Saturday, 31 January 2015

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix Review

Here’s the plot summary: haunted Ikea-like store. That’s it. 

I love the haunted house subgenre of horror, I’m a big fan of Douglas Coupland (the overall design aesthetic of the book reminded me of novels like Microserfs and jPod), so I really thought Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor was going to be a good read. My expectation was that it was going to be satirical/funny with a little bit of drama to balance things out. Wrong! It’s all written completely straight - Hendrix is actually trying to be scary. And, unfortunately, he does a terrible job! 

Twenty-something Amy works at a cheap furniture store called Orsk. She gets roped into doing a dusk-til-dawn shift with her middle-aged co-worker Ruth Anne and highly motivated manager Basil (who’s also younger than she is). They’re on the lookout for whoever’s been wiping the display furniture with poo and scrawling graffiti across the walls after-hours. Also, someone is texting “help” to everyone with a store mobile. But they gotta catch whoever’s doing it soon because corporate’s coming down for an inspection, first thing in the morning! 

Our cast of characters are extremely dull. Amy is your average drifting young woman who’s treading water until she makes a move towards something she actually wants to do. As it is, she’s very apathetic towards her work, and that’s fine, but it’s not interesting to read - why should we care about her again? Why is she the main character? 

Ruth Anne is a wallflower who shows a little bit more character later on, Basil’s a corporate stooge who isn’t as secure as he seems, and there are some others but they’re not worth mentioning. They’re basically all as flat as the flat-pack furniture their store sells. 

The story starts slowly as we get to know our unremarkable cast and set up the main story: characters walking around a dark store. I was ready to fall asleep every time a chapter started and they were still stumbling around in the dark. Is this the “scary” part? What am I supposed to be feeling besides boredom?

We finally get to the supernatural disturbances and they’re a joke. I mean, they’re played totally real but they’re just a glob of horror story cliches. It’s the Indian burial ground-type setup, tedious monologues about never getting out and being punished forever and ever. Even the villain in this is tedious! 

There’s more stumbling around in the dark, some characters die, and it’s over. I was very disappointed/sleepy and not at all scared. 

Horrorstor could’ve lent itself well to satire/comedy - the Ikea store as a modern day nightmare, designed to entrap consumers with their never-ending layouts until they empty their wallets, etc. - but Hendrix crapped out and went the banal and wholly unoriginal route of characters being chased by spookies in the dark. 

I suppose Hendrix did sort of imply something along those lines by turning Orsk into a ghostly version of the nightmarish prison where people went insane and were tortured. And I did like the Coupland-esque graphics, designed to look like an Ikea catalogue. But generally I felt Hendrix didn’t do enough with the concept and incorporated too many cliches with excessive blood and physical harm, grasping hands from walls, characters separating, and a one-dimensional villain. 

Horrorstor is a very unmemorable and uninteresting haunted house story that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. For good haunted house novels, check out The Shining by Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and Hell House by Richard Matheson instead.


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