Review: Witching Hour Theatre by Craig Sheffer

Monday, February 25, 2008

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 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.

- reddit, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, etc... please! ;)
posted by kaolin

31 comments; 0 subscribers

Monday, February 25, 2008 / 16:16:49
To win GUD's copy of "Witching Hour Theater", leave a comment below telling us a bit about your favorite obscure horror movie.

We'll choose one winner at random from the valid entries received. Contest open to US/Canada shipping addresses, and closes on 3rd March (midnight pacific time).

Monday, February 25, 2008 / 17:00:18
This sounds like a fun story with a few twists. Thanks for the chance.
Monday, February 25, 2008 / 18:39:19
When I was young I used to watch Dr. Phibes (sp?)with Vincent Price - I think. Anyway, it scared the bejeeses out of me. He murdered people in various weird ways, like tying them to their bed, drenching their head in honey and dumping some yucky kind of insects on them. Or a knife that came out of the phone into the persons ear/head.
Monday, February 25, 2008 / 20:54:38
I have two that I'd like to mention. One is a cheesy sci-fi horror called The Green Slime. I watched it when I was a kid and it really scared me. Typical alien gets on board space station story with the creature having lots of eyes and arms. When shot more creatures grow from its blood. The other movie is better..its called The Quatermass Experiment (The Creeping Unknown in North America). Rocket comes back to earth and only one astronaut is alive but is infected with something from space and turns into a creature. Much better movie than my description.
Monday, February 25, 2008 / 22:41:51
I always thought "Creature from the black lagoon" was pretty tripping lol. Please enter me.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 / 02:55:18
I remember a movie called The Screaming Skull. It terrified me as a child. I wanted to rewatch it as an adult to see if it had the same impact. I wasn't terrified as an adult but I did jump a couple of times.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 / 08:37:37
The Green Slime was an oldy but goody. Can't believe the difference a few years make on the movie and its scare factor.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 / 13:57:18
Motel Hell, Psychomania, Funhouse...

i really could go on and on
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 / 14:16:01
i still love "attack of the killer tomatoes"
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 / 14:47:59
i was a teenage werewolf
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 / 07:38:54
I remember a movie called "Attack of the Mushroom People" and would love to see it again, it was great camp. Thank you!
Thursday, February 28, 2008 / 12:24:22
one film I remember was - the cook, the thief, his wife & her lover
Thursday, February 28, 2008 / 21:16:14
'teenage werewolf' for me too, i think because i watched years of 'little house on the prairie' prior to seeing the film
Friday, February 29, 2008 / 19:42:07
Does the old, original, "The Blob" qualify? That was was so cool for back in it's day!
Friday, February 29, 2008 / 21:37:05
I remember this movie called "Blackula". I watched this as a child and it scared the holy *&%$ out of me. I will be watching it again when it comes from netflix next week. I doubt it will be as scary this time around ;)
Saturday, March 1, 2008 / 07:17:25
attak of the killer tomatoes - just the title - wow who thought that would sell!!!
Sunday, March 2, 2008 / 01:49:49
"The Casting of the Runes" a subtle British horror flick by the great horror writer M. R. James who was Provost of Eton. A demon is summoned by a piece of paper with runes on it.
Sunday, March 2, 2008 / 06:37:32
I just remember watching that old show "Creature from the Black Lagoon" when I was a kid and it had a new one every week and they were all really good and creepy.
Sunday, March 2, 2008 / 13:05:48
Suspiria. It is about a young American dancer traveling to Germany to attend a prestige dance/ballet school. She experiences weird noises, dizzy spells and death. She discovers that the school is really a front for a coven of witches that practice black magic.
Sunday, March 2, 2008 / 23:08:41
Invasion of the Body Snatchers - I had nightmares for a long time
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 01:21:02
My favorite obscure horror movie at this time is "Kagen No Tsuki".
It stars Chiaki Kuriyama from Kill Bill as a girl who falls in love with a troubled musician ,only to find out that he's the ghost of a rock star who killed himself in the 80's.
She's trapped in his crumbling mansion with him unless someone wakes her body up from the coma in the hospital so her soul can leave his fricking house.

If her body dies, she's stuck with him forever. The ghost was played by Japanese rock star HYDE, so I wouldn't have minded being stuck with him.
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 02:55:38
ooooo Killer Klowns from Outer Space, that's pretty scary and ridiculous at the same time, if ur not scared of clowns already you will be by the end of the movie, hahaha!
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 08:44:30
I think it would have to be "The Swamp Thing"
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 14:02:38
i'm gonna go with Slugs, that movie was super gross, ewe, those slugs scared me so much, every time is see a slug i get the heeby-geebys! i hope they don't eat me next.
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 14:43:12
My favorite horror movie is Sleepy Hollow.
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 14:59:10
I liked The Fog
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 18:12:39
It's gotta be "Killer Klowns from Outer Space".
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 20:59:29
Nightmare Sisters-two sexstarved sisters who turn into raving monsters devoring boys.
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 21:24:42
Fangs of the Living Dead (vampires, not zombies, but certainly meant to capitalize on the resonance of the title)
Monday, March 3, 2008 / 23:48:02
My favorite obscure horror movie is Frankenhooker because my fiance was one of the screenwriters. ;0P
Friday, March 7, 2008 / 04:23:18
Thank you for all the great entries! Our random number generator selected mverno as our winner, so that will be going out next week.

And lilyk--very cool! I've never actually seen Frankenhooker (it's sort of on my list, if the crowd is right and I somehow have it on hand), but it was very popular among several of my friends back in highschool :D And I still remember the cover image. :)

Lots of really interesting entries, and if I can get a breather from GUD and my day job, I'd definitely like to check out a number of them. :)

Lastly but not least(ly)--we've often got a number of these contests going on, so check out our other reviews to see what's up!

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