As with many anthologies, it’s always difficult to please everyone. Tastes differ, and with 12 stories, each offering a slightly different flavour of horror, to love each and every one is going to be a rare thing.
I didn’t love all of the stories here, but all in all this is one great collection that fans of horror should be getting involved in soonish!
So I’ll stop this long, kind of pointless introduction and get into the rotten meat and charred bones of these short tales.
Things start off superbly with The Rose Room by Chris Reeve, Esq. This creepy, kind of haunted house tale was like a literary found footage film. A strange document is found, its contents recording a strange occurrence at a family home many years ago. The family’s twin boys are interviewed by a, well I’m not sure what he was, which made the story all the more chilling. A room that’s not always there and a strange disappearance set the chills early on. This one had a real House of Leaves vibe to it.
The Newbury Wendigo by Summer Walker follows, and is told in an epistolary style (woo, check me!!). A series of letters are written to Victoria, but it seems that Victoria never replies. The writer of these letters appears a little unstable to say the least. As the writer’s thoughts become more frenzied so does the desperation in the letters. I had an idea how this would end, but it was still presented well and left a gruesome taste in my mouth.
Ezra James Fiddimore‘s Buzz holds a real unnerving vibe to it. There is a real ‘what’s going on?’ about this story. But what didn’t work for me was the Content Warning at the beginning- it really gave the story away. Without this I would have been confused (in a good way, the kind of way that intrigues me enough to read on), but instead I understood the bits that were supposedly meant to be confusing on first read. You know when you read a story through for a second time and notice all the little clues that you missed the first time? I got that from my first read. And all because of one tiny word before it all started.
I get that some may readers really appreciate Content Warnings, but not me; nothing’s off limits in my world!!
Maybe just hover your hand over the top of the page when you get to this one? I must say that even though this story was ‘spoiled’, I really enjoyed the writing and would have loved to experience this one ‘blind’, I’m sure I would have loved it even more then.
A psycho who doesn’t realise he is one, stars in Galatea by Addison Peacock. He holds someone captive in a basement with terrible thoughts in his mind that follow even worse actions. But he doesn’t seem that mean, so he’s obviously really crazy. This was nothing you haven’t seen before, but enjoyable and well polished, with a nicely darkened twist ending.
Enemies in High Places by Edward Caio starts off with a hitman stalking his latest contract. This dude is a seasoned professional and for this job has been told to do what he has to. The action crime vibe to this one that was really welcome, and reading about a silent assassin was awesomely enjoyable. But towards the end things take a dramatic turn in the horror direction. Here was an ending I didn’t see coming. I really liked this one.
Hailey Piper‘s Only in the Dark is creepy. Really. Creepy. A woman turns off the bedroom light, planning to simply get into bed. The thing is, when the light’s off there’s another bed in the middle of the room. And on this bed is a wheezing ‘thing’. But when the light goes back on, everything is as it seems. I’m feeling my hairs stand up just describing it. This one set the mood perfectly; the dread of the protagonist, the unease at what was happening, and the urgency to get to the end and find out just what in the hell was going on. I feel a chill from this one even now.
Something More by S.J. Budd follows a young couple who aren’t having the best of times right now. The dude plays too much X Box and doesn’t pay his lady enough attention. She begins to tire of his behaviour. After she takes out the bins one night and then disappears, the guy looks outside and sees a strange beast watching him from the shadows. His girlfriend does eventually reappear but seems different, spending more and more time venturing out in the middle of the night. One night he decides to follow her, then wishes he hadn’t. This story warns of the dangers of being selfish in a relationship. A chilling tale that did seem to wrap everything up, until the very last line. What a cliffhanger!
Calibrate by Kasia Kaczmarek is more Sci-Fi than horror, although the ending is pretty horrific, to be fair. I enjoyed the way that this was included to ‘mix it up a bit’ but it was all a bit too sciencey for me. The descriptions of the space ship setting seemed more like they should have been in the opening chapter of a novel and not a short story, but that’s just me. It was well written with a twist I didn’t see coming. Sci-Fi horror fans will probably lap this one up.
H.M. Simmons‘ Finders Weepers follows next. When you find an old ring in the sand with your friends, it’s best you don’t decide to keep it. Especially when the thing feels eerily cold against your finger. Alas, things turn bad pretty darn quick. I would have liked a more downer ending here, not that it was all cheers and giggles, but I can’t really elaborate without spoilering it right up. But the scares here are well delivered and some of the descriptions of our protagonist post-ring, are rather icky.
The Garden by Orzafa Prektyav Nekisama is full-on gross – and I’m really not complaining. Told from multiple angles, the story involves a strange guy growing ‘things’ in the basement. But he sees these ‘things’ as something very different to what they actually are. This was pretty shocking this one, and I loved it.
The longest story here was The Scarecrows by Matthew Birch. This one started so well. A guy awakes with no memory of who he is or where he is. He meets a collection of strange characters who tell him very little, but that he will find the answers to his questions soon enough. The setting was presented awesomely and really had an unsettling and ‘off’ vibe to it. The dude is then escorted to a remote and creepy deserted village. I was enthralled. The problem I had was that it just seemed too long. I was getting more frustrated at the lack of information offered than the protagonist was. By the time I got to the big reveal I’d guessed how it was going to end. It reminded me (not in plot or execution, but a similar idea) of a certain film that I can’t mention because it will spoil everything; but Ray Liotta’s in it. If this had been shorter I’m sure I would have really liked it.
Things close with Happy Birthday, Rex! by Summer Walker and Edward Caio. The final story brings quite a portion of humour of the collection. Reading this I wondered where the horror was coming from, as the story of a kid’s birthday party with a BBQ and bouncy castle was just going too well. But the horror does come, oh yes, it really does. This was a great end to a pretty solid collection.
If you enjoy horror short stories, you’re going to like this. Sure, they may be some you don’t love as much as others, but any lover of short horror fiction will already be expecting this. Why don’t you check it out and find out for yourself?
Categories: book review
Only in the Dark sounds terrifying! Thanks for posting your review.
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It really is, creepy with a capital Creeeee!!
“I get that some may readers really appreciate Content Warnings, but not me; nothing’s off limits in my world!!”
I see those warning as recomendations!!! lol Like when the intro lady on a tv prog says “this contains strong language and violence” I’m like “yay, thank you”
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Ha, indeed. Nothing makes me rub my hands in glee like a warning I may be upset from reading something!!
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