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Tag: horror (Page 1 of 5)

“Red Brick” by Cynthia G√≥mez

An ICE agent is haunted by an apparition of a man who died during a raid on a restaurant, driving him further and further into paranoia and madness.

This is a slippery story, starting off with what appears to be a home invasion when the protagonist first encounters the apparition, slowly spiraling into chaos as he becomes more and more unhinged. He seems to be afflicted with the sort of paranoia that is endemic among some Americans, expressed in home security cameras and an ample home arsenal, with flashes of fear and violence, which gradually becomes dangerously unhinged. For a story in “Antifa Splatterpunk” (based on my experience with the first three stories in the collection), this is a surprisingly subtle and even sympathetic exploration of the psychological effects of pathological vigilance and fear.

“Book of Veils” by Keith Rosson

A white supremacist who runs a flea market stall selling Confederate and Nazi mementos is approached by a strange man to acquire a mysterious occult book. In a series of double crosses he gains possession of it, and finds it to be a transformative (figuratively and literally) experience.

Another one from the “Antifa Splatterpunk” collection, this is a nice little horror story. The dread that the protagonist feels on his quest for the “Book of Veils” is palpable, and when all hell breaks loose at the end it’s quite satisfying.

“The Haunting of Esther Cox” by William Meikle

After an attempted rape, a young woman is haunted and possessed by a malevolent poltergeist until she finds a way to free herself from it.

This story is told in alternating diary entries, by Esther Cox and by her brother-in-law Daniel Teed. We get a somewhat fractured and incomplete account of what happens as Esther is first troubled by unexplained rapping sounds, then assaulted by flying objects and unexplained fires. She is taken advantage of by charlatans who try to capitalize on the haunting on the era’s spiritualist circuit (the story takes place in 1878-1879 in rural Nova Scotia), and in the end is able to liberate herself only by embracing the fire that has tormented her.

The story is inspired by the “Great Amherst Mystery,” a poltergeist case made famous by Walter Hubble’s book “The Haunted House: A True Ghost Story.”

“Hostile Architecture” by M. Lopes da Silva

A homeless person, their sanity destroyed by sleep deprivation due in no small part to efforts to make rest in public places impossible, succumbs to madness or possession (it’s a little ambiguous as to which) and does violence to cops and politicians.

I’m dipping back into the “Antifa Splatterpunk” collection because (a) it’s late and I need a quick read to keep the streak going, and (b) it’s been a long day and nothing makes me happier than some righteous indignation coupled with vengeful violence. While certainly not a literary masterpiece, “Hostile Architecture” succeeds in its apparent goals: it draws attention to the blight of “hostile architecture” (making park benches, stoops, and other resting places impossible to use with spikes and sharp angles and other efforts at discomfort for fear that the wrong sort of people might pause for a moment) and tells a simple story where the perpetrators of violence are the victims of violence.

“Crawlspace Oracle” by Richard Gavin

A woman has dinner with an old acquaintance who has gained a reputation for financial wizardry, hoping to get some advice for how to invest some money her husband has recently acquired. The acquaintance takes her to a grotesque mannequin cum radio receiver that she insists has been her family’s advisor in all matters for three generations and locks her into a basement room with it. When the woman emerges three days later she finds that she has been transformed herself into some sort of oracle channeling the arcane messages of the idol, and is pressed into service dispensing unintelligible answers to an endless stream of supplicants.

This is another story from Gavin’s “grotesquerie” collection, and it might be even more disturbing than the last. It leans into the squalor and neglect of the acquaintance’s home, and the grotesqueness of the idol, and wraps it all in a story with nothing but nightmare logic.

“One of the Good Ones, or: It’s a Gas!” by Gordon B. White

During a hot summer of protests, a young cop participates, somewhat reluctantly, in an unauthorized experiment with an old psychoactive substance that some of his fellow cops intend to use on the protesters. The results are not what they intended.

I found this story in the collection “Antifa Splatterpunk,” so I went into it knowing pretty much what I was in for; and the story certainly delivered on its promise/threat. There is a good deal of gore, some over-the-top police brutality, and an undercurrent of solidly anarchist disdain for authority. It’s largely setting things up for a punchline that is telegraphed very early on, and it’s just a matter of working its way toward the inevitable climax. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though; anyone who would read a collection called “Antifa Splatterpunk” has expectations, and this story meets them.

This is not to say that this isn’t an artful story, because it is. It frames its sections in “X walks into a bar” jokes (the setting is the back room of a cop bar), and it has some nice hard-boiled turns of phrase (I especially liked the description of one character’s tacti-cool pants as having “more pockets than Grady’s lopsided pool tables”). It plays around a little with gender and sexuality expectations – the young cop protagonist is gay, and his brother-in-law is surprisingly supportive of that; the young punk who’s the subject of the brutality has “they/them” pronouns, but that’s the extent of the cops’ supportiveness. And when all hell breaks loose, the violence is presented in “Green Room”-level poetry.

Not a story for everyone, but if you’re the sort of deviant who would be drawn to “Antifa Splatterpunk” then this is a solid read.

“Scold’s Bridle: A Cruelty” by Richard Gavin

Well, this is a grim little story to read with my morning coffee …

Richard Gavin - "grotesquerie"A down-on-his-luck blacksmith is approached to create a medieval torture device; the requester is a teacher, who claims that it’s going to be an educational tool. The blacksmith is wary, but needs the money, and goes about making the device with some gusto, adding a few details of his own. The mask haunts him, though, and he goes to the teacher’s house to discover how it has been put to use.

This is a brief story, almost a fable with its scant characterization and sketchy details, but it successfully explores the sense of culpability the blacksmith feels and provides some jarring jolts; I would recommend this for fans of Robert Aikman and Brian Evenson, and also as maybe the second or third story of the day rather than the first.

I chose this from Gavin’s “grotesquerie” collection (the title of the collection was fair warning, I suppose, but it’s one I’ve been nibbling at for a while).

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Becky moves to Chicago to live with her brother Otis and his odd roommate Henry. Henry has a grim hobby, into which he recruits Otis.

This has a nasty, gritty, urban-noir feel, seeming more like a product of the early 1970s than 1986 — the cinematography feels very inspired by “Midnight Cowboy” or “Panic in Needle Park,” and not at all like the slick slashers of the ’80s. Henry is a strangely seductive figure, drawing both Otis and Becky into his orbit, and bringing out Otis’ demons in some particularly disturbing scenes. The introduction of the video camera adds another layer to the story, with the recorded murders giving both distance and intimacy to the violence.

The Ranger

Punk rockers on the run from a crime in the city seek refuge in a remote, abandoned cabin. But the dangers in the wilderness are deadlier than those in the urban jungle.

This is a hammy, gory, mostly predictable slasher romp with a couple of surprises; the titular ranger is played with unhinged, sneering glee, and the punks are as punky as you’d expect. I enjoyed the play on “Leave No Trace” principles, there were some good witty barbs traded during kills, and the climactic fire tower scene was pretty great. Maybe not a cinema masterpiece, but for what it is, it’s fun.

Let Us Prey

A rookie police officer’s first night at the station in a small Scottish town involves a mysterious car crash, a basement lockup filled with men harboring dark secrets, and a confrontation with her own terrible past.

I didn’t expect this to turn into a tale of cosmic revenge and retribution, with some insane violence thrown in; the movie takes some unexpected turns, and in the last half hour really ratchets up the tension (and flames). The glimpses we get of the characters’ secret crimes are tantalizing but never fully explained, which adds to the mysterious atmosphere. All in all, a grim but enjoyable film.

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