The first in a series of releases from Unnerving Magazine that coincide with the magazine goes to Aaron J. French. His story Festival is one part Wolf Creek and one part The Wicker Man as a young couple stop off at a hot springs camp site called Serenity Sanctum. The site seems pleasant enough, though the staff seem a little…off. It’s awfully quiet and it doesn’t take a great deal of time for things to become unsettled and the staff to become a bit too watchful…
Steve and Cherie, it seems are trying to rekindle that old flame. Cherie has a history with alcohol and this has obviously caused disturbances between the pair in the past, what we soon discover is that all of the people in this novella have a somewhat turbulent history, particularly Steve who had a pretty rotten and abusive childhood it seems. It serves the story well in that it provides flesh for the bones of its characters, giving you some investment in their eventual outcomes.
Festival doesn’t blow its load too early, choosing instead to build steadily towards a gruesome and highly entertaining final act which sees the story take a cosmic horror twist and features one of THE best death scenes I think I have ever come across in a book! I’m not giving anything away except to say that if you have ever seen the movie Teeth and enjoyed its concept then you will definitely get a big kick out of what happens here!
I enjoyed Festival quite a lot. There was enough character development for a book this size, the writing was generally pretty good, with only a couple of cheesy dialogue moments, but this only added to its charm. I liked the different setting and the folk/cosmic horror vibe to it as well. Very cool.
4/5 human sacrifices for Festival