Virgin Night by Christopher Robertson [Book Review]

I believe this is the first ARC copy I’ve ever read (unless beta-reading for short stories counts). Going into “Virgin Night,” I knew little about it other than its marketing as an homage to 90s teen slashers (which I absolutely love). “Virgin Night” fits that bill and so much more. I haven’t read any of Christopher Robertson’s other material, but after VN, I’m a devoted convert. 

Here are my initial impressions of “Virgin Night,” and why you should snag a copy:

Plot / Synopsis

While “Virgin Night” has been billed as an homage to “Scream” and “American Pie,” I can also see some likenesses to “Pumpkinhead,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” and “Cherry Falls” (well, it’s the opposite of “Cherry Falls” in that if you do have sex, you call forth the Big Bad). 

I like that the rules of Virgin Night, and the way the demonic anti-sex creature is summoned, is already an established thing from the start. There’s no discovery of this event and the town is well aware. Robertson wastes no time getting us into the thick of it. The prologue is a high-stakes action-packed bloodbath, and it sets the tone for the rest of the story.

Virgin Night by Christopher Robertson

Structure

Robertson’s descriptive style makes you feel like you’re right there in the movie – err, pages. I like the consistent reminder that this could be a movie we’re watching. Language such as “Pull back from [this scene] to…” and “Jump-cut inside a bedroom” is abundant throughout. You can almost picture those faded, worn “cigarette burns” in the film reel as scenes intercut and transition. 

The first half of the book introduces the characters and their world as they prepare for the shitstorm coming in the second half of the book (there’s a great Bruce Campbell-as-Ash montage of the characters preparing a weapon to fight the demon). I appreciated that Robertson took his time world-building with some very necessary and often comical exposition. The second half of the book picks up in terms of pace with a lot of bloody action, though action and high-stakes situations are consistent throughout. The book never feels slow and you want to continue reading. You could likely read this in one or two sittings like I did, but your eyeballs will fall out of your face. Just be sure to take a break and get a glass of water or something. 

I also love the storytelling format – we get a collective set of stories/”mini-movies” and folklore-expanding tales that lead up to the demon’s return. I love the chapter titles, referencing various horror and cult films. 

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Characters

VN offers a rich variety of diverse characters, each with different upbringings and dysfunctional family lives. I appreciated that Robertson didn’t shy away from difficult and uncomfortable topics. As a gay man, you could say I’m quite familiar with the word “f*g,” and the treatment against the character Caleb from his peers and others in the town is realistic, uncomfortable, and maybe triggering for some readers – but all the same, I think it’s a realistic depiction of what some LGBTQ+ people go through, especially in a very small community inhabited by hardcore religious zealots. What I appreciated about Caleb was his sexual freedom and shameless “live it up” approach to life. This contrasts with his friend Michael, who is full of shame and fear.

Michael is always at war with himself and conflicted. It’s in large part because of the religious upbringing that he has a difficult time with touch, sex, and intimacy – something we don’t see a lot in the horror genre, where characters are screwing left and right. It was rewarding for me, the reader, to see Michael’s growth, and to see him stand up to certain characters later in the book.  

Then we have Vincent (I’d say our main character, though sometimes Caleb fights for that spot), clearly still grieving over the death of his father, and he has anger management issues. All of the characters are well thought out and complement each other; Michael is the gentlest of the three friends, while Caleb provides the right touch of humor and camp. Vincent balances the trio, and his story arc is perhaps the most important because of his family history. 

While VN’s humor calls to movies like “American Pie,” “Sex Drive,” and “Scary Movie,” the subject matter goes much deeper as these characters fight to sort out their traumas. I loved the camaraderie and “Four Stooges” vibe between Caleb, Vincent, Michael, and the mysterious new girl, Casey.

Carnage and Mayhem

From the start, we’re tastefully given some trigger warnings about some of the raunchiness and depravity the book will contain. So, reader, prepare for gratuitous violence and gore galore! One of the massacres later in the book is like the church attack in “Silent Hill” (2006) meets the Red Wedding episode of “Game of Thrones.” I lost count of all the bodies piling up about three-quarters through the book. Not everyone makes it; I applaud Robertson for giving us enough time with these characters that when they go, you’ll be deep in the feels. 

Christopher Robertson’s “Virgin Night” was a pleasure to read. It brought some much-needed escape and joy to my life on a dreary Sunday afternoon. I plan on catching up with the rest of the author’s catalog – up next is “My Zombie Sweetheart,” Robertson’s love letter to 1950s sci-fi movies such as “The Blob” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” You can find and connect with Christopher on Instagram at @kit_romero.

Bret Laurie

Bret Laurie

Author

Bret Laurie is an editor, writer, and longtime horror fan living in Massachusetts. He received his B.A. in English at Worcester State University and currently has six years of editing and social media marketing experience.

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