By David Bernstein
Pub. Date: June 30, 2015
Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars
David Bernstein's no-frills scare-the-hell-out-of-you horror novel Skinner reads like a tribute to all those "group of people caught in a cabin during a snowstorm with the monster from hell" flicks. Except this one scared me more than most of those movies. This is one of those times having a formula didn't bother me because Bernstein knows when to ditch the formula. Just when I thought I knew what the next move would be he throws a surprise. It was like visiting an old predictable friend that learned a few new tricks while you were away.
So what is the plot? Six young people ranging from sensible peacemaker to annoying asshole are stranded in a snowstorm. Fortunately, or rather unfortunately for our nearly frostbitten city dwellers, there is a cabin nearby. Of course, we savvy readers are already going , "Run away! Didn't you get the clue when you stopped at the rotting away gas station and the creepy old man said, "Storm's a coming"?. But of course they don't and with the psychological tension building up in our unwary protagonists we know they won't until it is too late. In the meantime, we are getting a hint that the evil in the woods is ready to party and won't stop til the wolves come home. There is also a caring sheriff who just "might" save the day and Renfield got a promotion to Old Man in the Mountain's stooge so he doesn't have to eat bugs for a living.
So OK. I'm having a little fun with this. That is a compliment because this novel is a lot of scary and spooky fun. It exists to scare and it does that with glee. The author knows when to build the suspense, when to pile on the violence and gore, and how to tease for the climax. His "boogeyman" is quite creative and makes for a large percentage of the twist and jumps in the story. In fact, it is that symbol of terror that pushes this away from just being that formula horror plot I alluded to earlier. If only those movies that this seems to be a tribute to were this good. If the goal of a horror novel is to scare and entertain you, Skinner fulfills its goal.