Were you ever watching, say, a late-era Friday the 13th sequel only to find yourself thinking, “This could really use a lot more alien abductions/occult conspiracy theories/apocalyptic visions/nefarious cults/metafictional tangents”? Well, have I got a book for you!
The elevator pitch for Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI by Jonathan Raab would probably sound something like, “What if Stephen Graham Jones was hired to write Cabin in the Woods but specifically for late-era slasher sequels?” But that logline, while descriptive enough, is also unnecessarily reductive. It leaves out the particular affinity that Raab has for high strange weirdness, for ufology, for apocalyptic conspiracy theories, dire warnings about the American Nightmare and “tragedy in Babylon.” Without that affinity, this could feel like a pastiche, but with it, the book transforms, sometimes subtly and sometimes not-so-subtly, into something else altogether.
If you don’t already know what high strange weirdness is, don’t worry, you will before you’re done reading Camp Ghoul Mountain. While nominally a novelization of the sixth installment in a fictitious (or is it?) slasher franchise, Camp Ghoul Mountain breaks up that flow with footnotes and intertextual chapters detailing the troubled production history of the film, the cast and crew’s odd encounters with strange lights in the Colorado sky, its unlikely success as a midnight movie mainstay, and Raab’s own struggles in adapting the film to novel format–all of which are, of course, as much a part of the story as anything that happens “on screen.”
If you come to Camp Ghoul Mountain looking for a straightforward narrative, there are plenty of opportunities to be disappointed. The stakes are suitably apocalyptic, but also necessarily uncertain, in keeping with the book’s chosen form. This may frustrate some, but for the book’s target audience, like myself, it’s a feature, not a bug.
Similarly, the writing, especially in the “novelization” chapters, is rarely showy, and often pedestrian. This works to help you feel like you really are reading an adaptation of a relatively formulaic slasher flick, and Raab is ready to break out into more evocative prose when things start to get really strange, such as this encounter in the dark woods midway through the book, “More movement ahead, darkness unfolding from upon itself, a great writhing mass of shadow as what could only be limbs moved through the night air with deliberate patience, followed by the soft impacts of great flesh-wrapped trunks of bone stomping along the ground.”
For those who can enjoy the bloody camp of a slasher flick but might enjoy it a little more if things got a whole lot weirder before all was said and done, Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization is a ride like no other.