Unnerving Press has some big plans for 2020. They are releasing 20 books under the banner Rewind or Die, designed to capture the aesthetic of 80’s and 90’s VHS horror. Books in this series will be released throughout the year, and one of the first three releases is Benny Rose, The Cannibal King, by Hailey Piper.
Hailey captures the theme of VHS horror, first and foremost, by setting this story in the 1980’s. We have Gabrielle, new to town and living with her Grandmother. The group of girls paramount to the story, most notably Desiree, are not the textbook definition of welcoming, and design a Halloween prank to be played during a sleepover. This is when things begin to go wrong.
Piper sets up all the dominoes for a story that centers around revenge and comeuppance, and were this written or filmed when it was set, we would probably have a predictable story on our hands. Instead we get a story replete with multifaceted characters that have more opportunity for growth, development, and a full arc than one expects to find in a slasher novel that spans only 150 pages.
The titular character, Benny Rose, is a force that has lived in the town’s legends and imaginations for much of the town’s memory, but primarily the last thirty years. His legend and myth has come to take on a life of its’ own, borrowing and taking on the mantle of various horror stories and urban legends until every vile happening, real or imagined, becomes synonymous with his name. I hope you won’t consider it a spoiler for me to mention that Benny Rose is very real, and his nickname, the Cannibal King, is an apt one. Hailey Piper masterfully writes graphic scenes in the book that let you know right away that the sticky situation our protagonists are in will not have a quick and easy resolution, and also that no one is safe.
Horror, be it psychological, slasher, or supernatural works best on every level if you can invest in the characters, and Hailey Piper takes the time, not just upfront, but especially when the action starts, to make sure we know every crucial detail about these girls. This attention to detail takes a good, fun slasher/monster story, and elevates it to a level that I think most readers will not expect it to head.
That’s my way of saying, there’s something for everyone in here. If you like a popcorn horror book, Benny Rose will give you those beats. However, if you like your horror to go a bit deeper, Hailey Piper’s got you covered. I am now that much more excited to read what she can do with a full-length novel.
Review by Brennan LaFaro
I received an e-book from the publisher for review consideration.