Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Trigger Warning: Body Horror Anthology' (2019)

They weren't fucking around with the tittle. Trigger warning within.

Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Trigger Warning: Body Horror Anthology' (2019)

I can easily say form the first three stories, that this anthology is worth the cover price. Madness Heart Press has done it again. So far, I’m actually more impressed with this anthology than Creeping Corruption.

Now, I need to harp on this, there wasn’t anything in this anthology that had me spellbound like “The Being,” but that’s kinda a gem in the rough.

Over all, the quality of writing was better. None of the stories were obnoxiously cliche. Only two disappointed me deeply. I mean, there are some exceptionally solid short stories in this collection, and it makes me wonder how those two even got in there.

I think what was marvelous about most of these stories is the way they made very alien concepts tangible. Most of the authors succeeded in creating disquieting sensations that are just delicious for fans of body horror.

I highly recommend this anthology.

You can purchase it at the following link...Trigger Warning

SPOILERS!!!

Free Her

I never realized that lycanthropy could be used as such a brilliant metaphor for body dysmorphia. I have to say, I’m deeply impressed with how the author painted an image of a girl learning to accept her "inner wolf."

The writing was in perfect present tense at times which can be uncomfortable to read if not done right. It was a little shaky, but not offensively so.

The pacing wasn’t the best. There was almost two full pages devoted to the girl’s feet and it felt like the transition took longer than it needed. However, this does add to the general discomfort that it should put the reader it. So again, not offensive.

Already off to a pretty good start.

Familiar Faces

A fantastic revisitation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of a sorts. It plays with the concept of identity and body, much like the first story, but in a more sinister way. Is Jekyll giving way to temptations deep within him, finally released by his new found identity, or is the face taking over Jekyll’s body by imprinting itself on him?

What’s really fun about this one is how well the first person narrative is portrayed. You could believe for the briefest of moments that this one of though “don’t give up on life” true stories, right before it takes a sudden and violent turn down the rabbit hole.

It’s well-written and very clever.

Param

A woman after my own heart. Fuck, this was violent and graphic. I really appreciate the fact that the author took “Trigger Warning” seriously as a title. You may find yourself easily triggered by this story if you don’t have a strong stomach. You know, I’m not really a fan of torture porn, but his was pretty impressive. It’s not so much that it’s about a killer getting off on killing a victim, it’s about a victim getting off on being killed. That’s a very hard and dark road for some to slip down and I’m frankly impressed.

The writing was good, especially the author’s capacity to describe the step by step decomposition of a corpse. And more importantly, their capacity to place you in the head of the killer as he deals with every phase of decomposition. It’s incredibly gripping and very easy to envision something the mind is not normally comfortable seeing.

The Fishwife

Aw man. This is just the sweetest, saddest damn story. I believe what the character Mel has fallen in with is referred to as a Selkie. A Scottish creature kind of like a wereseal that tricks women into sleeping with them. I think what’s truly touching about this story is the fact that Mel always wanted children, and that now she gets to have them, even though it will kill her. An absolute brilliant story, though I’m not sure is sudden mer-pregnancy counts as body horror.

Again, exceptionally well-written. So far this Anthology has yet to provide a disappointing story. If I had one critique to make, it would simply be that the author dwelled on Mel’s life as a widow for a little to long. I was quickly losing interest before the Selkie arrived.

The Hollers

I wasn’t as impressed with this short. It’s not a very interesting story. It smacks of someone just trying to be gross and frankly that’s never much impressed me. Sure, being gross is fun. I can think of a dozen stories and movies I actually liked that were worse than this. It’s just that, you can’t lean on grossness by itself. Remember the Garbage Pail Kids? Yeah they were fun for prepubescent children back in the 80s. But then we grew up and we needed substance with the grossness. We became horror fans that loved movies like Dead Alive, for its grossness and shock factor, but also because it was just a fun and silly movie.

I also didn’t like the fact that the author wrote the narrative in the voice of the narrator. Words like "cuz" and "frum" are okay to occasionally place in dialogue, but it was used outside of the dialogue. I understand the point is to make the read more immersive, it just doesn’t work. It bucks the reader from their reading trance because of how uncomfortably those words fit in our internal dialogue. English isn’t a phonetic language and intentionally phonetic words can feel awkward if not used properly.

