Just a live funeral.
"A what?" The phone slips out of my hands. I juggle it back to my ear.
"Dad's final wish was to be buried alive," says Oren.
"His what was what?"
Dario Heyward knows one thing: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.
But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film—The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past—and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy—and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens—Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.
With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past—and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?
Massive thanks to HarperCollins for providing me with a digital review copy!
physical and verbal abuse, death, mention of a miscarriage
It's hard for me to start this review, because there are so many great things to talk about, as Scream All Night is truly one of its kind. Okay, how about this: Derek Milman created the most fascinating and atmospheric novel I've read in quite some time.
To grasp the atmosphere of Scream All Night, the first thing you should do is imagine a modern day Gothic castle. A place that has housed the most peculiar slash interesting people, and given home to countless movie sets. Even right now, Moldavia's inhabitants are probably hard at work on the newest Moldavia picture, or taking their well-deserved, albeit short, vacation.
Now imagine that this lowkey chilling atmosphere is lightened by some absolutely ridiculous characters and movie ideas, such as something horrendous titled "The Ciller Cauliflowers", and my god, believe me, the script is worse than the forcefully alliterative title.
I know, I know - Scream All Night does sound strange, but a) that's the whole point, b) the effortless blend of creepy + fun created a fascinating atmosphere, the likes of which I've never seen before.
More than that, though, what really sold this for me was the massive effort Milman put into creating his characters. I'd like to highlight Dario first, who was physically and verbally abused by his father as a child. Thankfully, he got out of that environment, and has been much better, but even so, having to come back to Moldavia is a massive trigger for him.
I don't think I'm the right person to speak in detail about the representation of abuse, so the only thing I'll say is this: it felt like Milman put a lot of thought and effort into writing good abuse rep. That is true for the actual abuse, how it affected Dario's life in the long run, and his struggles after his return to Moldavia. I especially loved to see the therapy positivity - we know that after his arrival to the group home, Dario had to seek out help for his anger management issues.
A super-refreshing thing for me was to see the close friendship between Dario and Jude, who knew each other from the group home. It was fantastic to see such an affectionate and supportive friendship between two boys, both of whom went through some awful shit before meeting each other.
The rest of the cast was just as interesting as the main characters. Oren, Dario's brother, was the weirdest and most unlikable one, but even so, I found myself sympathizing with him as the novel went on. Hayley, the love interest, was such a cool-headed and mature character, who was perfect to balance out the overwhelming as heck world of Moldavia.
My favorite additions to the story were probably Hayley's parents - we only ever saw them in Dario's memories, but even so they obviously had a huge role in becoming his present self. Basically, they were the adults who cared for him when his parents didn't.
With all that being said, I did have some problems with the novel. Most importantly it's 2018, gay jokes have ceased to be funny in... oh wait, they never actually were. Oren 'jokes' about Dario possibly being gay at least twice (as far as I remember), and finds it hilarious each time. Here's an example of what I mean:
The group home where I live gets a call that my homosexual exorcism is scheduled to take place next Thursday at four.
"But I'm not homosexual. And I'm not possessed," I say to Len, my counselor.
There's one more joke I felt was on the tasteless side, it involves sexual assault, so be mindful of that before reading the following quote.
He lowers his voice. "Are they assaulting you over there, Dario? I mean, sexually."
I know what he meant. I roll my eyes. "Only on Tuesdays."
Besides those, I only had two other problems. Firstly, I wish Dario's mother had a more important role, and wasn't just brushed aside. Secondly, and somewhat connected to this, is that I was a tad bit - khm, okay, a whole lot - angry about Dario's father being let off relatively easily. Don't get me wrong, no one sang him praises, or said he was a good guy, but they also seemed to overlook his past deeds, even though some of them were downright sinister.
Overall, I wasn't fully satisfied with this, and I'll admit it is especially the aforementioned jokes that put me off - it's not like they added any substance to the story, so I'm confused as to why they made it into the novel. Besides those, and I'm truly hoping they won't make it into the final copy, I highly enjoyed reading Scream All Night. As expected, it was humorous, but it also offered fleshed out characters, and had the kind of heart that is usually missing from comedic novels.