The Tie-Ins That Bind: Scared to Death by Matt Serafini

It’s funny to realize this is technically my first Encyclopocalypse novelization review for the site. Hellraiser Bloodline was a screenplay. Wishmaster I reviewed at Amazon. I haven’t reviewed Titan Find and honestly wasn’t huge on it which limited my interest. I should review their reissue of Re-Animator. But I’m finally here. I’m finally looking at a new retro-novelization. And I’ve got a good one.

Scared to Death by Matt Serafini from the story by William Malone and script by Malone and Robert Short is a perfect test case for a rule I keep about novelizations which is are they better than just reading the script. Because most aren’t. The Marvel Cinematic Universe ones are all just the script in prose form. Most Star Trek novelizations fit this. Even the Star Wars ones really lean on the material being so good. I haven’t seen this film so I needed it to read like a true novel, not a Movie Spoiler entry in book form.

This is a murder mystery set in the late 70s/early 80s. People are being killed gruesomely and the killer might not be human. Enter a police detective turned private detective turned pulp novelist. He gets put on the case by an old cop friend. The chase is on. And what the killer is, well that’s the fun.

Sometimes I have to do a lot of research on a writer before I write one of these. Not so here. I only have to go to my bookshelf to find a signed copy of a book by Matt Serafini. I followed his work at Dread Central. I knew he was the real deal as a horror writer. Hell I already followed him on Twitter when this was announced.

So I’m happy to say he knocked this one out hard. This is a good, classic grimy horror novel. Working from the spine of a remembered but not that fondly remembered film, Serafini crafts a b-movie in book form. It’s nothing but nicely textured scenes that popped vividly in my head. The book moves at a nice shotgun pace but with solid character scenes. You actually really love Lonergan, the hero, and are happy he succeeds.

But the jewel of the book is of course the monster, the Syngenor, and Serafini takes a bold gamble and makes the creature highly sentient. We get a strong Frankenstein quality from the monster, pondering its purpose. The Syngenor is a fully fleshed out character, monstrous yet human. Since we don’t have the iconic makeup, these sections make up for it in a big way.

I wish I had more to say but I don’t. This is just a highly satisfying read on every level. I even went through it slowly to savor it. It’s out now and it’s just as good as these get.

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