Monday, May 31, 2010

"Catching Hell", (Cemetery Dance), by Greg F. Gifune

The doomed summer road-trip: perhaps one of the most frequently used vehicles for thrillers and horror movies, novels, and stories. Of course, if offers the perfect set-up: several friends or strangers lost alone on a deserted interstate or back-road miles from urban civilization, far from help.

And really, how many times have we all taken a “wrong turn” and found ourselves in a small, crumbling little hamlet that's off the map and forgotten by time? Even in a world that grows increasingly claustrophobic and connected by technology, plenty of cracks still exist for lonely wanderers to fall through, and this is what gives the premise of “Catching Hell” such chilling plausibility.

It's the summer of 1983 and four friends have embarked on one last joyride before they go their separate ways. All members of a Cape Cod summer theater, they'll soon be starting new lives: one in a prestigious theater school, two off to the city to chase their dreams – however futilely – and one just looking for a good time. This road-trip is one last chance to enjoy their friendship in a carefree way they may never be able to recapture.

At first the community of Boxer Hills seems quaint and antique; a small town that's somehow missed twenty years or so of progress. Soon enough, however, our travelers discover a darkness lingering beneath the surface of this dust-covered town. An insidious, ancient evil holds Boxer Hills in its grip, and only by descending into the depths of depravity and violence do they stand a chance – in hell – of someday escaping.

In regards to plot, “Catching Hell” doesn't necessarily offer many surprises, but it's sound and well constructed. Gifune's prose is the real attraction here; vivid in language and specificity, neat and tight, offering very concrete images with just the right words. He instills a chilling mood and ambiance also, making this the perfect read for a warm summer day...but perhaps when safe at home and not out wandering lonely country roads on a summer vacation.

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