Review: Witching Hour Theatre by Jonathan Janz

Witching Hour Theatre by Jonathan Janz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Witching Hour Theatre is a fresh re-release of Jonathan Janz's out-of-print novella from the author himself. Earlier this year, I was introduced to Janz by way of his most recent novel, Children of the Dark, and, a short time later, an earlier novel, Savage Species. Now, we go even further back into the Janz archives with this particular title, which is both a fun read and also a solid indicator of how much this author has grown over the years.

In his foreword and a brief essay at the end of this novella, Janz discusses those early days as a new writer working to find his voice while under the strong influences of Stephen King, Richard Laymon, and Richard Matheson. Shamefully, I'm only familiar with the latter two by proxy, having read other horror writers who were similarly influenced, but there is a bit of a similar through-line shared amongst these works. And if you're going to be influenced by anyone, you couldn't do much better than King, in my opinion.

Witching Hour Theatre is an early work from a new writer finding his voice and wanting to do his own thing and it shows. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing, as the novella also shows a young writer with a tremendous amount of promise in the future ahead (which, I can say, thanks to wonderful powers of prognostication stemming from having read his more current works, is a promise realized in Children of the Dark, itself a solid indicator that Janz's star is still exponetially on the rise and that this dude is going to be a name well known to horror fans soon. And yeah, I'm a fan. I know. Deal with it.).

The story itself is simple - a guy goes to the movies to catch a triple-bill of horror flicks, a staple of the theater dubbed Witching Hour Theatre. As the films wear on and the theater empties, Larry becomes aware of an entity seated in the dark rows behind him. Soon enough, we're off to the bloody races and witness to a fight for survival.

This is a satisfying story, but not particularly deep. Janz cuts things close, going for the quick, visceral feel of a slasher movie, keeping the pace taught. We get some glimpses of story elements Janz will play with in his later works, such as the self-described lovable loser who is hopelessly in love with the girl he thinks is out of his league, intense action scenes, vicious villians, and adept characterization.

Witching Hour Theatre is not Janz's best work, but, it is still very good and an awful lot of fun. And there's the thrill of finally reading Janz's very first published work in a spiffy, revised edition with some pretty awesome artwork fronting it. Readers who are already fans of Janz will find plenty to appreciate here, and, I think, readers just now discovering Janz through this work will be inclined to read plenty more from this author. The fact that it was re-released just in time for Halloween helps sweeten the deal, and it made for some fine late-night, witching hour reading at the close of October.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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