to Barry lament his lot in life and not doing anything about it. However, I think this is a strength in Hunt’s storytelling, it’s not every day you get to be annoyed with a character yet still root for them.
In a monster book such as this it is important to have a believable monster. Hunt delivers this in spades with Halloween. By the way, the monster is called Halloween because it recites Halloween poems and goes door-to-door asking for treats (in this case either a cute guinea pig or cat). Hunt describes it as a shifting shadow shape with long fingers and lights in its chest. The lights remind me a bit of a Pennywise, especially how these lights sort of hypnotize Barry, but Halloween is definitely its own beast. I think this monster will be one that sticks with many people long after they finish.
I did have some issues with the side characters. One thing I cannot stand is when a character is introduced just to be a jerk. It’s extremely one-note and feels that they are there to either annoy us or ramp up tension. Here in Halloween Fiend that character is the town sheriff. For some reason he has it out for Barry and only shows up to antagonize him. There isn’t any depth or reason as to why he is doing it. Then there is a turn at the very end that try as I might I just couldn’t buy. I can appreciate why it’s there, but we had no clues this was a thing that could happen, so it comes off as a “gotcha” moment that took me out of the story.
Despite my reservations, I did thoroughly enjoy Halloween Fiend. It completely captures the feeling of Halloween, I could almost hear the wind blowing through dead leaves. I loved the risk Hunt took on the slob of a main character, the monster is extremely haunting, and the mystery is perfect for keeping you up late at night. This is definitely the perfect book to add to your list of haunted reads for October.