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It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections of Horror is a splendid and unique collection of essays by LGBTQ+ writers new and known to the literary and horror world. Edited by Joe Vallese, the anthology includes pieces by Carmen Maria Machado, Samuel Autman and Grant Sutton. They write about the horror movies that impacted their lives and , including Jaws, Jennifer’s Body, The Blair Witch Project, Us and Sleepaway Camp.

Horror History

It Came from the Closet is the realm of popular horror theory anthologies. Among these ranks include Men, Women and Chainsaws and The Dread of Difference and many others. The volumes primarily consist of popular academics and film critics who analyze horror movies and apply literary and psychological theories to create new theories and arguments. What is different about It Came from the Closet is that the essays are multifaceted; the authors come from an array of professional backgrounds, not just academia. And while they utilize popular theories to prove their arguments, the main theme of the anthology is that it comes a heavy emphasis on the art of the memoir.

Horror movies have a rich and complicated history. Many of the most famous are notorious for being queerphobic and fairly sexist. But there are also many gems that have broke boundaries and created space for the misrepresented communities the genre also outcast. Horror, in short, is not one size fits all. It is such a complex and fascinating genre, and the writers It Came from the Closet do well in expressing this and connecting this to their own histories.

The Self

The essays in this anthology are deeply personal and intuitive. Carmen Maria Machado’s essay “Both Ways” is a love letter to Jennifer’s Body and memoir of her own history of being a bi woman. In her own words, she expresses how how sexuality is fluid and complicated and valid, and how the film is deeper than the surface.

Samuel Autman’s “Black Body Snatchers” reflects on Get Out and his own horror experiences of living in a predominately white Mormon town as a Black man in Utah. Viet Dinh has a uniquely structured essay on Sleepaway Camp and its paradoxes in “Notes on Sleepaway Camp.” And Bruce Owens Grimm writes on Hereditary and connects the film with his first marriage to a women, his affairs with men and long fight against himself and his sexuality. These essays are simultaneously sentimental and theoretical; it is exciting to read new ideas on analyses from Carol J. Clover and Laura Mulvey on movies that may not often receive such critiques.

The Verdict

It Came from the Closet is essential reading for those who love horror theories, essays on horror, memoirs on queerness and anything about horror movies. The collection consists of new ideas and is an space for recognizing stories not always recognized, a powerful force that will carry on.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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