There have been many books (and films) released that loudly proclaim to be a “modern slasher” which then go on to be a regular old slasher filled with the same old characters and tropes we’ve seen countless times since Friday the 13th arguably cemented the blueprint (after being inspired by Halloween).
Welcome to Smileyland is one of the first modern slashers I have read that understands the assignment - create modern, interesting characters & then brutally kill them off. Hamilton obviously has a deep knowledge of the subgenre but knows when to subvert the tropes.
Set in the abandoned titular theme park, a group of pleasingly diverse teens, break in for a night of boozy shenanigans only to start getting picked off by a hulking killer wearing a bright yellow smiley face mask.
What separates this from the rest of the pack is the lead character, the non-binary Ramirez, who is a strong and empathetic protagonist to follow. Their inner voice leads us through the fast paced slasher, giving us a great sense of their identity, and makes a great change to the, by now, overused final girl trope.
Once the (brutal) kills start happening, this novella is a breakneck sprint to the finish, much like the best 85 minute slasher films, with some good twists and surprises along the way. Hamilton is building an expanding mythology around Smileyland, with short stories and the Sister Funtime novella. Now I just need an 85 minute movie based on this story!
4 bloody sickles out of 5.
Also this novella is available for FREE download from Spencer’s website so go and get it HERE!