I also take issue with the blatant pornography in this story. Param had just as much, if not more sexual themes, but it was central, not just to the story, but also connecting the audience with the unusual nature of the narrative. In this story it felt forced or unnecessary and blatantly a part of the author’s attempt to be gross for the sake of being gross.

It’s like some frat bro’s story of some chick shit on him after fucking her ins the ass... is that a story you really want to hear? Because if that sentence sounded lame, so will this story.

Tiny Voice Tom

The ever revolving man. I wonder to myself, wouldn’t it just be easier to get a divorce than have to kill your husband every couple of months? I like this story because it’s new and interesting. I’ve never really heard of anything quite like it and that’s kinda hard to come by these days. I also have a fondness for the absurd and this has that in spades.

The writing was okay. It wasn’t particularly moving. It does come off as bubble gum. But that’s okay. The story carries it and that’s good enough.

Onion

Wow. I was extremely worried that this story was going to be to wangsty. I don’t much care for guys whining about their failed relationships like some fucking pubescent Incel. And the beginning was particularly hard to get through because it did go on for a while. But I’ll sit through melodrama if it means getting to watch someone skin themselves alive. This author's depiction of an individual discovering an extreme body fetish is just fantastic. She really gets into the mindset of the cutter and portrays it in a way that something so completely inhuman seems natural and even acceptable.

It’s also extremely well-written. The story flowed very naturally even with the opening being as boring and uninteresting as it was. The opening was only a part of the story long enough to transition through the rest of the story.

The Big Bad Boy

Certainly doesn’t win any awards for smartest title ever. I know that’s a dumb complaint, but readers are a fickle lot and as much as the adage goes, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” if that was true, publishers wouldn’t put so much thought into cover art.

That being said, what a fun little story. Second fat person exploding in the anthology, the difference being, this had an actual story behind it. It wasn’t just gross for the sake of being gross. While The Holler lingered needlessly on the details for the purpose of pointless exhibition, this built up to them and presented them as a part of the overall narrative. That’s the difference and this is by far a much better story.

The writing was pretty good. There was some poor word choices. Diction can be a devil (pun intended), but it’s very important to the quality of the writing. It wasn’t offensively bad, just something worth noting.

Revenge of the Toothfish

You know what’s funny about this story? I just did a review of the movie Leviathan. At the end they blow the critter up, scattering dozens of its body parts into the Atlantic. Considering the creature in that movie regenerates like a starfish, I cracked a joke about there being dozens of little mutant fish monsters swimming about. If you want to know what happened to one such fish monster, read this story. It’s basically a continuation of that. So I guess that means the story, in of itself isn’t all that original, but so the fuck what? It was a fun and interesting read.

Again, there was some poor word choice in this short. Not as bad as the last one, but still something worth noting.

Dead Cert

Weeeelp. I know some fetishes that will totally get off on this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling this pure pornography or anything, just that I know some people are into the idea of having eggs laid inside them. I really love the simplicity of this story. Boy meats girl, girl eats boy and lays her eggs inside his corpse. And the best part it’s not written as one would expect a simple story to be written. Every word breaches on poetry. How eloquent the words were chosen. What one would expect to be simple bubble gum, is actually quite gripping. I’m almost sad this story is as short as it was. It was paced perfectly, but I wanted more. And that’s the best kind of story, one that leaves you wanting more. Like a cheep high, it’s fleeting, but you’re instantly hooked.

More like this please.

Skin-Deep Monster

Another story leaving me wanting more. From serial killer to... lytch maybe? Who cares. This is a story of how a monster within a man began to become the man. It hangs perfectly on every detail of how his body decays, forcing him to change what he loved about being a killer so that he can continue to satisfy his desires.

My only complain his how the narrative is presented. I would say the narrator is like a stream of internal conconsiousnes speaking to us as the killer. The concept itself is quite brilliant, but I feel it was left lacking. It’s divorced from us the reader trying to speak to us as us the killer. There is likely a better way to marry the two ‘us’ in this case, but it’s definitely something the author should continue exploring. I encourage it deeply.

More like this please.

Penny for Your Thoughts

I wonder if this author knows that’s the title of a Twilight Zone episode. Just an afterthought.

