By mixing in elements of horror, humor, romance, and action, this Experiment In Terror is a complete success!
Working at a job she can't stand and living with a family who doesn't understand her, Perry Palomino is having trouble finding her place in the world. Maybe that's why she finds herself drawn to other things that don't quite belong in this world as well. Shadowy horrors invade her dreams, and a haunted lighthouse beacons her. When her investigation into the strange lighthouse leads her to wannabe ghost-hunter Dex Foray, the two of them decide to pool their talents in order to learn and document the secrets of the supernatural. But soon Perry isn't sure which is more dangerous...the ghosts that are stalking her, or the man who's helping her chase them!
This horror-movie fan had a lot of fun reading "Darkhouse"...so much so, that I will even be bestowing upon it awards from three of my favorite horror movies of all time..."The Ring" award - for putting "terror" over "horror"!
I've seen all the "Halloween" movies (although, why would anyone sit through them all, they're all pretty much the same movie)
, all the "Nightmare On Elm Street" movies (seriously, what the hell is wrong with me)
and all the "Friday the 13th" movies (I've wasted my life)
, yet NONE of them even came close to freaking me out as much as the scene where Samara crawls out of the TV in "The Ring"! Karina Halle takes a similar approach. Rather than drowning the reader with blood and gore, Halle uses chilling prose and a creepy atmosphere to make us afraid of what may happen next. The first half of the book is more dedicated to character development (although there are enough eerie events to keep the terror flowing even then), but the creep factor really picks up in the second half! To give too much away would be a disservice to the reader, as the scarier moments are much more effective when they're experienced first hand (try telling someone who hasn't seen The Ring, "Then this freaky chick crawls out of a TV!"....just not the same as actually seeing it)
. But I can reveal that Karina Halle manages to infuse elements of fear and dread without ever resorting to schlock tactics (something that even Thomas Harris was incapable of doing by the 3rd Hannibal Lecter book) , and that takes true talent! Oh, and speaking of Hannibal..."Silence of the Lambs" award - for mesmerizing leads!
Clarice and Hannibal were certainly not
your typical on-screen couple (although, if they were, I might start watching a lot more rom-coms). Likewise, Perry is hardly the kind of lead you usually find in a young-adult novel. She's not glamorous, she isn't the best at anything, and forget about love-triangles, she'd be happy just to be part of a love-duo! But she is funny, intelligent, and sensitive, and her personality makes her more endearing than even Katniss Everdeen ever was. Halle strikes a perfect balance in characterizing Perry. Perry's insecurities are just enough to make her sympathetic, but not enough to get on the readers nerves. Perry's narration is often laugh-out-loud funny, but it's her more tender moments that really resonate with the audience. Also, she is the perfect counterpart for the much-more-confident but not-quite-as-sensitive Dex. While he dies provide much humor of his own, there's a darker edge to Dex, and the more we learn about him, the less we're sure Perry should be working with him. Perry and Dex are both enthralling in their own way, and they play off of each other beautifully. And that perfect chemistry leads us to..."Scream" award - for giving us cool stuff to watch even when scary things aren't happening!
When I remember my favorite parts of "Scream", I very rarely think of the actual creepy stuff. Instead, I remember all the hilarious parts, especially when the characters kept deconstructing the "rules"
of surviving a horror movie...one of my favorites being when Jamie Kennedy survived the events of the first movie (sorry for the spoiler of a 15-year-old movie) and announced, "I never thought I'd be so happy to be a virgin!" Likewise, "Darkhouse" is often at its best when scary things AREN'T going on! The heartwarming bond that Perry builds with her younger sister. The hilarious shenanigans of Perry's drunken cousins. This book works on so many levels, there were times I got so caught up in Perry's day-to-day life, I almost forgot that this was a horror novel! That's not to say that there aren't plenty of scares, but rather that the book manages to be equally entertaining even when things aren't going bump in the night.
An enormously entertaining read that promises you will either laugh or scream at least once on every page. If you read "Darkhouse" (and you really, really should), I hope you have as much fun watching Karina Halle flaunt classic horror-movie conventions as much as I did!