Hellsworld Hotel: Matthew Vaughn
Reviewed by Ben Walker
Running a haunted house attraction and writing horror are similar in many ways. You’ve got to like scaring people. Matthew Vaughn obviously does, seeing as Hellsworld Hotel takes you through a scary venue where people really die.
It’s a neat idea: the displays – like those in House of Wax or Broken Monsters – are made of unfortunate victims. Unwitting visitors are either grossed out or fascinated by the extreme gore long enough to become additions to the collection themselves. After a while, the local cops get involved and things keep getting messier.
Bust out the popcorn because Hellsworld Hotel is very much like a movie script translated into book form. Character and scene descriptions are sparse and functional, giving you just enough to go on, but not always enough to care about. Where a midnight movie might give you one or two characters to root for, this mostly gives you fodder, and a lot of it. Many chapters dispatch characters as soon as they’re introduced, so if you’re looking for depth, dig a hole instead.
Even what you might call the lead characters – the family of freaks who run the titular Hotel – have little else to do but line up more victims. Some of them canvas the town looking for fresh meat, having fun by teasing their prey before leading them to their doom. It’s a little bit House of 1000 Corpses at times, but that story brings you a fair few memorable characters. The evil family members here tend to blur together, apart from one deformed giant with some unfortunate sexual tastes. With no killer heroes nor killer killers, the whole thing can feel a bit flat at times, even though it clips along at a decent pace.
The only character bringing the whole thing together is that of the sheriff, but even he flits in and out of the plot weightlessly. There are no real stakes; the haunted house staff keep on churning up victims, with the police left twiddling their thumbs until the last few chapters. Suspicions aren’t acted on, leads are left dangling, scores of people go missing but still there’s no urgency to the proceedings. All that drives the book on is the inventive streak of kills, from weird body horror to gloopy sex acts, meat hooks through the face and dismemberments a go-go…all your favourites. If this was a movie, a lot of the extreme action would be cut faster than [NAME REDACTED].
Easy to blaze through in one sitting, you’ll wince a few times, tell the heroes how useless they are, and even crack a smile at the inevitable “several months later” stinger. Ultimately, you’re unlikely to book a regular stay at Hellsworld, but maybe another branch will open one day.
Star Rating (out of 5): 3*
As the Halloween season approaches, the newest residents of small town Eminence are hard at work opening a haunted house attraction called Hellsworld Hotel. The local townsfolk are excited, especially the teenagers. Normally you would have to drive to one of the big cities for something like this. But local Sheriff Stan Maxell is skeptical, even more so when he takes notice of how many of the young people in his town are disappearing. Hellsworld Hotel is a tale of family horror in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses, brought to you by the author of The ADHD Vampire and Fast Times at Cine Mega Plex High.
Ben Walker is a British reviewer/writer who had his tiny mind ruined by an illicit viewing of John Carpenter’s The Thing when he was a young lad, and his mind is still pretty tiny and ruined now. His past review credits include reviews & interviews on the sadly defunct UK Horror Scene website. Nowadays you can find him on YouTube talking about the weird books & movies that tickle his fancy.
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