(First published at Thirteen O’Clock April 2012)
Night Terrors Anthology
Editor: Karen Henderson
Publisher: Kayelle Press
ISBN: 978-0-9808642-8-1 (pbk.) / 978-0-9808642-9-8 (eBook)
Published: 13th April, 2012
As a whole the anthology delivers on its promise in providing some scares and suspense, but to me some of the tales were a little under-developed.
Perhaps there were a few too many vampire-related stories (three in all), but at least the vampires didn’t sparkle! JC Hemphill’s vamp story A World Not Our Own certainly delivered on mood and atmosphere. Hunting Shadows by Mike Brooks, had a Buffyesque quality to it, but the story’s hook – the introduction of the enigmatic aelfar – is over far too quickly. Maybe Brooks plans on returning to them in a longer format. The third vampire tale, Like Father, like Daughter, also had a lot of promise, but again was too short.
Don’t get me wrong there were a number of stand-out stories: Depths, by CJ Kemp was a very engaging tale about two boys who find an imaginary cave where they can stretch their imaginations. But this “Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders” becomes all the more menacing when one of the boy’s uses its power to rid himself of an abusive stepfather. Kemp gives the boys plenty of depth in the tale.
Hangman by Lisamarie Lamb was a delightfully disturbing twist on the Hangman game. This particular version of the game, however, is a favourite of a band of monsters who live in an attic of her new school. Things take a delicious turn when the little girl realises that if she spells out the name of one of her bullies, they meet a tragic end.
The only werewolf tale, Last Night in Biloxi, by Robert J Mendenhall, is a satisfying story of survival in the tradition of some of the old EC Comics: ignorant jerk intimidates poor old man, only to sufferer the severest of consequences; some of Mendenhall’s passages are truly blood-curdling.
Other stories worth noting were The Lucky Penny by Tim Jeffreys and Product 9 by Lindsey Goddard – the only tale with a sci-fi horror bent.
My pick of the bunch however (and this is solely based on the merit of the story) is the very last tale – Andrew J McKiernan’s White Lines, White Crosses. The story deals with the all-too-present horror of road deaths and the inevitable danger reckless youth can put themselves in behind the wheel.
McKiernan’s horror is more subtle and rooted in the psychological than its predecessors, focussing on the dire consequences of risk and how one tragedy can create an unstoppable domino effect. There is a supernatural element to the story, but if anything it takes a back seat, which IMHO was a good way to round off an anthology that maybe relied a little too much on common horror tropes.