It Turns Out A Circus Tent Can Be Even Scarier Than Clowns
I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House is a stark contrast to the first book in the “I Found Horror” series. It’s technically the second book, but was published first. I’m unsure of why it’s set up that way, except perhaps to give a better starting impression.
Which spoils one chunk of my review. I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House feels very much like a prototype for the almost as long-titled I Found Puppets Living in My Apartment Walls. The focus on strange, cosmic horror locations paired with dangerous versions of common childhood iconography is prevalent in both. Both plots revolve mostly around an everyperson main character forced into a situation by their connection to someone else. But, while the puppet book is more informed by the main character’s curiosity and desire to find out what happened to a lost relative, I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House is about protecting a child and escaping an immediate situation.
But I have to give unabashed credit to how this book begins. In that regard, it is the better book. Horror, as a genre, is often accused of having characters make poor decisions because the plot needs them to. The opening of I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House doesn’t have that problem. It sidesteps it entirely with a creative, scary, and trope-savvy scenario. A shocking number of pages are devoted to trying out every sensible solution to escaping the horror. It’s such a humanizing way to introduce a character, even if the pace does suffer a lot for it.
It’s also the best part, though. I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House loses a lot of its effectiveness as it goes. Once it’s accepted by all involved that there’s no easy way out of the circus tent, the scares aren’t as holistically structured as the puppet book. Horror locations don’t need to have logic, per se, but a lot of the dangers didn’t feel very clown-themed. The juggler was a solid use of the concept, but the middle could’ve been any dream-like, extra-dimensional scenario. You could’ve easily set it in a hotel, a house, or a maze. Anything really.
This Story Did Not Need To Be Set In A Circus Tent
It does help, however, that I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House is really good at imagining dream-like scenarios, regardless of specific themes. I was fascinated by the implications of how the tent worked. There’s a scene where they go semi-outside, in a courtyard of sorts, that’s seriously unnerving and a great way to get across the impossible rules of the circus tent without diminishing the horror. It’s these wildly creative ideas that prove the puppet book wasn’t a fluke and makes me eager for more of the author’s work.
Finally, I made a lot of hay about the phenomenal ending of the puppet book in the other review, and I have to pay the same compliment to I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House. It’s a lot more contrived of a scenario, admittedly—even the descriptions of how the twist transpired are somewhat unclear—but the end result has that similar sense of spiraling dread. The setup for the twist is way more telegraphed, and yet I still failed to anticipate it. It’s a perfect cosmic horror ending, implying strange, unknowable things, but giving enough information for the mind to keep replaying, trying to understand. I personally liked the ending of the puppet book more, but this is way more creative, and will stick with me for a long time.
I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House is another solid entry by a skilled author. It does suffer from some of the same awkward dialog issues I mentioned in the previous review, as well as a lot of scenes diminished by having to account for a young child character, but the scares are there. And that’s what’s important. If Halloween this year didn’t have enough spookiness for you, give I Found a Circus Tent in the Woods Behind My House a read.
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