Black Light Review
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Since 2004, horror fans have been flocking to theaters every fall to see the latest film in the Saw franchise. Now that the series has come to a close, though, its fans have been left searching for a way to fill the void. So Saw franchise writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan would like to suggest their new novel (written with Stephen Romano), Black Light.

Buck Carlsbad has a special gift—a gift that allows him to send spirits on their way, usually by force. You might call him a medium—or an exorcist. But, whatever the case, people call him when they’ve tried everything else and they have nowhere else to turn.

Though he’s dedicated his life to helping those who are haunted by some kind of spirit, Buck himself has been haunted his whole life—by the loss of his parents, whose death still remains a mystery to him. Over the past 30 years, he’s picked up a few clues—and, in the process, he’s become obsessed with finding out what happened to them.

When he’s asked to take a job protecting the celebrity passengers on a new high-speed bullet train from the threat of dangerous spirits, Buck gets the feeling that he may be close to the answers that he’s been seeking for most of his life.

I had high hopes for Black Light. After all, the authors know a thing or two about pulpy thrillers. But, of course, writing a screenplay isn’t the same as writing a book—and Melton, Dunstan, and Romano struggle to bring the thrills and chills alive on the page.

At times throughout the story, the Saw movies’ violence and gore come through—and they’re just as stomach-turning as you might expect, coated in black, regurgitated spiritual muck. Still, those moments aren’t all that frequent. They’re offered up in short bursts, with some kind of complex—but not entirely interesting—drama in between.

The main character, meanwhile, is about as solid and lifelike as one of the spirits that he spends his life battling. In a horror film, that’s not really important; the suspense and the violence and the gore are much more important than characterization. But there’s a big difference between committing to spend 90 minutes with a movie and committing to stick with a character for 327 pages. And, unfortunately, Buck isn’t the kind of character that jumps off the page, that makes you want to follow along and battle angry spirits with him.

Perhaps the book’s biggest problem, though, is the writing style. Black Light didn’t need to be 327 pages; it could have easily been 227. But the writing is bloated with surprisingly flowery language, fluffed up with loads of distracting similes and metaphors—sometimes even more than one in a sentence. It’s so drawn out that, by the end, you’ll almost be willing to give up your own spirit, just to be done with it.

Though it ends with the suggestion of a sequel, don’t expect Black Light to amass the same kind of loyal following as the authors’ films. It has some hints of the film franchise’s horrors (with some supernatural twists), but fans will struggle to wade through the story—and, instead of eagerly awaiting the sequel, they’ll most likely head back to the theater, to search for the next big horror movie franchise.

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