BODY ART by Kristopher Triana (Book Review)

BODY ART by Kristopher Triana (Blood Bound Books)

I’ve been reading the work of Kristopher Triana for over a year now. I started with his collection, GROWING DARK and then beta read several things from him before his novel, THE RUIN SEASON carved it’s name in my heart.   With his newest novel. BODY ART,   Triana tackles erotic horror….or as I beg to clarify, porno horror as I’m old school and tend to think erotic is something a little classier than the type of fuzz bumping shenanigans we get here…but that’s a semantics issue and probably just a personal thing of mine.

BODY ART tells the sordid saga of Kandi, an aging Adult film star who is summoned to the estate of an old producer friend for a role that he swears will be the comeback of the century.  He’s quite secretive about the concepts but assures her she will be stunning.  Meanwhile, across the lake Toby and Jessica are camping and fucking.  Toby is a bit old-fashioned for Jessica who harbors a deep-seated lust and animal hunger for sex that he has only vaguely imagined.  When they catch a glimpse of Kandi across the water and decide to go investigate, they find themselves immersed in a strange and eventually brutally batshit scenario of pornography, violence and madness.

Meanwhile…meanwhile, the town mortician is playing with the dead. His ex-lovers start showing up in body bags and he begins a macabre collection.  Turns out his connection to the events at the lake house is an important one. And what is the deal with all the weird red dust?

I really had no idea what I was in for with BODY ART. I half expected some sort of A SERBIAN FILM angle and while it is there fleetingly, what we have more of is what I like to call “that surreal splatter”–the hyper-nutso stuff that I couldn’t get enough of in the early 90’s. Novels like THE BRIDGE by John Skipp and Craig Spector or THE JIM-JAMS by Michael Green.  Just a sensorial assault that keeps ratcheting until your head threatens to topple from your shoulders.

The story here is original and the characters are richly carved.  And while there is a lot of blood and cum spilled, it is all crucial and not for the sake of the shocked gasp.  It’s the lost collaborative film from Larry Flynt and David Cronenberg.  It’s messy and brutal and a lot of goddamn fun.  I strongly recommend it. (John Boden)

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Double Barrel Horror (Pint Bottle Press)

DOUBLE BARREL HORROR: An Anthology of 12 Stories by 6 Authors (Pint Bottle Press)

This collection of stories is unique in that it’s like the old “Rock Block” the radio stations used to do, or more accurately the “Twofers”  What the editor has done is allow each contributor two stories to flex their muscles.  And there is some muscle here…and sinew and plenty of the red stuff!

The first pair come from Amanda Hard, her opening tale CHEF AND THE MAIDEN concerns a very determined man with special tastes and the young lady unlucky enough to answer his ad, or is she?  The second story, THE THINGS WE DO FOR OUR CHILDREN is a very dark and unsettling retooling of the W.W. Jacobs classic THE MONKEY’S PAW.

With ONE DIRT ROAD K. Trap Jones mines familiar ore around the urban legend trope but then hits a vein when the legend proves true. But it’s the second tale, LAST CLOWN OUT that truly slaps the painted face here–an angry and bitter clown houses some sinister designs on revenge against his fellow clowns.

Vic Kerry’s GILDED LILY is a wildly imaginative tale of an expectant young couple and the strange woods the hedge their property. While THE LITTLE GIRL is a toothsome tale of guilt and consequences.

Author J.C. Michael offers up “Just One Pound” offers a deeper delve into the world of thug justice and the fall out. MEETINGS WITH THE DEVIL is pretty much what the title promises.

Melissa Lason and Michelle Garza (Sister of Slaughter as they are known) hand in JUST A FEW wherein junkies and monsters  duke it out when the druggies break into the house of an elderly couple to steal their meds.  TENANT’S RIGHTS deals with a  young woman who encounters problems with her new apartment and feels that the landlord is ignoring them…until he begins to plead with her to get out of it.

Editor, Matthew Weber takes the closing spot with his pair of stories, BEWARE THE WHAMMY is about a small town, low life’s and curses. SWALLOWED is about a bully who is devoured by a monster and the sole witness can’t seem to get anyone to listen.

The stories here are quick and easy.  They swagger on the pulpy side of the fence and I like that.  They’re vicious little bites of brutal and grisly horror.  This is a great showcase of new talent. (John Boden)

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SLEEP PARALYSIS by Patrick Lacey (Book Review)

SLEEP PARALYSIS by Patrick Lacey (Great Old Ones Publishing)

Aside from a story or two, SLEEP PARALYSIS marks my first foray into the work of Patrick Lacey.  It is a beautifully bizarre collection of stories both dark and bizarre.  Lacey has a keen eye for dialogue and believable characters and he doesn’t shy away from the gruesome.

The collection opens with a tale called “Worm Garden” about a pair of amateur paranormal investigators, one with a secret that will have a profound impact on his partner.  They arrive at the titular spot, an old Quaker graveyard that is said to be one of the most haunted spots in the country. Once there, things get very strange and incredibly creepy.  This story is followed by “Operation Parasite” where paranoia is the main dish and that thing that may or may not be living in your stomach is the just dessert.

“Pen Pals” is one of my favorites in the book, it concerns a boy who, along with the rest of his class is assigned a pen pal. His pen pal, named Simon, fills him in on the horrors of his ugly life, his abusive father and the bullying. Then Simon informs him that he can make things disappear, and then the ugliness in James life starts to go missing.  “Drowning in Filth” offers a not-quite-textbook reason behind a woman’s extreme hoarding.  “Lost And Found” is a wildly surreal tale of a lonely boy, the murder he sees and the odd relationship he develops in the aftermath.

“First Bell” wins my vote for favorite in the collection. It’s is dark and almost sweet in its sadness. A young man who survives a terrible tragedy, wakes up to be at school and hour early every day, so he can visit with friends and fellow students who weren’t as lucky as he. “Send Your End” deals with a very sinister website, while “The Lynnwood Vampires” is almost the tale of a sub-sub-cultural virus of sorts.  “Norton” is the bizarro re-telling of “Harvey” but with a stuffed rabbit with, um, handiness and a very dark effect on those around him.

“Critter Marrow” is another one about a weird website and how it bleeds from the monitor into the lives of those who’ve seen it.  “Last Words” hands us the stark and horrific tale of an unspoken deathbed plea and the grisly discoveries it leads to. “Big Bertha” is a yarn about an ancient arcade game with a voracious appetite.

There are a few I didn’t touch on, which isn’t to say they weren’t good…Hey, I have to leave some surprises!  SLEEP PARALYSIS is a solid collection of unsettling stories. Some of these will play on your mind long after you’ve read them, and there’s no higher praise for a writer than that. (John Boden)

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THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN by Orrin Grey (Book Review)

THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN by Orrin Grey (Dunhams Manor Press)

THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN (or THE CULT OF HEADLESS MEN, depending) is a limited (to 150) horror novelette in the olden tradition of the weird; and it’s a fucking blast. Taking place in the ‘60s, Kirby Marsh is a film producer determined to ride the cusp of the British Horror boom (think Hammer Horror). He’s pretty much Roger Corman, which should make several of you excited immediately. We follow him to a friend’s family Manor in England, where Kirby has hopes to film several films. What begins as a short history of the place ends with some incredibly awesome cult action, ancient science and the dark arts, noises in the distance on cold, damn nights, and a terrible secret in the old family crypt.

This book is short, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in atmosphere, chills, and sharp imagery. Orrin is a master wordsmith in top form, conjuring vibes and creating scenes that recollect the weird horror writers of the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s dripping with a classic horror tension and mood that is rarely played with anymore. But he blends that with this 60’s vibe. Many awesome references to 60’s B films and all the Roger Corman-isms you could want. I loved this book. I will be seeking out more Orrin Grey and devouring it as quickly as I can, because this shit is gold.

The title is actually THE CULT OF HEADLESS MEN, but due to a typo the cover says THE CULT OF THE HEADLESS MEN, which the author is quick to explain in the Author’s Note. When they discovered that this had happened, it seems almost too perfect, given all the films produced in that era with names on posters and promotional material that are just slightly off from what the film says. It’s amazing that they kept that in, as a nod to the spirit of the B movie. The cover art is actually what prompted me to check this book out. Michael Bukowski worked some serious magic on this cover, and it so perfectly captures the delightfully fun horrors within. As far as I know, there are still copies available, so please do yourself a favor and check this out before they are all gone! You’ll be happy you did. (Sam Richard)

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RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE by CV Hunt (Book Review)

RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE by CV Hunt (Grindhouse Press)

CV Hunt is officially my new favorite author, and RITUALISTIC HUMAN SACRIFICE is like a goddamn gift from the darkest gods below. It is the work of a brilliant writer who understands the inner workings of the human mind better than most. There are moments in this book that are so uncomfortable that I physically felt them – and that scene was of a medical procedure, not one of the super fucked up parts. This book is so fucking good that it makes me want to scream. It’s also totally fucked and absolutely fucking perfect.

