Monday, October 14, 2019

Reviews for the Week of October 14, 2019

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WHITE TRASH GOTHIC PART TWO by Edward Lee (2019 Section 31 Productions / 160 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at this one months ago, and even then it felt like forever since the end of Part 1! Those of you who’ve been waiting the whole time must’ve really been suffering! But now, now, finally, the suffering is … well, I can’t very well say ‘over,’ now, can I?

Seriously, c’mon, this is an Edward Lee book. This is part of his personal Dark Tower series, interweaving threads from his various works together into one massive tapestry. One massive, hellacious, atrocious, outrageous tapestry.

We rejoin the Writer, who came to Luntville merely trying to solve the mystery of his missing memories, only to be swept up in a destiny of legendary, even Arthurian, proportions. He’s started the derelict car once belonging to Dicky Caudill, of the infamous Dicky-and-Balls duo, and is being hailed as the chosen One. He’s having vision-dreams and getting snarky messages from his own doppelganger. He’s on his way to investigate a necromancer’s estate in the company of two buxom beauties. He’s not intending to open doorways to Hell, but …

It’s got hillbillies and horrific tortures and vile acts galore. It’s got Lovecraftian elements that’d make ol’ Howie keel right over in terminal shock (not to mention scandalize and offend the scholarly purist types, which, personally, always makes me grin). There’s mucho graphic girl-on-girl action of both the sexual and combative varieties. There’s bodily fluids of every all-too-vivid description.

And, folks, there’s the Bighead. THE BIGHEAD IS BACK. Is he ever! In all his grotesque, violent glory. His encounter with a prison bus of pregnant women and their nasty guards (looking at YOU, Sergeant Harding Ryans!) is one for the ages. The Bighead even has a moment so unexpected, I actually went “d’awwww” out loud!

Written with Lee’s trademark mix of elevated erudition and crass-tastic obscenity-laden dialect, breaking the fourth wall with wicked humor, and just generally going to and beyond every extreme, it’s a deservedly awesome debut for Section 31 Productions and a vital addition to any Lee library.

Worth the wait? Oh, yes! Though now we just have to wait for Part 3 … .

-Christine Morgan

BLACK SIREN by Nikki Noir (2019 Red Rum Reviews / 45 pp / eBook)

Nikki Noir isn’t just a reviewer of the dark, sick, sexy stuff … she writes it, too! And pretty dang well, as this tasty teaser of a novella shows.

Make no mistake, we’re talking graphic content, and that’s made clear from the very first line. The story opens at a porn shoot, where model/actress Lily has her own rules about what she’ll do and how far she’ll go for how much money.

It’s not that she’s squeamish or skittish. She just has standards. A girl’s gotta get paid. Especially when she’s five grand in debt to the kind of people who don’t appreciate late payments. Running out of options, she turns to a sleazy former acquaintance who offers her an opportunity to get the money she needs. All she has to do is choke down her humiliation (and a few other things).

Lily agrees, and goes to the gig, only to find out her payment isn’t in the currency she expected. Instead of cash, she ends up in possession of a mysterious substance known as Black Siren. Presuming it’s a drug, she attempts to barter it to pay off her debt, before she realizes the effects it has and that she was never meant to get her hands on it in the first place.

Of course, it ends cliffhanger-style as a lead in to a sequel, but it’s a sequel I will certainly be ready to read, just to see what kind of danger and smutty trouble Lily gets herself into next!

-Christine Morgan

THE DAYLIGHT WILL NOT SAVE YOU by Mark Allan Gunnells (2019 Unnerving Press / 167 pp / trade paperback & eBook) 

Fasten your seatbelts, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s about to get hella bumpy and then some up in here with a new collection by Mark Allan Gunnells. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the author has a genuine knack for the art of storytelling. Gunnells’ characters continue to invoke real-world emotions and empathy as they bleed, suffer, and penetrate their way throughout the entirety of this twenty-seven story collection. 

