Blood River starts out feeling a lot like one of those serial killer movies from the ’80s. There are four kids out in the New Jersey woods for a night of partying. Somehow, in the middle of the partying, something awful happens. There’s a lot of blood and gore, and in the end, terrible things happen to the kids. But there’s a twist. See, the story is true. It really happened in Toms River, New Jersey in the 1970s. It’s that reality that gives this book its real, palpable feeling of horror.
Well, that and the very spooky artwork by Brian Quinn. Quinn illustrates the book in a very dark and moody style. Each page is saturated with black, and it’s a frightening black, resonant of fear and horror and even death. Quinn’s impressionistic art gives this comic its intense ambience. It’s scary in part because, like the kids in the story, readers have no idea what’s going to happen. We feel scared even when the kids are horsing around, skinny-dipping and then getting out and setting a lake on fire, because the art makes readers feel like there’s something frightening always about to happen.
When the terrible thing does happen, it seems both realistic and unreal at the same time. How could that happen, readers wonder. But at the same time, the events do seem possible. The story could have happened the way Oeming and Berman describe it. It’s plausible.
This is a solidly spooky horror graphic novel.