TRIBESMEN by Adam Cesare (2014 Deadite Press / 114 pp / trade paperback & eBook)
Oh, the 70’s … their legacy may never leave us … some things will be forever remembered … like disco … and the dawning heyday of trashy, tacky, boobs-and-blood shocksploitation horror movies! The stuff that paved the way for our current crop of cinematic tours-de-force such as the Hostel franchise, and made someone think that a reboot of “I Spit On Your Grave” was a good idea!
And especially those foreign films, the ones that could get away with depths of gore and depravity that might give even the seediest American studios pause. That’s where the premise of this book comes in.
Director Tito Bronze needs to work fast, with a shoestring cast and crew (not to mention budget) if he’s going to get his new ripoff of the latest Italian cannibal-slaughter epic into the theaters. To do so, he’s flying his team to a remote tropical island for location footage and unpaid extras.
Little does he, or do any of them, suspect what’s waiting for them on that island. Even the reader, who might be anticipating violent attacks by the natives, is in for a surprise. The terrible things that happened here started way before their plane drops them off, and all they find at first is an empty village and a mass open grave.
Ordinary, sensible people would leave at that point. But, the plane won’t be back for a few days … and there’s still a movie to be made. They might as well improvise and make the best of their time, right?
Right. Until the curse that’s already taken its toll here goes to work on them. Until they get even more realistic cannibal-slaughter than the best special effects can provide. Until they have all they can do just to survive, even as their director is determined to keep the cameras rolling.
The result is a fast, fun read, as garish and brutal as its inspirational source material. It’s rife with racism and sexism and political incorrectness, too.
So, now, when does this book written about movie-making get made into a movie?
DARK SCREAMS, VOLUME ONE edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar (to be released 12/8/14 by Cemetery Dance Publications / 88 pp / eBook and audiobook)
Cemetery Dance has published many excellent novels, collections, and anthologies since they began publishing in 1992. This anthology of short stories by some of CD’s best authors is no exception.
Included is horror legend Stephen King’s story “Weeds,” which was turned into a segment in the 1982 movie “Creepshow” (retitled “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”). The original story is much darker and creepier than the movie segment, which was more dark comedy than horror. It’s early King at his best.
“The Price You Pay” by Kelley Armstrong begins with a girls’ night out, but descends into murder, stalking, and lots of twists and turns. It’s more a mystery than straight-out horror, and reminded me of the old Coen Brothers movie, “Blood Simple.” It’s a fun read with a satisfying ending.
Bill Pronzini’s “Magic Eyes” takes place in an insane asylum, with a patient writing in his journal about why he was accused of murdering his wife, but tries to explain that isn’t what really happened. He seems crazy throughout, but maybe there’s a chance he’s telling the truth. It’s up to the reader to interpret the end. It’s a familiar plot, but Bill Pronzini is a great author, and does a great job with it.
“Murder in Chains” by Simon Clark puts a man in a bizarre and terrifying situation – he is chained to a huge man by their necks in an underground viaduct. The man doesn’t know how he got there, but knows he needs to fight for his life, which means killing the “goliath.” While he ponders his predicament, he realizes there are other people in the viaduct, also shackled with no memory of how they got there. This is a bloody, action-packed story that kept me riveted.
Ramsey Campbell’s “The Watched” is about a young boy tasked with keeping tabs on his neighbors’ comings and goings by a threatening cop whose daughter was killed by the drug dealers living there. Stressed by this, the boy is eventually told by a teacher that the cop drank and drove, and is no longer living. Yet he is still being watched, and knows he still needs to watch the neighbors’ house and let the lurker know when there is a drug deal happening. This was a creepy little story with a great ending.
DARK SCREAMS, VOLUME is a fantastic anthology, and I’m looking forward to reading more of them in the future.
HAUNTED FUCKING by Philip LoPresti (2013-14 Dynatox Ministries / 37 pp / trade paperback)
I haven't read or reviewed a book of poetry for this zine in quite some time, but LoPresti's nose-dive into the abyss of despair peaked my interest, and the thirty "spasms" on display here are as dark as they are bizarre.
By the time I was halfway through this collection of sex and violence-filled verse, I felt like I had entered a satanic beatnik's club, and by the time I finished, I became convinced of two things: 1) Philip LoPresti is one sick bastard, and 2) He is a sick bastard who is able to keep this non-poetry fan glued to the pages, which is good because I immediately followed this with ...
I AM SUICICE by Philip LoPresti (2014 Dynatox Ministries / 63 pp / chapbook)
Where to begin with LoPresti's second offering of blasphemous expressions? This volume reads as if it were written by an excommunicated altar boy on a verbal-killing spree. Just check out the first lines of the opening selection:
"Unfrocked priests form circles
around the newly dead.
Their fingers incite a riot
inside the dessicated parts;"
And this is only the tip of the iceberg in what turns out to be a hellish assault of anti-religion, anti-society, and anti-life musings that at times had me cringing and praying for the author's soul ... although that's kind of pointless as he obviously lost it a long time ago.
This is extreme stuff, folks, and not to be read at your local coffee house's open mic poetry night ... unless you want them hauling you away in a straight jacket. You've been warned.
TIME OF DEATH: ASYLUM by Shana Festa (to be released 12/9/14 by Permuted Press / 267 pp / eBook)
The second in this sassypants series (think Janet Evanovich writing episodes of The Walking Dead) continues following the struggles of nursing student Emma, her husband Jake, and their little dog Daphne to survive the zombie apocalypse.
