Rating: 5 out of 5
James A. Moore and Jeff Strand’s The Haunted Forest Tour is both a tense creature-feature and an often-humorous horror novel. A few years ago a bunch of pine trees just sprang up fully-formed from the earth, forming a perfect, pine-filled circle. It destroyed a town, and savage creatures killed anyone the trees didn’t get. A company purchased the land, putting up a tram that circumnavigates it and giving tours. At the same time, they hired some cryptozoologists to study the creatures living inside the forest. Now, they’ve cleared out enough of the trees to put a tram line straight through the middle, and they’ll be inaugurating it on a special Halloween Haunted Forest Tour. Naturally, things go wrong pretty much from the get-go, as one of the trams loses power and thus some of its protections against the forest creatures are removed from play.
This is an unrepentantly fun creature-feature! There are a few dozen hapless guests to get eaten and destroyed in a wide variety of ways, because it seems that the forest is filled with a very wide array of monsters! The critters are very creative, and the only one that I thought was a little too over-the-top was a living, giant, decapitated head. Other than that I loved seeing how each one would go after their human prey.
One set of threads follows along with the people who are stranded in the forest, while another thread follows the cryptozoologists back at headquarters (within view of the forest). The latter watch as the forest starts spreading, and for the first time, monsters start to emerge from it!
We do eventually find out the secrets of the forest, so no worries that the story won’t be satisfying. There are some fantastic humorous moments to keep the constant deaths from being grim.
Only a couple (very minor) negatives. One temptation creature offers a man “the woman of his choice” as a reward, and I hate it when women are objectified and treated as rewards. Mind you, this is said in an attempt to tempt someone, so I expect it was mostly about what that character would want to hear, not so much a statement on the authors’ part. I found a couple of bits confusing–I thought one character was dead, and then he wasn’t. Overall, though, this is a really fun read!
Content note: gore, torture, body horror, death–standard creature-feature fare.