Tag Archives: Horror Fiction

Witching Hour Theatre – Jonathan Janz

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The venue where we watch our favorite horror movies has metamorphosed through the years. We’ve went from old single screen movie theaters to drive-in theaters, to multiple screen multiplexes, and now many people have high quality electronics in their man cave that would give any theater a run for their money. For those of us that remember the older movie theaters, they were a magical place. The smells of popcorn and candy mingling with the sounds of the bustling crowds and the flashing bright lights of the marquee. Going to the theater was an event. But when the lights went down and the crowds dispersed, the theater could be a spooky place. This is the atmosphere that Janz captures perfectly.

Larry Wilson, an awkward loner and horror movie aficionado, doesn’t miss many of the Starlight Theaters Friday Midnight Matinees. He gets his popcorn and candy along with a large soda to wash it all down with. Tonight, he even got a future date with the cute girl behind the counter that he’s never had the courage to ask out. This night was shaping up to be one that Larry would never forget. Unfortunately, this was the last good thing to happen tonight. For this night, blood was going to spill and not just on the screen.

Witching Hour Theatre is a fun romp through familiar territory. Janz doesn’t try to do too much with this story. He lets it be exactly what it is – a B-movie tale told in an eerie familiar setting. He’s got all the right ingredients going – atmosphere, good characters, flawless dialogue and pacing, and oh yes, plenty of the red stuff. Come right in and take your seat. Don’t mind the stickiness on the floor. I’m sure it’s only spilled soda…or is it?

4 1/2 Slasher Flicks out of 5

 

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The House – Bentley Little

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So this was my first forray into a Bentley Little tale. I’d heard such good things about him and decided it was time to give it a go. I had a few of his sitting on my shelf staring back at me to choose from. I selected The House and, looking back, that my have been the wrong one to introduce myself to his work. It’s not that the house was horrible. Far from it. But it became a mess and the last 100 pages were an absolute chore to get through. The ending was completely “meh” and I found myself disappointed at what seemed like a really good story at the beginning.

Five different people from different parts of the country grew up in a house that gave everyone the heebah jeebahs. These five people “escaped” their childhood houses and had never returned as adults. Most of their recollections were vague and fuzzy about their childhood homes until they all started having strange things happen to them that seemed to be all pointing in the same direction. They needed to return to their homes and take care of some unfinished business. What that business was, they didn’t know.

So far, so good? Yes. I was digging Little’s writing style and even though the five characters kept having similar things happen to themselves, to the point where it was beginning to feel like he was describing the same scene five different times, I was still chugging along.

Then we find out that the same Victorian house is in five different parts of the country and it’s a gateway barrier to some alternate reality. The five people go to their respective houses and then things morph so that they’re all together in the same house, which is now holding them prisoner. Without going into too much more detail, things started getting weird. And I can get into weird, but this weird was the same thing told five different times, over and over and over and…well, you get the idea.

Even though this is my first story by Little, I can tell that he has the chops to be considered a very good writer. The prose is not done by an inexperienced hand. The problem is the story itself. It really just goes around and around without much of a payoff, aha moments of explanation, or any points of interest. With a writing style as good as his, I expect more and not the clunker that was The House.

3 Foul Mouthed Urchins out of 5

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Breathe. Breathe. – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

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Sometimes, I feel like I need to go outside my comfort zone with my reading and expand my horizons. Sometimes, I’ll pick up a historical non-fiction offering or begrudgingly open a classic that I resisted in my high school literature class. Most of the time, I can appreciate the different prose than what I normally gravitate towards. Such is the case with Breathe. Breathe. I tend to read poetry in a sing-song lyrical way. I don’t know if that’s how you’re supposed to read it, but I’ve never claimed to be an expert. With Breathe. Breathe., I had to read the first few poems over more than once to feel like I got what I read. That’s not saying the poems were lacking. In fact, they were quite powerful, but I had to to get myself in the right frame of mind to read poetry. Do you ever do that? Once I got into the groove, the power of the poems started to impact me. Erin’s prose is extremely heartfelt. Each one radiates with personal struggle, darkness, and perseverance. At times, it can be a bit overwhelming. The second half are Erin’s short stories. Again, lots of darkness and revenge ooze from the pages. My personal favorites are The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale and The Madness of the Woodpecker. Give Breathe. Breathe, a try and see if it pushes your limits to the delicious edge.

 

4 Poisoned Cups of Tea out of 5

 

 

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The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

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Ketchum was a man way ahead of his time. In 1989, he wrote The Girl Next Door. There was nothing on the shelves remotely like it by other authors. There was nothing as brutal, as gut-wrenching, or emotionally draining as The Girl Next Door. This kind of fiction wouldn’t see the light of day for another 10-20 years and no one has done it as well as Ketchum did almost 30 years ago.