Alright, here’s the thing. It’s well-written and it’s a solid story. There’s effectively nothing wrong with it, per se. But it’s soooo fucking boring. I’m sorry man, but revenge stories and torture porn just don’t appeal to me. There’s nothing interesting about that. The only time revenge is even remotely interesting is when there is a self destructive downward spiral. I’m not opposed to successful revenge stories, but if one is driven to murder on any scale, there’s a part of their humanity that slips away. That, that is the meat and potatoes. Watching a person, especially a good person, become the other, unidentifiable to themselves. That sort of metamorphosis is what revenge stories should be about.

Here’s how this reads to me. “Well, I’m on a murderous rampage and everything is going according to plan. Look, I even get to pin it on my abusive husband.” There’s no conflict, no suspense, no drama. It’s empty.

The William Seabrook Guide to Parenting

This was particularly choppy and hard to read. The sentences are structured poorly and the diction mundane, bordering on passionless. I couldn’t finish it, I couldn’t even get into it. Now, I’ve always said that story is more important than writing. But the writing does have to be good enough to allow the reader to immerse. Every sentence was a struggle for me. Every paragraph was a war of attrition. I lost that war. Cannot go on...

Withdrawal Symptoms

I dig puns. Seemed like a long way to go for the punchline, but the idea was neat. Like a lot of the better stories in this anthology, this author masterfully describes in a "digestible way" something that is inhuman to the point of being surreal.

It seems like it did go on a bit too long though. Why not just have the ‘maestro’ swallow himself on the first go. The second half of the story seemed to drag things out.

All in all, still a fantastic story.

The Opposite of Cancer

The start of this short was paced a little poorly at first, but it picks up quick and with a vengeance. And the setup, while a little too long and droll, is necessary to give context to the sudden splatter fest it delivers at the end.

This story presents the best parts of body horror, as the main characters parts literally fall off. It’s the sensation of something crawling under your skin that I think fans of the genre are really looking forward too. We crave the sensation that the idea of a man’s skin falling off creates. I think it’s likely because we’ve all had dreams like that. Teeth falling out or tumors growing all over our body. There’s a very real connection to it.

Near Evil

You know, there just seems to be something too simple about this story. Yeah, there’s struggle. Yeah, the conditions are brutal, but it almost seems too easy. I feel like the character should have been more obviously hanging on for dear life. Gus, the killer, seems like a guy whose been doing this for a really long time and the fact that Steve our hero, kills him just seems unlikely. This feels like the kind of story where the hero gets luck, not rises to the occasion.

Perfectly paced and plotted though. Once the story gets going, it’s a fucking steam roller.

Light Entertainment

The blade used in this story feels a little Deus Ex Machina. I think it would have been more appropriate for Devlin’s blade to be intentionally a part of his hit jobs. Like he was use to handling things as unusual as Phil.

I like the fact that the author did not shy away from exceptionally uncomfortable horror concepts, but still managed to approach them tastefully. To be honest, I was starting to lose interest in the beginning. It was a little to clinical, Devlin building up to his hit. I feel like important tension was lost there. It didn’t detract from the overall story though.

Tardigrades

Cuddly water bears! Even including the biting and clawing, does this technically count as body horror? I mean, yeah, I guess being infested with giant microbes count. I’m surprised the body's natural microbes aren’t used in horror more often. Even the mites that live on our eye lashes are fucking creepy as hell.

It was an interesting and original story. Again, lots of poor word use though. And the sentence structure could be troublesome from time to time. I think, out of the stories I liked, this was the worst written. Not that it was bad, just the worst.

For the Dolls Had Eyes: A Tale of the Bajazid

I like how this reads similar to an old fable. “Once upon a time,” and all that. Don’t mistake this as meaning it’s dull or cliche. Quite the opposite. It’s elegant, complex, and in many ways new. The depictions of witchcraft are nothing new, but they’re depicted in a unique and interesting way. This is actually one of the better written stories in the anthology, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as it stays true to old storytelling traditions.

My only problem is it’s a bit long winded. It felt padded, like entire chapters devoted to establishing setting. Obviously that’s an overstatement, it’s just how it felt. But this is important. It wasn’t boring. While paced poorly, it was still captivating.

Bravo.

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Reed Alexander
Reed Alexander
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Reed Alexander

I'm the foulmouthed horror movie critic.  I post new reviews every Wednesday and Sunday, so stay tuned =D

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