For Nick Graves and his wife, Eve, the passion, love, and hope in their marriage has long since passed. Resentment abounds and Nick is ready to move on, to let go and admit defeat. His plans disintegrate around him when Eve reveals that she is pregnant, something they had agreed they didn’t want. Not wanting to been seen as someone who would abandon his wife and unborn child, Nick plots some serious fucking revenge. She made a major life decision without his input, so why couldn’t he do the same? After finding the perfect house in the country, Nick and Eve move to a community of terrible secrets, architecture that doesn’t make sense, statues built with faeces, and mystery that will unfurl into their unhappy lives.

There is so much anger and resentment built into the Nick character, and it screams from a place of truth, of experience. If you’ve been in a bad relationship that just simmers with hate, you’ll know the feeling that this book produces. I don’t want to dig too far in, as to avoid spoiling anything for you, but trust me that you will want to read this book. It’s nasty, fucked, cruel, and speaks to a truth that many of us have felt in our lives. Everything in this book is totally where it should be, and the story is able to carry itself through some pretty rough territory without running off the rails. If I get a chance to meet CV Hunt, I’m buying her a beer and thanking her for being able to write a scene that actually made me cringe. Buy this fucking book. Buy it now and read it as soon as you get it. (Sam Richard)

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X’s FOR EYES by Laird Barron (Book Review)

X’s FOR EYES by Laird Barron (Bizarro Pulp Press)

This short novella is filled to the brim with Old Gods, a Himalayan Assassin School, a Murderous Cult, Corporate Espionage, and in the midst of it are the Tooms brothers. Like a twisted, sociopathic version of Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest and Haji, or the Venture Brothers; the Tooms brothers frantically stumble through this 1950’s cosmic sci-fi, pulp-adventure story. It’s hallucinatory, weird, and full of snappy, pulp-ridden dialogue.

I’m a pretty massive Laird Barron fan, with THE CRONING being one of my favorite books of the past decade, but this doesn’t quite scratch the itch I thought it would. But it does do something very different, something I’ve not seen from him. He’s in new territory here. He’s played with all the pieces presented in X’s FOR EYES, but never assembled them together, or in this sequence. Honestly, I found it a little difficult to follow and it’s not my favorite of his works, but it’s got its own charm and isn’t lacking in the weird category. It’s a difficult book to talk about because it’s packed full of so much cool shit, but is written in such a feverish way that the events in the story feel like a dream. And while it isn’t my favorite thing he’s ever written, it’s still pretty awesome, albeit a bit of a challenge.

The story takes some…ok a lot of twists and turns, ultimately revealing an awesome cosmic element that was the highlight of the book, for me. If you’re looking for a book that really has no peers, a book so singularly strange and bizarrely executed that I can think of no other that combines the these elements, I suggest you check it out. It has a density to the way that it’s written, which is a nice contrast against the ease of reading most weird literature that it’s actually refreshing. Not my favorite Barron, but something wholly unique and interesting that I can’t help but love it. Additionally, the cover art by Matthew Revert is incredibly sharp and captures a bit of the madness within. Get at it, you won’t be the same after you read it. (Sam Richard)

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A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS by Garrett Cook (Book review)

A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS by Garrett Cook (Deadite Press)

Somehow this was the first Garrett Cook book that I’ve ever read, this is something that will soon be rectified. A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS is an inside-out, violent, emotionally driven haunted house story. Only the haunt is the narrator of the story, and whatever he says he is – he isn’t. The house takes great pleasure at the pain of its inhabitants, both physical and emotional. The lines between time blur and characters trapped in the house from different eras are given to each other as a means of controlling them, inducing madness, and bringing their traumas and neurosis into startling clarity.

With A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS, Garrett Cook has created the kind of haunted house story devoid of the gothic trappings the genre is known for. This book is cruel and harsh; he puts his characters through terrible things, often at their own hands. The exploration of anorexia is particularly difficult to get through, and is also written so fucking well. It’s shocking and rough and hard to stomach, but goddamn if it isn’t fucking good. And that’s really what this whole book is. It’s full of horrible violence and inhumanity and yet its emotional center holds together and the writing is incredibly good. It has these moments of intense and blindingly bright genius. Combine that with all the fucked up cruelty and you’ve got a monster of a book.

My one minor complaint is that occasionally it feels a little messy, like one more round of editing would have sharpened up a few of those moments where things aren’t quite on the level of the rest of the book. That slight complaint aside, this book is fucking awesome. It sucks you in and fucks your head up a bit and opens your eyes a bit too wide at the horror and then, in 158 pages, it spits you back out, left to deal with the trauma that you were just subject to. A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS is proof that Extreme Horror is alive and well, kicking at the fringes, forcing us to witness all the unpleasantness the world has to offer, with a knowing, toothy grin that we’ll (or, at the very least, I’ll) gladly come back for more, time and time again. If you like it hard to take, interesting, and haunting, get A GOD OF HUNGRY WALLS before it gets you. (Sam Richard)

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