Sequelland – A Story of Dreams and Screams: Jay Slayton-Joslin
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
After I finish reading a book, I like to read other people’s reviews, mostly to avoid rehashing the same opinions in my own review, but also out of a sense of curiosity. Normally, I find other readers who enjoyed the same aspects and passages as I did, but occasionally I find myself in a position where my impression is not shared by anyone else. Such is the case with Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams by Jay Slayton-Joslin, which seems to have glowing reviews from people who are not me. And I bring this up not because I think other people are wrong, but merely to emphasize that reviews are personal reflections, and what doesn’t work for me might become your next favourite read. With that clumsy preamble out of the way, here’s what I thought.
This non-fiction book starts with the author’s own insights of falling in love with horror, the paralyzing fear of trying to create content for the genre’s fans, and the unfortunate conflicts that arise between art and business. It serves as an impressive set up to dive into the crux of examining horror sequels, specifically through interviews with the filmmakers behind expanding original content into the franchises such as Saw, Hellraiser, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Some of the interviewees include Kevin Greutert, Uwe Boll, Adam Marcus, and Jeff Burr.
I’ll fully admit that I only recognized a few of the filmmakers’ names while looking through the table of contents, but I was excited at the prospect of learning more about these people. However, I was disappointed to find there were no introductions or brief biographies of the respondents – simply a name and a selected filmography, then straight into the interview. This really threw me off as I had no idea what roles these people played within the making of movies listed in the filmographies. Were they writers, directors, producers, all of the above? Without context of creative positions, I felt a little lost in the discussions that followed.
The interviews themselves also felt a little jumbled. It was a bit like reading transcripts of people in private conversations with no thought of an audience. Tangents and run-on sentences happen all the time in real life, but it doesn’t make for great reading. If the interviews were presented in an audio or visual format, they would have been fine, however, I wished the responses had been tidied up for readers.
Also, after reading through a few of the interviews, the replies started to feel a bit repetitive in the bitter vein of “us, the filmmakers” versus “them, the movie executives.” Given the subject of sequels, I suppose this isn’t unexpected, but I wished the author had pushed harder to prompt a variety of answers or edited the responses to highlight a wider array of thoughts. There are some fantastic nuggets of information and enlightenment into the how and why sequels are made, and the difficult road of navigating through what production companies expect, it just takes a little digging to get to them.
One of the interviews I most enjoyed was with John Skipp, who talked about his misadventures of co-writing the story for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child with Craig Spector, the novelisation of Fright Night (also co-written with Spector), and other aspects of writing and horror in general. Another great response came from Mary Lambert, with a concise answer to why audiences are drawn to movie sequels. Unfortunately, her interview consisted of only one question.
But I did find an absolute gem inside Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams, the self-reflections by Jay Slayton-Joslin. Wedged between interviews were several introspective essay-type pieces from the author, with deep insights into how people grow as artists, the differences between fan fiction and homage, and the never-ending self doubts creative people face. I really enjoyed these chapters and had to stop myself from skimming through the interviews so that I could get to them quicker. These compelling and thought-provoking sections demonstrated the strength of this talented author, and I will definitely be seeking out more of his work in the future.
Sequelland – A Story of Dreams and Screams
In the back alley of HOLLYWOOD lies SEQUELLAND, where directors and creatives get the chance to do what they love, not necessarily in the conditions that they love.
Jay Slayton-Joslin, a writer and horror fan, experiencing his own existential crisis takes a direct approach exploring his childhood filled with direct to DVD horror sequels, interviewing those who created the sequels to iconic franchises feel upon looking back on them.
The story of people who tried to do what they loved, filled with pride, regret, and resolution.
It’s… SEQUELLAND: A STORY OF DREAMS AND SCREAMS.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan