Journalist Laura Warren was flown to LA to meet the cast and crew of the new horror series ‘The Guesthouse’, based on the cult horror film ‘The Guesthouse’, which is believed to be cursed following the deaths of many. The people who worked on it. Unbeknownst to them, Laura is actually Polly Tremaine, the child actress of ‘The Guest House’ and one of the few surviving actors from the film. Within minutes of arriving in LA, Laura begins to see strange things happening and fears that the past she left behind will catch up with her.
‘Burn the Stubs’ is the latest book from London’s Josh Winning, Radio Times Senior Film Writer, ‘Total Film’ contributor and co-host of the ‘Torn Stubs’ podcast. Taking his obvious love of horror, Winninge crafts a story that slowly unravels and leaves the reader, as well as the main character, Laura, trying to understand what is real and what isn’t. With plenty of nods to classic horror nods, ‘Burn the Negative’ is essentially a story about how the past catches up with you no matter how hard you try. Laura believes moving from America to England and changing her name is enough, but returning to LA proves that unfinished business always catches up with you eventually.
When Laura first comes to L.A., she doesn’t know that the series she’s reporting on is inspired by the famous movie she starred in. To her knowledge, the producer and the people around her do not know that she is really Polly Tremaine. So the coincidence is incredibly random. After seeing a man jumping off a bridge upon arriving in LA, Laura is confused and wonders if he might be a little crazy when she starts seeing the monstrous needleman at the center of the ‘guesthouse’. As the bodies pile up, and history begins to repeat itself, Laura finds herself in a race against time to prove her innocence and uncover what’s going on.
‘Burn the Negative’ starts strong. Laura is a character you warm to quickly and as snippets of her life are cleverly revealed, often through newspaper clippings and script pages, you start to put the pieces together as to what’s going on. The arrival of Laura’s sister Amy, who is part of the investigative team with the new TV series’ psychic Beverly, turns things up a notch and adds a bit of family conflict that allows us to delve deeper into Laura’s upbringing. Winning does some great work exploring the dynamic between a reluctant child star and her pushy mother, and that relationship immediately brings to mind many Hollywood stars from the past few decades.
‘Burn the negativity’ is the conclusion to which they grumble. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but what I will say is that high concept horror has historically had a hard time bringing a story to a satisfying close. Unfortunately, this novel doesn’t quite manage to win, even though it takes a lot of effort. For the most part the book walks a fine line between the real and the supernatural, but so is the attempt to explain The Needleman. Winning left it all for a big conclusion to the story, but the final reveal just didn’t work for me.
Burn the Negative is a fairly quick read and will definitely be a page-turner for horror fans. It’s a shame that the conclusion of the first half of the book didn’t reach its climax, but if you choose to just go along for the ride, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. As someone who has spent most of their life dabbling in the horror genre, I appreciate how much Vining’s love of the genre shines through the pages, but I wish the ending was stronger.
Publisher: Children of G.P. Putnam Release Date: 11Th July 2023 Buy ‘Burn the Alum’ now
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