This was a fantastic collection of just... fucking weird stuff. I'm not sure if I can consider the collection splatterpunk. Yeah, there was some of that, but it was actually second fiddle to stories that were just grimly weird. I'd call the collection "Weird Horror" personally, but believe me that does not diminish from the punch it delivers.
In a rare event, Wesley Southard even managed to solicit an emotional response from me. It's extremely rare that a story ever gets me to do anything outside of laughing at it. It's an understatement to say that I don't cringe easily. I'm practically fucking dead inside, I'm so fucking numb. So when I say this collection got me to cringe more than once, that is a fucking chip.
This collection was damn good, and at many points a lot of fun. So, the question that must be lingering on your mind, is it worth the cover price? Fuck yes it is. The metric I use is to judge if three stories make the collection worth the purchase. And except for one that was mildly disappointing, they are all worth the purchase.
This also gets my ADHD Seal of Approval. That's a pretty easy feat for a collection, but importantly, I didn't skip any of the stories. They all held my attention all the way through.
So yeah, this collection was damn good and you should get yourself a copy.
WITH MANY THANKS TO NEWARK: Impressive how the story doesn't give up much while teasing us with little hints. One thing that’s hard to pull off with story like this is to keep stringing the audience along without giving them anything. You have to leave them little bits to nibble on so they don’t abandon the story entirely. Brutal violent ending with vampires.
ARREARAGES: Cask of Amontillado meets SAW. Every phone Camron has to cut out of his body is another brick in the wall, sealing his fate. Not the most original, but it is by far better than many who did it before.
HE LOVES ME NOT: A fun little love story from the perspective of a deadly parasite. Bravo.
BY THE THROAT: A fascinating and complex look at a man with deep trauma leading to a severe phobia. It sews a particularly complex narrative about dealing with trauma but most importantly, inflicting your trauma on others. The “victim” here is not so completely innocent as they’ve hurt those around them because of their trauma. You must both sympathize with the narrator while simultaneously being disappointed in his actions. That is exceptionally introspective in the complexities of trauma.
MINOR LEAGUE: One of the most clever pieces of torture porn I've ever read. Wish he'd leaned into it a bit more, but it was good. It managed to make me wince more than once.
BETWEEN THOSE WALLS: Fucking brutal creature feature. Again, Southard strung me along with little tidbits. In the end it felt a bit padded but it was completely worth it to get through all the way to the ending.
GOD BLESS YOU: A cute little piece of flash. Nice layover at about the halfway mark in the anthology.
HOME INVASION: There are two stories here. One of them I cared about and the other seemed to take up space. The thing is, one of them is a fascinating alien invasion story. The other tries to play on insect phobia. That might have been okay on its own but in the middle of the other one it just got in the way. They both then converged on an awkwardly forced ending that diminished the punch of the first story.
CONFUSION IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Another cute bit of flash with a cruel twist. This reminds me of another short story, Good Boy, by Brianna Van Riet, from At The Gates of Chaos (2021), where it plays on your perceptions.
KING CAKE: Probably the most fucked up story in this anthology. This will especially hit home if you're not fond of the idea of parenthood.
NOW YOU DON'T: A fascinating use of horror from the perspective of what a dog would find scary. We constantly take for granted what horror is, but in this story there is a high sense of anxiety over the concept of something as simple as object permanence. The little dog in this story doesn’t know what’s happening and that plays off the concept of horror perfectly.
LIP SERVICE: Jesus, that was fucking weird. First off, excellent use of a common night fear. Second off, fantastic effort to make me uncomfortable as hell with such a weird concept. It’s rare that even the worst splatterpunk story even solicits an emotional response from me. This story managed to make me cringe without any of that.
BUST TO DUST: And I thought the last one was fecken weird. We really seem to be heading down a bottomless rabbit hole here.
RESISTING MADNESS: Hey, there’s a novelette at the end of this collection. Really, I just want to congratulate Wesley Southard on such a unique and fascinating concept. It kinda reminds me of a very real phobia pregnant women get when they fear they are giving birth to the devil. This is kinda like that but in its own unique way. I’m trying hard not to spoil it. What it does well is show ultra-violence in the form of self-harm which is something we don’t get a lot of in the horror world. I can likely count all the attempts on one hand. In this one, the horror is from losing one's self to madness. It also has deeply rich characters with a lot of growth which is hard to pull off in such a short time.
If you're looking to fall down a pretty deep rabbit hole of weird, look no further. It's gross and fun and at times really greedy violent, and I highly recommend it.
About the Creator
I'm a horror author and foulmouthed critic of all things horror. New reviews posted every Monday.
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