Review From User :
This review was originally published in SCREAM MAGAZINE
I've reviewed over a dozen books for SCREAM magazine and sometimes (I'll be the first to admit to you) the books I've chosen to review for SCREAM fans have been all over the spectrum of horror. I'm eager to impress upon you that this book, TAMER ANIMALS by Justin Woodward is straight-up, full-on, classic horror.
The set up is simple: Some teenage boys lie to their parents and tell them they're on a church retreat when the reality of the situation is that they are headed for a remote, local location that presumably has a reputation of being a destination for partying, drugs and sex--one of the boys has also heard that the campsite is haunted by the restless spirit of the GOATMAN.
What the boys encounter in those woods is some of the most horrific, nail-biting, graphic storytelling I've read in the last six months or so.
It reminds me of the RITUAL by Adam Nevill except with the fear and the gore turned all the way up to the max and told in about two hundred pages. Sleek and full of Splatter!
Woodward does an excellent job strengthening the storyline by bolstering the character development. We get some great chapters on backstory for each of the main characters which I found to be refreshing--so many horror writers don't dig deep enough with the protagonists and the danger there is that if there's no reader connection to the people in the story; there's zero emotional investment. No investment, no risk.
Horror should cost the reader something.
I want to go into my reads wanting to fall in love with these characters so that when all hell breaks loose, I'm worried about it. I have skin in the game.
Also, for a horror novella, I found this first act to be the most successful part of the ride because often times, a novella rushes right into the action and it can be overwhelming to experience too much, too fast--before you know it, the novella is winding down to its conclusion when you've only just ventured out past your knees--it's surface level storytelling that doesn't sink in. It doesn't get into your bones for that chill.
These kids going out to the woods, I cared about them. Being a mom of two teenage boys, I felt all the risk in the world, I was all in, which is a scary place to be.
There's a pivotal point of no return in this book. Once you read it, your brain can't let go of it. I felt like I was watching a scary movie and I was yelling out loud to the TV, "Don't go there! Don't go in! Turn back!"
Certain parts I wanted to read through my fingers--it was that scary for me. I highly recommend this to horror fans who want a quick, Southern-fried-horror-fest that doesn't pull any punches.
IT WAS JUST A CAMPING TRIP
Down by the old Coheelee Creek Covered Bridge, four high school friends only wanted to kick back, smoke some weed and forget about their problems for a day or two. Sure, there were stories that the area was haunted, but there was no way they were true.
IT WAS JUST A LOCAL LEGEND
Decades earlier, an old goat farmer had been murdered by the Klan, hung from a tree near the bridge solely because of the color of his skin. His body was never found. Since then, numerous sightings of a strange creature – half-man and half-goat – had been reported in the surrounding woods. He was called the Goatman.
IT WAS JUST THE WORST NIGHT OF THEIR LIVES
From the moment they arrived, strange noises echoed around them… a sense that they were being watched pervaded the campsite… and that was just the beginning. When one of them vanishes and a horned monstrosity pursues the others, it becomes clear that the legends are real.
…and the truth is so much more horrific than they could ever have imagined.