Alright, I’m a child and horror fan of the late 20th century, you knew the odds were fairly high that I’d be in to Stephen King and, yeah, he is without question my favorite author. I have a lot of issues with a lot of what he’s written due to some of his eccentricities and writing quirks, but the man is an undeniable master of horror. While The Shining is far from my favorite King book (that is, and shall forever be, The Stand), as a classic of haunted house literature and a lead character being slowly driven mad by their past catching up with their present in a location with a dark and twisted history, I had to keep it on my bedside table while working on Bennytown.
Okay, this one’s cheating a bit because it’s two of my all-time favorite horror movies, but since they both have a similar theme that was a major reference point, I’m including them here. What do both of these sci-fi horror classics have in common with a book about a haunted theme park? In short: workplace horror. It’s difficult being around a lot of our coworkers during even the best of times, but when things go to hell and the average workplace annoyances become a pressure cooker of mistrust and fear, well, that definitely makes for some fertile ground for horror. Though Noel doesn’t have to deal with any of the otherworldly horrors of the Nostromo or Outpost 31 crews, their plights were never far from my mind.
Full disclosure, I have a love-hate relationship with this series and haven’t watched any of the seasons since Roanoke really. It’s a messy grab bag of horror tropes and episodes just trying to be more shocking than the last than scary, but, this was a pivotal influence for me in my exploration as a horror writer. When it came to horror, my mind before had generally thought of horror stories as simply being one thing. A haunted house story was a haunted house story, a serial killer story was a serial killer story, a monster story was a monster story, and so on. While I never had any arguments with this line of thinking, my mind has always been overwhelmed with ideas that I want to put into a story, and that had never seemed permissible. Seeing the kitchen sink storytelling style of American Horror Story that quite often worked just flipped a switch in me that said, hey, you can put whatever you want in a story so long as you can make it make sense.
Despite my horror bona-fides, I have a confession to make: I’m pretty easy to scare. It’s easy to scare me with movies, but if you want to utterly destroy me, just put me in the middle of a well made horror video game. I’ve lost it playing games like Five Nights at Freddy’s, the Resident Evil 2 remake, and especially the nightmare factory that is Alien: Isolation, but for my money one of the scariest experiences I’ve had is playing the Outlast games. Better than most games I’ve played, they’ve created that beautiful, instinctive fear of being hunted. You’re helpless to fight back, and more often than not you’re bathed in pitch blackness. I make it a point to praise horror movies that are frightening in the daylight and don’t rely on darkness as a cheap road to fear, but Outlast brings a true terror to the darkness, and considering the madness and the number of scenes in Bennytown that rely on pitch blackness for their fear, Outlast was never far from my mind.
There are a lot more influences that I could go into, but that would create a much longer, much more rambling article and discussion I shall probably save for another day. Until then, be kind to each other, take care of yourselves, stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed, be kind to each other (I know I said this twice, and I don’t care because it bears repeating) and I hope to see you at Bennytown…
Bennytown will be released on paperback and Kindle on June 23, 2020.