Howl by Renee Miller
Publisher: Unnerving | Release Date: June 27, 2019 | Pages: 100
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Howl, the latest from Renee Miller, delivers all the carnage you could possible ask for in a quick, punchy hundred-some pages. It’s also got several elements that I flat-out, unabashedly love in my horror fiction — namely a secluded cabin in the woods, in the middle of a snowstorm, where the claustrophobia and paranoia is every bit as dangerous as the weather outside.
Things start off bad for the three friends on their way to a hotel conference, and get decidedly worse from there. After taking the wrong exit off the highway, Dale is stuck in their fart-box of a car listening to Joe and Fred make terrible jokes at one another’s expense. It’s almost a relief when the fuel gauge hits E and they’re forced to the side of a desolate road that hasn’t seen another car on it in hours. That relief is short-lived, though. They decide, with nightfall upon them, the best way to get back to the highway and find some help is to take a shortcut through the woods. This is, naturally, an incredibly bad idea, and soon the forest erupts with howls and the three on the run for their lives, seeking shelter in a cabin. A cabin they can’t leave. Surrounded by massive, unnatural, hairy beasts. They know their hours are numbered. It’s just a matter of how bad things can get between now and then.
Let me tell you, things get seriously bad. Miller does her very best to wrinkle and complicate this odds-stacked-against-them struggle for survival, and things go from bad to worse to a thousand percent FUBAR. Howl is a slim novella that has plenty of tension baked right into its premise and as these characters come into conflict with both each other and the strange forces aligned against them things get plenty hairy. It makes for a compelling read, and with each successive chapter you can’t help but wonder what could possibly happen next, or who and how the next victim will succumb.
Miller’s crafted what is ostensibly a werewolf book (although I don’t believe that particular phrase is ever uttered), stripped right down to the bone. There’s no silver bullet, no magic to save the day. Instead, Howl is a cold, straightforward, brutal work of survival horror. It’s men versus monsters, and it doesn’t ever flinch away from the deadly, bloody confrontations that ensue. Miller gets your blood pumping right from the start. Unfortunately for her trio of dude-bros, they get plenty of their own blood pumping horrors straight from the get-go, too.