Book: Grey Noise
Author: Marcus Hawke
Publisher: Hawke Haus Books
Why You Should Read It
One-sit read, 80s and 90s film nostalgia, excellent writing, unique story.
Why I Liked It
“Viewer depression advised.”
It should come as no surprise that I’m a sucker for 80s and 90s nostalgia. I was a kid in the 80s and teen in the 90s, so my formative years were heavily influenced by all of the pop culture references you can think of. So when I heard that Marcus’s latest horror novella Grey Noise was about a guy that opens a vintage mom and pop style VHS store, I clicked “add to cart” faster than Indiana Jones could crack his whip.
Grey Noise was a one-sit read for me that I truly could not put down. I love novella-length horror and this one packs the perfect punch for me in terms of pacing, creating realistic characters and atmosphere. We follow Evan, a stunted thirtysomething average guy who has finally struck out on his own to open up REWIND VIDEO, a vintage themed VHS tape store. He’s got everything he needs; vintage classic films on VHS, memorabilia galore, a popcorn maker, official company shirts and a stoner best friend to help him run the place. All he was missing was an old tube-stye television to really set the scene. And what does Evan find on the side of the road with a FREE sign attached to it on opening day? You guessed it. A cursed TV.
Well, maybe the TV isn’t really cursed. Maybe it’s Evan who’s cursed? Either way, within a few minutes of playing Back to the Future, the TV begins to emit an annoying staticy WHOOOOSHHHHHHHHHH sound that only Evan can hear. Nothing will quiet the sound, not hitting the TV, not turning it off and on again, not changing the channels. There is one thing that seems to quiet the grey noise television static sound though, and that thing is bloody and violent.
While there is a fair amount of splatter, gore and sci-fi horror in Grey Noise, there’s also a lot of psychological and philosophical elements throughout this novella as well. Evan is an instantly likable and sympathetic character (for me) because he seems to be a good guy who was down on his luck but tried to turn it around. He suffers from a lot of the same neurosis and bad thoughts about himself that a lot of people do, but he put his entire heart into this video store to try and make his dreams come true. And well, this is a horror story, folks, so our hero doesn’t exactly have an easy time and the video store that is supposed to be his saving grace ends up looking more like it will be his downfall.
Film nerds will love the gratuitous 80s and 90s movie references throughout Grey Noise. I also enjoyed the “adult” section titles hidden behind a curtain just like in the old days (Good Will Humping, ha!). If you’re looking for a quick, blood-soaked read brimming with nostalgia and some thought provoking commentary on human nature in general, be sure to check out Grey Noise.