Scream meets The Shining in this page-turning horror tale about an aging actor haunted by the slasher movie villain he brought to life.
Decades after playing the titular killer in the 80s horror franchise Night of the Reaper, Howard Browning has been reduced to signing autographs for his dwindling fanbase at genre conventions. When the studio announces a series reboot, the aging thespian is crushed to learn he’s being replaced in the iconic role by heartthrob Trevor Mane, a former sitcom child-star who’s fresh out of rehab. Trevor is determined to stay sober and revamp his image while Howard refuses to let go of the character he created, setting the stage for a cross-generational clash over the soul of a monster. But as Howard fights to reclaim his legacy, the sinister alter ego consumes his unraveling mind, pushing him to the brink of violence. Is the method actor succumbing to madness or has the devilish Reaper taken on a life of its own?
In his razor-sharp debut novel, film and television writer Brian McAuley melds wicked suspense with dark humor and heart. Curse of the Reaper is a tightly plotted thriller that walks the tightrope between the psychological and the supernatural, while characters struggling with addiction and identity bring to light the harrowing cost of Hollywood fame.
Curse of the Reaper is described as Scream meets The Shining and while that is an apt description, the first comparison that comes to mind for me is Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. This is Hollywood horror at its finest, utilizing both the town and its tendency to chew people up and spit them out as well as the fandom that surrounds these franchises.
Howard is a broken, lost man full of regret and anger. With an Alzheimer’s diagnosis and a tenuous grasp on reality, the walls in his mind begin to break down when a reboot of his classic horror franchise is announced, without him.
Trevor is also a broken man, nearing his thirties, in and out of rehab, this former child star has a chance for a comeback. Taking over the role of The Reaper from Howard. But can he stay clean long enough to make it to production? And if so, will The Reaper accept him…or destroy him?
Curse of the Reaper is a many layered novel dealing with themes of legacy, mental health, addiction, letting go and moving on. Howard can’t let go of his legacy as The Reaper, and Tyler struggles to move on from his past and addictions. How far will Howard go to prove he still has what it takes? How far will Tyler go to prove he is worthy of being happy? Is it even possible for either of them?
Equal parts psychological horror and slasher blood bath, Curse of the Reaper is a slow burn full of creeping dread and palpable suspense. As the characters question what is real, so will the reader. Fantastically ambiguous, but wonderfully brutal and gory when it needs to be, Brain McAuley will keep you guessing at what is going on until the very end. And long after.
This novel has been stuck in my head for the past week like a catchy song. There are so many great scenes, lines and ideas. Just when I thought the slasher had been subverted to death, McAuley comes in and pulls the bloody rug out from under me. I finished this novel the same day I watched SCREA/VI aka Scream VI aka Ghostface Takes Manhattan, and I honestly can’t say which I enjoyed more. And that’s saying something because Scream is my favorite slasher franchise.
A novel that is best experienced knowing as little about it as possible, Curse of the Reaper is a fantastic slasher novel, exploring the effects of slasher culture and fandom in a fresh and exciting way. Both a love letter to the slasher as well as an examination of the genre and it’s effects on those involved, Brian McAuley’s debut deserves a place among the classics that inspired it as well as his peers. If you’re a fan of Stephen Graham Jones and/or Grady Hendrix, check this out immediately. FEAR THE REA-PER REA-PER REA-PER!