Camp Slasher, Dan Padavona’s latest, is the type of book whose title lets you know exactly what you’re getting into.
Cut from the same cloth as horror slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, Padavona unleashes merciless violence upon a group of people working to rebuild the defunct Camp Black Bear. While the group struggles with clearing out an infestation of wolf spiders and struggling with the dramatics of interpersonal conflicts, a deranged killer lurks in the woods nearby, watching and waiting for his perfect moment to strike.
It’s all pretty standard killer camp stuff, but it doesn’t disappoint, particularly if you’re a sucker for these types of stories. Padavona does find a unique entry point into the mayhem, though, by injecting a worthwhile subplot of police drama and investigation into the disappearance of a woman and a group of hikers.
I was a bit surprised by the focus on the police officers, actually, having expected Camp Slasher to focus entirely on Camp Black Bear. Padavona spends a fair amount of time on political intrigue – Sheriff Bracken McCain is up for reelection, and one his deputies, a slimeball appropriately named Craven, is running against him and working hard to undercut everything Bracken does along the way. There’s a goodly amount of conflict baked into their relationship and Craven is one of those love-to-hate characters.
In fact, there’s a number of loathsome men populating Camp Slasher that readers will be pining to see meet their gruesome ends. Padavona stocks Camp Black Bear with perhaps more than its fair share of dangerously entitled men that you just cannot wait to see maimed and butchered, and while it strains credulity just a bit it does lead to some wonderfully satisfying scenes of tension as things spiral out of control.
Credit where it’s due, Padavona knows how to write some grisly, violent scenes. This is evident right the book’s opening chapter, which, if it weren’t already clear from the title, lets you know this is a horror book that won’t be pulling any punches or shying away from the gory bits. Even tense scenes of potential violence are deftly executed. There’s an early scene involving a cabin full of spiders that had this arachnophobe squirming in his seat, all hairs standing on end, thanks to some colorful word choices and stage-setting on the author’s part that let me see and hear things a bit too well.
Deftly paced and loaded with plenty of drama that helps pave the way for a bit of the ol’ ultra-violence, Camp Slasher should help satisfy those cravings for some 80s-styled summer vacation pulp horror. If you’ve been missing Jason Voorhees, Padavona has a new maniacal woodsman to introduce you to.
[Note: I received an advance reading copy of this title from the author.]
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