Violet Eyes – John Everson



Creature features are all the rage right now in the horror market. Now many of them focus on crytozoology and that’s cool and all, but, for me, I find creatures that already exist a more plausible horror. Throw in the fact that these creatures are creepy, crawly bugs that are genetically engineered? Well, now I’m totally on board.

Violet Eyes had been on my TBR pile for a while now. I’ve read a few things from Bram Stoker Award winning author, John Everson, before. The man has talent. No doubt. But could he suspend my disbelief and take me on a wild ride with spiders from hell? For the most part, yes.

A government hired firm was doing some crazy genetic experiments on a small, uninhabited island in the Florida keys. That experiment went haywire and they had to pull the plug. Enter Billy, the former hard-partying, drug-running college kid that has been trying to clean up his act. Billy takes some friends to this island that he used to hide drugs on. You guessed it. The very same island. Billy’s friends are chewed to pieces by these crazy-ass damn spiders and flies, all have eyes that glow violet. Billy escapes with his life, but unfortunately he brings back some stowaways his small litttle hometown on the Everglades. Living next door is Rachel and her son Eric. Rachel has recently moved in after a messy divorce with her abusive and mainly psychotic ex-husband (Don’t we all have a psycho ex in our closets?). She thought her life was a nightmare before, just wait to see what awaits Rachel when Mother Nature is unleashed in a genetically modified fury.

Violet Eyes is a fun romp through a 1980’s-like government conspiratorial creature feature. Everson’ characters are likable enough that you invest in them. Usually, when an author hits the gas on the action and pacing, many times character development suffers. There’s some of that here, but no enough to turn you off. I’ve read some reviews where they complain about Everson periodically introducing characters throughout the story only to kill them off a page or two later. I’m actually okay with that. For me, it showed how ruthless these little arachnids could be. There were definitely places where I thought the plot could be tightened up or an idea expanded upon. Oddly enough, the constant obesession with sex by pretty much every adult character was the part that was hard for me to get over and actually dropped my rating by a half. Don’t get me wrong. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m an absolute horn dog, but if my friends and girlfriend had been eaten by a crazy swarm of killer spiders a week ago, and it appears that the little bastards hitched a ride back with me, I think the last thing I’d think about doing is banging the cute neighbor that just moved in next door. I could see maybe one character with an overactive libido, but all of them? I can’t believe I’m complaining about sex, but that’s my bitch about the story. All in all, a fast-paced thriller if you don’t think about it too much.

A solid 3 1/2 Spider Spewing Skulls out of 5


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Bone Chimes – Kristopher Rufty



Bone Chimes is Rufty’s first collection of short stories and I have to say that I think it’s some of his best work. There are so many gems hidden away in Bone Chimes that each new story you read will be your new favorite that replaced the story before it. The development is excellent and has a very 1980s heyday of horror cinema to it. In case you were wondering, that’s a good thing in my book. The influences of Stephen King, Robert McCammon, Bentley Little, Charles L. Grant, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg are all there.

Love Seat felt like it was made next door to the factory that built Stephen King’s Christine. The Chomper felt like it was set in Grant’s Oxrun Station. The Wager, Bruce Smiley’s Ultimate Death Machine, and Bedside Manner had that great Twilight Zone feel to them. But the one that made me look uneasily over my shoulder was Gearhart’s Wife. That one was full of creepiness and atmosphere that Rufty ladled on with a very large spoon. I kept thinking to myself, what would I do if I were loan officer. This may sound like blasphemy, but I think when he’s not trying to paint the pages red, Rufty’s best writing comes to the surface. He spends his time crafting atmosphere and the characters have that extra je ne sais quoi that breathes life into them. All in all, Rufty has something for everyone in this collection and I can’t say enough about it. Get your butt over to Amazon and click on it immediately.

5 Psycho Relationships out of 5


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A View from the Lake – Greg F. Gifune



Katherine and James purchased lake property in rural western Massachusetts when they were in their mid-twenties. They rented out the various cottages while James worked on his poetry. It was an idyllic setting and life. That is, until James discovered the body of a boy floating by one of the cottage docks. The accident sent devastated James and he slowly sank into madness and depression from a broken mind. Katherine watched as James became more and more recluse and angry until one day he disappeared without a trace. Trying to pick up the pieces of a shattered life, Katherine makes the decision to sell the property in the spring and to try and start a new life. All she has to do is get through the winter. Not an easy task now that she’s hearing strange thing that sound like James. Is this all in her mind or is he out there somewhere?

I’ve read a handful of Gifune’s work and most of them are noted for the story being enveloped in shadows and fog, to the point where it’s hard to tell what’s going on, what’s real and what’s not. A View from the Lake is no different. But where it is different than my other experiences with Gifune’s stories is that there is no pay off. The last 1/3 doesn’t ratchet up and have this wonderful revelation that ties everything together. In fact, the ending came out of the blue and left you with more questions than answers. The characters weren’t all that interesting and I didn’t feel for Katherine or James. I know this is one of Gifune’s earlier works and I think it shows. When you read his later works, you’ll see that he commands things so much better.


2 Confusing Hallucinations out of 5


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Succulent Prey – Wrath James White



Succulent Prey should come with a warning on the cover: WARNING – Not for the faint of heart, weak stomachs or if your idea of horror is Stephen King and Dean Koontz. If you like your horror to be serial killers, cannabalism, and graphic page after page drenched in blood, Succulent Prey might be for you. This is my first forray into Wrath James White’s writing and yes, it’s brutal, but White isn’t a one-trick pony. The guy can flat out write. In the hands of a less talented author, this story easily gets lost. But White breathes life into it…well…right before he rips open a chest and yanks our a heart and eats it. Okay, I’m regressing. Joey is an 11-year-old kid that gets abducted by a serial killer who gets his kicks by slicing his victims and drinking his blood. Joey was the first victim and for some unknown reason, the killer lets him go. The subsequent victims aren’t so lucky. They’re brutally sliced apart, blood drank and flesh consumed. The killer, Trent, is finally apprehended and sent away to a mental institution. Flash forward to present day where Joey is a sophomore in college and he’s a big boy, and when I say big, I mean football player/body builder big. Top it off that he look like Superman from the comics and you can see why he has no problem picking up women. Unfortunately, the scars of his past have made his sex life and desires slide to the extreme. And when I say extreme, I’m not talking a little light bondage S&M. No, Joey dreams of sinking his teeth into their flesh and consuming them in one bloody bite after another.

I’ll stop here on the story’s details and say that this story could’ve easily went off the rails into the rediculous many times, but Wrath gives us a compelling tale that pulls you in. Joey is a complex character that you can’t decide how you feel about him. His victims are the sad sacks with no self esteem that society typically exploits. At times, you think, “who’d do that?”, then you realize that yes, there are people out there like that. At times, the story walks the razor’s edge of suspension of disbelief, but White delivers a blood-soaked thrill ride with your hair on fire. If you like your stories to extreme splatterpunk, grab your raincoat and try to avoid the splatters.

4 1/2 Chewed-Off Nipples out of 5


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Witching Hour Theatre – Jonathan Janz



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



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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The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum



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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