Some of my personal favorites were ‘The Cursed Anthology,’ as a man visits the home of a notorious horror editor by the name of Edward Finch, who was the editor of an anthology titled Modern Gothic. The contributors mysteriously began dying one after another in the order in which they appeared in the table of contents in what became to be an internet famous anthology referred to as The Cursed Anthology.  ‘Redman,’ a fantastic tale in honor of the great and fantastic Jack Ketchum. ‘A Rain of Autumn Leaves,’ a haunting tale centered around a young mother and her child as the autumn leaves continue to fall and fall and fall. Other honorable mentions; ‘Good Guys With Guns,’ ‘Dead Boy,’ ‘Perversion Therapy’ and ‘Pink Applesauce’. 

If you’re in the market to read something dark and horrific that is unique, thought-provoking, comedic at times, well-written, and genuinely overall entertaining to fulfill all of your horror needs and desires, look no further and check this one out.

-Jon R. Meyers

BODY ART: THE COLORING BOOK by Kristopher Triana and Corlen Scope (2019 IP / 77 pp / trade paperback)

Rarely has the “see inside” feature been so hilariously abbreviated … nothing about this book is safe for work, for family viewing, for public, or really for anywhere … the novel was already blow-the-doors-off graphic, and this coloring book version MORE than does it justice. Any random page is an eye-popper for sure. I hope it arrives in a discreet plain brown wrapper!

Highly realistic and VERY detailed. The stuff they showed you in health class, and even the brochures at your sex-doc’s office, got nothin’ on these pics. They illustrate excruciatingly dirty and/or painful scenes with up-close precision so as to mercilessly leave nothing to the imagination.

Now, here they are in full-page black and white, waiting for the discerning reader or artist to fill in the vivid, glorious colors. I haven’t attempted any yet, partly because I’d be sorely tempted to do a livestream Bob Ross style narration with “a happy little penis right over here” (as if I wasn’t already hellbound, that’d do it for sure), and partly because I doubt my humble skills would be up to the spectacle this deserves (I have many immensely talented artist friends to compare myself to).

Choice of medium is another concern. The humble wax crayon or colored pencil? Water colors? Pastels? Someone suggested glitter gel pens. Or Lisa Frank candy-hues? Full splat-gore-biological realism? Maybe some of each. I don’t know, but, the possibilities are endless. What I’d really love to do is get all those aforementioned artist friends together with drinks and have them each do a page.

A definite conversation piece for anyone you’d dare show it to, a keepsake to add to your collection, one fantastic X-rated must-have!

-Christine Morgan

CREEP THROAT edited by Viorika La Vae (2019 Jugular Press / 81 pp / eBook)

Anything with a subtitle of “Sex Fables for the Horny, Gloomy, and Unhinged” is going to get my attention, and I’m delighted to report that the book lived up to and exceeded my expectations.

It begins with a selection from vintage erotica cornerstone The Pearl, to show there’s a long history of this sort of thing and isn’t just something new that modern sickos came up with. Some are cosmic, some are comic. There are sexy shifters, cyberkink, and demonic dungeon-play. A sailing adventure gone nastily awry, hapless would-be occultists unleashing more than they bargained for, and more!

As a fan of pastiches and mashups, I particularly enjoyed seeing some familiar classics get affectionately spoofed – “The Wicker Dick,” for instance, is a hilarious sacrificial-virgin visit to ‘Bummerisle,’ while “LiGGGea” would make ol’ Edgar reel with shock.

With ten tales in all, this is one wicked and delightful assortment of naughtiness, packed with the sort of smut, horror, skillfully twisted writing, and clever literary mischief I love.

-Christine Morgan

NIGHTMARES IN ECSTASY by Brendan Vidito (2018 Clash Books / 157 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

Thirteen disturbed and disturbing stories showcase Brendan Vidito’s depraved talent and imagination in this not-for-the-faint-of-heart collection. Starting off with some gooshy body horror in which a pair of lovers with a very intimate, literal, physical bond have to take their breakup to drastic levels; I flinched and squicked a whole lot through that, all right!

