Inspired by a true story, this supernatural thriller for fans of horror and true crime follows a tale as it evolves every twenty years—with terrifying results.
Ella Louise has lived in the woods surrounding Pilot’s Creek, Virginia, for nearly a decade. Publicly, she and her daughter Jessica are shunned by their upper-crust family and the Pilot’s Creek residents. Privately, desperate townspeople visit her apothecary for a cure to what ails them—until Ella Louise is blamed for the death of a prominent customer. Accused of witchcraft, both mother and daughter are burned at the stake in the middle of the night. Ella Louise’s burial site is never found, but the little girl has the most famous grave in the South: a steel-reinforced coffin surrounded by a fence of interconnected white crosses.
Their story will take the shape of an urban legend as it’s told around a campfire by a man forever marked by his boyhood encounters with Jessica. Decades later, a boy at that campfire will cast Amber Pendleton as Jessica in a ’70s horror movie inspired by the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. Amber’s experiences on that set and its meta-remake in the ’90s will ripple through pop culture, ruining her life and career after she becomes the target of a witch hunt. Amber’s best chance to break the cycle of horror comes when a true-crime investigator tracks her down to interview her for his popular podcast. But will this final act of storytelling redeem her—or will it bring the story full circle, ready to be told once again? And again. And again…
Title: The Remaking| Author: Clay McLeod Chapman | Publisher: Quirk Books | Pub. Date: 8th October 2019 | Pages: 320 | ISBN: 9781683691532 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Received from publisher for review consideration.
The Remaking Review
Up until recently, I would have said that stories about witches just aren’t my “thing.” There was a point in my formative movie-watching years where the market was oversaturated with witchy things, and I didn’t particularly care for any of them. With the recent wave of witch-related novels coming onto the scene, it felt like a good time to revisit the subgenre, and The Remaking seemed like the perfect entry point with its movie-centred plot.
The Remaking is a book in four sections, each focused on a separate moment in time. There’s a short section telling the myth of Ella Mae and Jessica Ford, a mother/daughter duo burned to death as witches in the 1930s. Then, we get a segment set in the 1970s surrounding the making of a film about the Ford witches, next we move to the 1990s with another film reboot based on the legends, and finally a 2016 timeline following a true crime podcaster as he investigates whether the legends are true. At the centre of the three main timelines is Amber, the actress who played Jessica in the original film.
I loved that the myth was quite literally being remade through each timeline. It’s a very cool idea, and one that was, for the most part, quite well executed. The story is creepy and compelling, with just the right blend of witchcraft and urban legend. The idea of centring the novel around the cursed films was excellent and, as a horror movie fan, definitely a nice touch given how many real-life creepy stories there are surrounding the making of some films. The idea and plot itself is definitely the strong point of this novel, and it was enough to carry me through and grab my interest despite some of the book’s weaknesses.
The characters, unfortunately, are The Remaking’s downfall, and because of that, the book feels about half a section too long. Where the original myth and first film completely grabbed my attention, the entire film remake section dragged endlessly. It felt like the author was really ramming it home that Amber is a damaged woman due to her work on Don’t Tread on Jessica’s Grave, but after a few chapters, I got the point and was over it. It ramps back up into the horror eventually, but for a good 60+ pages it becomes a character study of a damaged child actress and Amber simply didn’t have enough depth in other areas for me to invest. And really, none of the other characters are much more than window dressing. The film directors and podcast host each have their own motivations, but their goals all boil down to “must spread this myth through my platform.” Even Ella Mae and Jessica don’t have much going for them past being mad and crispy.
The urban legend aspect was strong enough to carry these shortcomings for me, but the book would have been far more enjoyable if it had a well-developed cast of characters to go along with what was really a damn good story. Still, I’d say this one is worth a read. It’s a quick one, and for me the good outweighed the meh.
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