The Horror Zine Review
by Fred Wiehe
|Print Length: 291 pages
Publisher: Damnation Books LLC (March 24, 2015
by Fred Wiehe
Review by Dave Sciuto
The modern horror story sparked during the emergence of science and technology following the Age of Enlightenment. It came down to us through a tradition of Gothic Romance, and was perfected by no less than the master of murder and mystery, Edgar Allen Poe. Hence, even in the most recent adaptations of the genre, we still find its mossy roots buried deep in 19th Century literature, comingling Gothic themes of darkness and death with the Romance novel, which intertwine nature with fantasy, and pit the infusion against an increasingly technical and analytical world.
Fred Wiehe has written an exemplary modern horror story, Fright House. It combines today’s technologies, afforded to the ghostbusters leader by Tory Jackson, with a classic setting of an abandoned insane asylum, nestled in the deep woods on a darkened, stormy night. The setting of the old edifice, itself, with its great expanse and its squealing iron door, reminds us at once of a foreboding castle, complete with dungeons, as we accompany Tory’s team on their journey through this tale.
All the roles in a Gothic medieval troupe are assembled here among the paranormal investigators: the warlord, barbarian, wizard, cleric, fighter, and sorceress. Their quest becomes a battle between good and evil, and a struggle between the strengths and weaknesses within the main characters themselves. On an allegorical level, the story’s main character, Penny Winter, serves as a concoction of a Penny Dreadful and the darkened chill of a mid-winter’s night. She, like the major character Tory, struggles throughout the story with a psychological past that impinges on their present situation.
Mr Wiehe’s story runs full force from start to ending, fueled on two major themes: keys and a haunted personal past. Survival is—as always in these stories—predicated on the ability to prove one’s strength in the face of peril. Our major characters, flawed as they are, possess what is needed internally, holding the key of character and using it to unlock hidden internal strength at the most critical moment.
Using an interesting play of emotion between the two major characters in Fright House, Mr. Wiehe presents the relationship between Penny and Tory in flux: now at odds, now united, now loathing each other. It is symbolic of a love-hate relationship, which, as often the case, becomes so strong against adversity that it must surely triumph.
There is something here for all who enjoy a good, scary tale. For the reader who is enmeshed in the horror story tradition, it reminds us, at some level, of Poe’s short story, “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." For the viewer of horror movies: “The Forgotten (Don’t Look in the Basement”) comes to mind.
Fright House reads like a fast-paced movie, trading endless deep description in prose for crisp, flowing dialogue that invites the reader to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the characters as they converse.
Here is where Mr Wiehe excels in his craft. He could be called a “minimalist” in his writing style; every word is carefully chosen to take its place among a group in sentences that convey vivid imaginary without the need for large textual overhead. Less is more, and Mr. Wiehe enforces that rule through suggested imagery of gruesomeness without clubbing us over the head with it.
Fright House should be on your reading list as your next injection of a horror story. As an alternative to a late night passive viewing of a horror movie, this engaging tale reads rather quickly. It’setter than any movie you may watch, because the images Mr. Wiehe conjures will make you look out of the corner of eye as you read, and may stay affixed in your memory like a blood-stained wall…long after you finish this memorable tale.
You can buy the book HERE
About the author
Fred Wiehe is a member of the Horror Writers Association. He’s the author of six novels, a collection of short stories, and numerous short stories that have appeared in anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. His collection of short stories A Triumvirate of Short Stories became an Amazon Kindle Bestseller July 2015. His adult novel Aleric: Monster Hunter became an Amazon Bestseller on Friday the 13th in 2012. His collection of short stories for young adults and adults, Holiday Madness: 13 Dark Tales for Halloween, Christmas, & All Occasions, became his publisher’s #1 Bestseller for 2010. Fred’s new YA (ages 13-17+) novel Fright House was released on April Fool’s Day 2015 from Damnation Books. He’s now working on The Collected Nightmares, a collection of short stories for adults; a screenplay based on his short story "The Uglies;" and Zero Sin, the sequel to Aleric: Monster Hunter.
About the reviewer
Dave Sciuto is a business and technology instructor and writer. With a lifelong passion for all facets of communication, he has also worked as a newspaper columnist and radio talk show co-host in the Greater Boston market. He holds a degree in English and Secondary Education and an MBA from UMass. He is currently a doctoral student researching teacher professional development communities in online social networks.
He lives in the small rural town of Dunstable, Massachusetts, once the temporary home of the Revend Samuel Parris, the ousted minister of the Salem Witch Trials fame. He makes his country home with his beautiful wife, Mary, their dog, Darcy, and cat, Kiddy. He can be contacted through his website, poeticGoth.com, or on twitter on @davesciuto.