The language takes no prisoners either. Some of the titles, I can’t even include in this review without being bleeped. One called “F*** Shock,” for instance (what’s a guy to do when he’s had the best he’ll ever have and nothing else will satisfy?). Or another, a charming tale of humiliation and degradation, called “P*** Slave.”

Then there’s the unbleeped titles like “Placenta Bride,” in which a grieving widower tries to bring back his family using a forgotten pregnancy souvenir from the back of the freezer (ick on several levels!). Or the innocuous-enough-sounding “Rebound,” a lovely little romance between a man and his tapeworm (eeeew!).

For some dark forays into complex horrors, you’ll find a few longer and grimmer more serious works, including the weirdly-almost-gothic “A Feast of You,” and a harrowing quest for healing with a terrible price in “The Black Waters of Babylon.”

“Miranda,” the intriguingly written walkthrough/playthrough of a deadly video game, also deserves mention for experimental originality, doing well what so many movies have tried but done rather poorly.

One final note: as horrific as is what happens to the various human characters throughout this book, gotta say the stuff with the cat in “Stag Loop” was too much for me; if that’s one of your issues, do be warned. Aside from that, jump in, get messy, enjoy the read!

-Christine Morgan

GARDEN OF FIENDS edited by Mark Matthews (2017 Wicked Run Press / 211 pp / trade paperback, eBook, audiobook)

Billed as “Tales of Addiction Horror,” this anthology is not light-heartedly goofing around. These stories approach addiction in its various forms from several different angles, and while some may on the surface seem dissimilar, what they share is an emphasis on the insidious, compelling power of craving and need.

Kealan Patrick Burke starts things off with “A Wicked Thirst,” which follows a desperate alcoholic to the very limits and beyond.

Just the opening line alone to Jessica McHugh’s “The One in the Middle” is a leg-crosser for sure … anything involving injection and testicles … and it gets wilder from there!

Editor Mark Matthews chimes in with “Garden of Fiends,” about how addiction can destroy not only an individual but everyone around them.

With Johan Thorsson’s quick flash-fic “First, Bite Just a Finger,” the notion of your own hungers consuming you proves very literal.

John FD Taff also takes on alcoholism in “Last Call,” with the offer of a surefire cure that comes with terrible consequences for backsliding.

“Torment of the Fallen” by Glen Krisch ventures into somewhat more paranormal territory, as a teenager’s obsession with the uncanny leads to battling other demons.

Max Booth III, no stranger to hardcore horror, rivals Ms. McHugh for genital-related squickiness in “Everywhere You’ve Bled and Everywhere You Will,” a … let’s call it a cautionary tale, shall we?

Last, but unforgettably not least, “Returns,” by Jack Ketchum, is still and always will be the most heart-wrenching thing ever, all too plausible and all too hateful and horrid and true. He really was the best at quietly finding the ultimate nerve center and sliding a cold needle right into it.

Whether a substance, an activity, an emotion, or something else, whether resisting or giving in, these characters are going through what each and every one of us, in some way, may eventually have to deal with. Their stories, like it or not, are our stories as well.

-Christine Morgan

EASY MONEY: DEADLY REALITY TV BOOK 1: by Sea Caummisar (2019 Amazon Digital / 172 pp / trade paperback & eBook)

I should not have enjoyed this book as much as I did … it was a lot of telling rather than showing, a lot of same-scene POV jumps, it had several editorial mistakes including wrong names for characters … all things I normally gripe about a lot. And here I am, still griping about them, but despite those flaws, it was just such a crazygrossfun read that I liked it anyway.

The premise is simple enough, and not at all far-fetched: a how-far-would-you-go reality game show where people compete in physical challenges for cash prizes. We’ve seen actual similar things on TV already; I remember one where they’d subject the contestants to cold and heat, Survivor has its share of endurance tests, Amazing Race has done firewalking, there’s always good ol’ Fear Factor, etc. But this takes the next step, involving deliberate injury and pain.