It is, and I warned the author I’d have to say so, just about the poopiest book I’ve ever read. All those times we’ve complained that fictional characters never seem to have to take potty breaks? Made up for here and then some. Many crucial scenes revolve around having to take the doggie for a tinkle or a poo, and quite a few of the rest revolve around humans needing to do the same. Getting caught with your pants down by zombies has gotta be about the worst. Also, dogfarts as a deadly weapon, and whether the etiquette of scooping applies even in end-of-the-world situations.
In addition to all that, these are simultaneously the luckiest and unluckiest people you’ll ever find. For every wild deus-ex-machina coincidence or rescue, there’s at least one corresponding what-are-the-odds disaster.
The last book saw them seeking and losing various refuges, finally ending up on a houseboat … but even that proves not to be safe or ideal. It proves not to be safe or ideal BEFORE it gets rammed by a zombie yacht, forcing Emma and Company to go back to land. Some harrowing escapades later, they learn of a secure community called Asylum and make for it.
Naturally, it’s one of those too-good-to-be-true scenarios. A stoic loner warns them against it, but won’t say why, but leads them there anyway. Their misgivings are reinforced at the first impressions. They should know better … they DO know better … but they still do it.
At some point in there, I found I’d lost a lot of sympathy for Emma. What had been a brash, kind of fun attitude turns bratty and obnoxious. She claims to be caring, loyal, friendly, dedicated … but comes off as an arrogant, selfish snot. As rotten as the Asylum people and their system are, I really found myself wishing she’d get bitten or thrown out already.
The story cliffhangs before then, just as Emma discovers some of the unsurprising dark secrets. So, I’ll have to wait for the next one, and I hope she goes back to being a more relatable and entertaining protagonist by then. I greatly enjoy the zingy, refreshing writing … but I’d prefer a main character I didn’t want to slap.
GODDAMN ELECTRIC NIGHT byWilliam Pauley III (2014 Copeland Valley Press / 98 pp / trade paperback & eBook)
Goddamn Electric Nights by William Pauley III is a short story collection compiled of six absolutely out of this world tales. The book is exquisitely written, well executed, and simply a must for any fan of Horror, Science Fiction, Bizarro, or Weird Fiction alike. The author’s imagination and ability to realistically write this kind of romp is a feat and nothing short of admirable in itself. After all, this does seem to be what Copeland Valley Press is all about, while continuously publishing great fiction outside the box from day one, by writers who have proven to be extremely talented and fueled by some sort of genuine and overall original creativity. William Pauley III’s voice is one in a million and this book falls nothing short of the strength found in any of his work prior.
With stories such as Slime Night, Insection 8, The Spiders of Honeyville, Hypnagogia, $5 Electric Suzie, and Spin Doctors Mixtape, the author gives us enough weird to be well on our way into the mouth of madness. Including but not limited to kind acts of snorting red fire ants, cockroaches and razors, hatched egg sacks, an alley cat on skid row, and just a little bit too much radiation in the walls. So, go ahead and sit back, drink a couple beers, plug in the shop vac, and aim it up towards the goddamn sky as you enjoy a book unlike any you’ve read before.
-Jon R. Meyers
THE HUMAN SANTAPEDE by Adam Millard (2014 Crowded Quarantine Publications / 115 pp / trade paperback & eBook)
Yes, it is what you’re thinking. Yes, someone really went and did it. Yes, your childhood will be ruined (again, if it has already). Those Rankin-Bass wooden puppet holiday specials … um yeah … especially the one with the hot redhead schoolteacher …
This is not, however, a jolly Santa. This is a Santa that his own elves refer to – sometimes not even in private – as ‘The Fat Bastard.’ Not undeservedly, either. He’s a selfish, foul-mouthed, slovenly, slave-driving, credit-hogging jerk more interested in brandy and mince pies than his sexy, eager wife.
An elf’s life isn’t so jolly either. Centuries of forced labor, no wages, no vacations, mandatory eggnog, no credit, nonstop carols … the constant threat of being replaced by cheaper foreign elves and sent to work in the human realm as a fantasy movie extra … the only perk is in the buxom form of Mrs. Claus, whose considerable needs may go neglected by her hubby, but who’s got a special fondness for elves.
Things are also behind schedule this year, thanks to a freak blizzard, which means extra shifts around the clock. Something goes wrong EVERY year, it seems like. Is it any wonder that dissatisfaction is brewing at the North Pole?
When the first few elves go missing, followed by that most famous reindeer, elf-foreman Finklefoot finds himself given the additional duties of tracking them down. It soon becomes clear that they’re not just lost or hiding out to shirk work. Someone’s abducted them, someone with a particular grudge and a particular plan.
Finklefoot is forced to confront Santa’s former companions, those darker-side-of-Christmas characters in charge of coal and naughty children, but by the time he figures out who’s behind the disappearances, it’s too late. The horror that is the Human Santapede is about to be unleashed. If, that is, its creator can get people to shut up about the misnomer, or brackets … nobody has any respect, any appreciation for brilliance …
This book is every bit the totally irreverent, offensive, obscene masterpiece of holiday hilarity you might expect … with political incorrectness and several vicious cultural jabs thrown in. I read it in a single sitting, laughed out loud several times, and the rest of the family absolutely REFUSED to let me share any excerpts.
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