Witching Hour Theatre by Craig Sheffer (cover)

“Witching Hour Theatre” by Craig Shaeffer
Creative Guy Publishing, 2005
$6.50 side-stapled chapbook
60 pages, ISBN: 1894953371

Starlight Cinema presents Witching Hour Theatre: “a shadowy world of hauntings and serial killers, werewolves and cannibals, slaughter and mayhem.”  Once a week, Starlight Cinema flips its marquee and presents a triple-feature of silver-screen horror: something recent, something classic, and something obscure.  The novella opens with Larry Wilson purchasing his ticket for the evening.  We quickly learn that for all intents and purposes, Witching Hour Theatre is what Larry lives for.  Larry’s a geek’s geek (Gary Braunbeck: “Larry is my kind of character”), and his field is horror movies.

On first read, Witching Hour Theatre came across as unpleasantly stilted–but the descriptions were vivid and often lurid: “He slid his hands into his coat pockets and crossed the street, careful to avoid a beat-up van dragging its muffler behind it like a spilled intestine.”  And while I found the protagonist off-putting, and the plot and the plot-relevant characters horror-movie cliche–I did fall into the piece’s charms after a while.  The cliches were like a comfortably worn (if somewhat gooey) seat at your favorite run-down movie theater.  Once I settled in, relaxed, made sure I wasn’t wearing clothing that would get stained by whatever had been left in the chair last… it was an enjoyable ride.  It sets you up for a short action romp and delivers cleanly.  Given all that, other than the semi-wish-fulfillment ease of the geeky guy getting the girl, my only real qualm was the lack of context for the villains.

The story leaves you guessing at first who the villains are, so I won’t ruin that–you’re given a wide variety of characters (largely stereotypes, but well described and well portrayed).  But their existence, their connection to time and setting, came across as rather random.  But if you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ll most likely empathise with Larry and enjoy his geeky take on things.  Witching Hour Theatre knows the horror tropes and uses them appropriately; and skimming it again for this review, I was reminded of its charm.

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