Easy Money is the brainchild of Uptown Reality Network executive producer Damon Dahmer, A guy with a name like that, it’s no surprise he turns out to have a sadistic streak. Tired of dating drama shows, and noting a ratings spike after an on-screen accident resulting in a broken arm, he pitches his new idea and gets approved for a pilot episode.

In it, two contestants bid Name-That-Tune style to see who’ll hurt themselves for the lowest amount. First challenge is staplegunning, followed by nailgunning, followed by a real gun. Live, in front of a live studio audience, no tricks, no effects, extreme close-ups of the bloody results.

The nation is aghast, but in the morbidly fascinated horrible way that demands more, more, more. Subsequent episodes raise the stakes both in terms of prizes and punishments, until we’re talking some SAW-level gruesomeness.

Meanwhile, as his beleaguered but optimistic assistant Mary is battling her own ethical issues, Damon can’t get enough, and, shall we say, starts his own private version of the Easy Money home game.

So yeah, a lot of flaws, but also a lot of fun, and I’ll be eager to see what comes next in the series.

-Christine Morgan

BLACK STATIC Issue #71 (Sep-Oct 2019 / 96 pp)

Lynda E Rucker's opening commentary comparing mankind-induced climate change with cosmic horror is perhaps as chilling as any fiction that follows, while Ralph Robert Moore delivers some solid laughs (and squints) as he compares horror film sequels (and our own lives) with going to the dentist. BLACK STATIC's opening commentaries are always a fine primer and this issue's offerings were among its best.

Opening novelette 'Dixon Parade' by Stephen Hargadon, follows a man whose wife, Nicola, has left him for someone else after 27 years of marriage. Depressed and wondering why she would do this, he becomes a workaholic to keep his mind occupied, and during his long work hours becomes haunted by something he hadn't noticed before in a painting hanging in his office. The story then becomes a journey of discovery that keeps a quiet yet haunting tone, with a weirdness factor I found irresistible.

Sarah Read's 'Diamond Saw' features a pregnant assassin who hears orders coming from her late boss/father through her unborn baby. She poses as a prostitute to get to her next hit, and a suspenseful showdown in a fancy hotel made me wish this crime/horror hybrid would develop into something longer. I think Read can even use this character for a novel. The accompanying artwork by Warwick Fraser-Coombe is perfect.

After the death of her brother David, Angie encounters a ghost (or does she?) in his apartment in Steven Sheil's 'Residue.' There's a great set up and some fine prose, but ends up feeling familiar.

Daniel Bennett delivers the weird with 'A Pressed Red Flower in the Abandoned Archive.' A man working a short term job with a Disaster Management company becomes obsessed with a file on his desk computer. It contains some strange information, so much so our protagonist becomes obsessed and is eventually fired from the job prematurely, right after his computer was taken for alleged maintenance. He becomes a hermit and sits in front of his home computer, waiting for the file to "contact" him, only having a few printed out pages to keep him sated. The strange aura this one leaves is a refreshing break from the norm.

In the closing novelette 'Open Houses' by Sean Padraic Birnie, a woman learns why she has such foggy memories of her childhood. After having film developed she found in her late father's camera, her life turns upside down and the reader is haunted along with her during her final moments before either death or insanity (I'm still deciding which way the story went). Birnie creates a strong sense of dread that easily gets the chills going...

This issue's book reviews include a look at Paul Tremblay's collection 'Growing Things' as well as an interview dealing mostly with GT's stories, and among the other titles covered, Jac Jemc's 'The Grip of It" sounds like a sure fire hit.

Gary Couzens delivers another barrage of dvd/bluray reviews, including the 5-film set 'Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J. Warren (1976-1987),' which includes the fun scifi gore-fest 'Inseminoid' and the 1976 sexy Satanic shocker, 'Satan's Slave.' There's also coverage of the Arrow bluray of 'Cruising' and plenty of new and older titles we fans in the U.S. will hope arrive on our shores.

Why haven't you subscribed to this essential magazine yet? Do so right here: BLACK STATIC

-Nick Cato