Meg and her sister Susan’s parents are killed in an automobile accident. They come to live next door to 12-year old David. Ruth, a single-mom whose rough-around-the-edges demeanor always made her home inviting to David and his peers. You could sneak a beer, take a drag off a cigarette and she wouldn’t care. When the girls move in, David begins to have a crush on Meg. But as time passes, it is apparent that all is not well in the household. Meg begins to confide in David of Ruth abusing her. David can’t believe it. Ruth? The mom that was so fun to be around? Soon David discovers that the stories are true and they’re only the beginning of a long, downward spiral into horrific abuse and madness, and all he can do is watch it unfold in front of his very eyes.

The Girl Next Door is loosely based off a true story that took place in 1965. Just knowing that makes the world seem like a darker place. These types of stories weren’t told on the news back then like they are now. This was a time where skeletons were kept in the closet and people turned a blind eye from things they deemed to be “none of their business”. Ketchum’s story has a twisted, Lord of the Flies quality to it. Adults were trusted by children to always be right and do the right thing back then. Watching the children join in on Ruth’s madness towards the girls twists your guts with a chef’s knife. You can’t look away and just when you think it can’t get any worse…well, I’m sure you can finish that sentence yourself. The Girl Next Door is a story that will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s that powerful.

 

5 Steel Doored Torture Chambers out of 5

 

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Episodes of Violence – David Bernstein

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I absolutely blew through Bernstein’s Episodes of Violence. I literally couldn’t put it down. There was just something about this tale that sickened me and rocked me to my core. After taking some time between finishing it and writing this review, I believe it’s simply that the story of these teenage losers going around and systematically killing for fun felt way too real. We all know kids like this. No, not necessarily first-hand knowledge that the scumbags across the street are offing random people. It’s more like that you could see these kids fly under the radar because people don’t necessarily notice them. They’re undesirables, loners, not someone that the masses pay attention to. Bernstein uses this to his advantage and paints a picture that hits a little too close to home. A little too real. A little too believable. That’s the beauty of Episodes of Violence. Be prepared to be uncomfortable when you read EoV. Be prepared to look at your neighbor kids across the street with a little more scrutiny. Are they just a bunch of misfit potheads that raise a little hell or is there more too them? You might want to make sure the doors are locked, just to be on the safe side.

 

5 Bashed Mailboxes out of 5

 

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Something Violent – Kristopher Rufty

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Dr Phil meets Natural Born Killers. Sound like an odd combination? It totally works in Rufty’s Something Violent. When Jody and Seth are out on their killing sprees, they are all business. But their marriage has hit the rocks. Where do the serial killers turn to when they can’t fix their marriage on their own? They kidnap the famous marriage counselor to the stars, Ron McClure. Ron isn’t the first man to fall victim to Jody flaunting her lucious body in public. Too bad he didn’t see the taser she had hidden under her skirt. No he finds himself knocked unconscious, shoved in a trunk, and wakes up ducttaped to a chair in some unknown basement. When you counsel Hollywood’s elite, you come across some crazy clientele. But nothing could have prepared him for Seth and Jody.

Something Violent worked for me. The premise is just crazy enough to make you shake your head, but Rufty plays the whole thing straight and makes the streaks of black comedy work. As the demented couple unfurl their story to the counselor, the human element comes through. Sure they’re warped as it gets, but in a very odd way, you start to feel for them, care about them. That’s what makes the whole thing work. If all they are is monsters kidnapping a doctor, all you would have is the shock value without any substance. Rufty shows how nutcase like Seth and Jody can be three dimensional. Brilliant. Kudos to Rufty for making this a fun, page-turner.

 

4.5 Purple Wigs out of 5

 

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Blanky – Kealon Patrick Burke

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Steve doesn’t think his life can get any worse. His nine-month-old baby girl mysteriously dies in her crib. His grief stricken wife, Lexi, can’t bear to be around Steve and the house where their daughter died. So, she moves back in with her parents, leaving Steve all alone to face the misery by himself. Then the mysterious baby blanket shows up out of the blue. Where did that come from? Didn’t that become lost when they were clearing their daughter’s room of all the belongings? What is going on? Are we starting to see a man’s frayed ends of sanity?

Blanky is a boot kick to the solar plexus as the reader sucks wind, trying to find respite from Steve’s all-encompassing world of grief. The thought of losing your only child, just as their life got started, is a parent’s worst nightmare. To have to go through that grief alone would be hell on earth. Burke doesn’t let up. He provides what looks like an escape hatch for our protagonist and then promptly smashes his fingers with the lid when he tries to use it as an exit. Another thing that I’m impressed with is Kealon’s word choice throughout the story. He flexes his wordsmith muscle without coming across as frivolous or arrogant. A dark, disturbing story that was perfect with Halloween around the corner.

5 Hidden Baby Teeth out of 5

 

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