Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Witching Hour Theatre" by Craig Shaeffer

Larry Wilson is a passive, almost invisible man. His life is comfortable, but also unfulfilled and lonely. He has a routine and self-governing rules, but no friends and his “mild-mannered demeanor” makes him an easy target of ridicule from his co-workers. One of the few highlights of his week is Friday night when the local movie house, Starlight Cinemas, presents Witching Hour Theatre. It is a triple bill midnight horror movie-marathon presented in the older of Starlight's two theaters. There is a curtain, dark shadows, a spooky atmosphere and a sizable audience waiting for three deliciously frightening films. The first is always a recent release, the second an older "classic film," while the third is a campy, often poorly made but fun, film from the 1950s or sixties.

The audience is large on this particular presentation of Witching Hour Theatre, but many, except the diehards, leave after the first film, and then even more make their way to the exits after the second. It is during the third film that Larry realizes he’s alone and soon he begins to see strange things. Then everything changes. Larry's quiet world is turned upside down as he is faced with a terrifying confrontation that challenges both his mortality and his conscience.

"Witching Hour Theatre" is a delight. It is a short novella, no more than an hour of reading, written by Craig Shaeffer. It begins as a quiet story, but quickly blossoms into full-bore action horror. The old theater is spooky with shadows, darkness and impending terror. The images of the carnival-like atmosphere will thrill fans of horror movies and the climax is effectively scripted to the action on screen. The writing is professional and the tension built without melodrama: it is constructed with a slow, literate and agonizing pace. The reader can feel the terror coming, but it is created scene-by-scene from a low, almost unheard thrum, to an inferno.

"Witching Hour Theatre" is an unexpected gem. It is original and entertaining. Its quality and tone, along with its use of a well-known film to accentuate the action and mood of the story, will keep fans of the genre interested and thrilled.

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