Reincarnage by Ryan Harding and Jason Taverner
- A fresh core premise for the slasher sub-genre
- Characters bordering on believable.
- Feels exactly like an 80s slasher film, in a good way.
- Writer is too hip for his own good.
- Inner dialogue frequently loses anchor.
- Feels exactly like an 80s slasher film, in a bad, predictable way.
Reincarnage by Ryan Harding “and Jason Taverner” (Deadite Press, 2015).
Adam Kirshoff and his parents, Ed and Pamela, wake up in a hotel they don’t recognize wearing clothes which aren’t theirs. Soon, they find others: Nathan, Marcus and Suzanne, Annette and Eliza, Lawrence, Patrick, and Gin. All lost, all badly dressed. After groping for bearings and discovering a hotel room nearly demolished and painted in buckets of dry blood, they stumble outside and into the truth; they’ve been kidnapped and dropped into the notorious walled-off Morgan Falls/Sandalwood kill zone of Richard Dunbar, a.k.a. Agent Orange, the Vietnam vet who went on a crimson rampage in the early 80s, killing campers and townsfolk, eventually being killed himself only to repeatedly, and miraculously, return for more butchery.
If someone like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees existed, what would that actually be like? What do you do with an unstoppable killing machine in the real world? Although the slasher genre can arguably be said to have originated with Hitchcock’s Psycho (Paramount Pictures, 1960), it was only after hesitant steps and fine-tunings in the likes of Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood (Nuova Linea Cinematografica, 1971), Ted Post’s Five Desperate Women (ABC, 1971), Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (Ambassador Film Distributors, 1974), and finally, the introduction of the unstoppable killing machine aspect in John Carpenter’s Halloween (Compass International Pictures, 1978), that the sub-genre congealed into the public consciousness as The Slasher Horror Movie. Almost from the beginning, though, the sub-genre began to stagnate, with countless imitations and silly graspings but little real-world innovation. After the first time Jason walked away from the morgue and continued his killing spree, wouldn’t the FBI take notice and develop a strategy for dealing with an immortal psychopathic slaughter beast? The question was asked only once, in James Isaac’s Jason X (New Line Cinema, 2002), but answered with little satisfaction.
Ryan Harding (Jason Taverner doesn’t exist as anything other than a character in a Philip K. Dick novel) asks it again in Reincarnage, but his answer is much more convincing. You designate a killing ground, set boundaries, and surreptitiously drop lambs into the walled-off area in order to keep the resurrected homicidal maniac’s bloodlust satiated, at least until you can come up with a better plan. The novel, coming in at about 242 pages, moves quickly thanks to clipped sentences and slangy stylings, has a fairly diverse group of characters which are believable if leaning a bit toward the stereotypical slasher stock, and offers a unique and solid conspiratorial method for dealing with the likes of Agent Orange and his progenitors. Appropriately, it feels every inch an 80s slasher movie with numerous original and bloody kills, loads of teen imbecility, and a low-concept shallow plot. A welcome, and unusual, touch for slashers is the handling of some of the adult characters: Adam’s parents are grating and stodgy, but it becomes obvious it’s out of concern for him, which he eventually realizes; Patrick, a mysterious older character, is dodgy but quite competent and efficient when fending off Agent Orange, an uncommon thing in this kind of teen-centric horror world.
The novel tends to lose ground, though, precisely because of the over-use of the aforementioned clipped sentences and slang, relying excessively on pop culture and rap references and snarky nicknames like “Loonatik411” – which at one point slides into “Loonadick” – for a particularly off-balanced character, and attitudinal posturing with terms like “Power Gesture #15” and “patented Deep Gaze™” to describe the general perception of authoritarianism on the part of Patrick, making many situations seem lightweight and silly at times, and giving the impression the writer is trying too hard to be slick; another problem is the dizzying use of internal dialog italics which frequently lose their character locus as the novel progresses; the ending also leaves something to be desired, falling back on the stale, typical slasher film conclusion rather than offering up something equaling the power of the core premise.
That being said, the crux of the story is fresh and untried, so much so, the owners of the Friday the 13th franchise, who have been having trouble producing a new concept for a new film, should purchase the movie rights, change the location to a walled-off Crystal Lake, insert Jason, and reboot the franchise on much more solid footing. Now that sounds like a killer idea.
Ben is a horror snob who does not believe bad horror is better than no horror. When he’s not climbing trees and eating bananas, he’s reading everything from philosophy to pop culture and writing about same. His essay, “The Black Velvet Underground: Satanism and the Occult in 1970s Made-for-TV Movies” was recently published in David Flint’s book, Satan Superstar (The Reprobate Press, 2018), and he frequently contributes reviews to Adrian Smith’s Horrorpedia.com.