Edited by Jeani Rector
Published by Imajin Books
We’re at an odd time for the art of print. Writers, poets, and artists are having a very hard time mass marketing their work, as the world moves towards digital-only publishing and the death of print. Publishers are going out of business, bookstores are shrinking, the entire industry is facing the gloom that the music industry faced not so many years ago when digital trumped physical.
More and more, print artists are turning to the web to reach the masses. Just like musicians before them, they find that releasing their work for free or donations on the web will get their names out there far better than traditional means such as agents and manuscripts.
With What Fears Become, we have the reverse: a website dedicated to print art actually publishing a hard copy of the finest of their work. The Horror Zine is a UK-based site featuring poetry, art, and fiction from artists all over the world. Chief editor Jeani Rector has collected these into a volume published by a small Canadian independent publisher, Imajin Books. I’m happy to say this was a good move.
I’ve read and reviewed many short story collections, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen in recent years. While one would expect to find work from undiscovered writers, this collection has stories by luminaries such as Bentley Little, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, and Graham Masterton. There are many lesser-known writers mixed in, but the surprise is that, often, the new blood tops the old masters.
There are some real rip-snorters in this volume. Little’s “Dogleg” is a bizarre little tale of metamorphosis that’s been recommended for a 2011 Stoker Award. New author Rachel Coles weaves a lovely, original little ghost tale in “The Orphans of Lethe”. Another new author, James Marlow, tells another ghost story of a much meaner variety in “3AM”. “Wandering Daniel” is a delightfully inventive tale of a vampire without any prey by budding screenwriter Jagjiwan Sohal. In probably my favorite story in the book, “A Bad Stretch of Road”, veteran writer Dean H. Wild has created a vicious, creative tale blending action and horror. This one is almost worth the price of admission alone. Nine pages of balls-to-the-wall grinding horror as a man takes a detour into hell itself.
Of course, like any collection, not every story shines. Some, like Ronald Malfi’s “Chupacabra” and horror icon Melanie Tem’s “Fry Day” are so surreal that they fail to carry any real narrative and leave the reader feeling less than satisfied when they finish. “Fish Night” by Joe R. Lansdale and “Lost Things” by Piers Anthony just don’t feel anything remotely like horror and thus seem out of place in the collection.
Still, even in those instances, they aren’t bad stories. The former just seem soft when paired with the other selections, and the latter just don’t fit with the rest of the work despite being very solid tales in their own right.
Following the short stories is a section of poetry. While I feel this is a much more mixed bag than the fiction, poetry is drastically more subjective than fiction, and I don’t feel confident enough to individually point out pieces to critique. Suffice it to say I enjoyed some of it and didn’t enjoy others, and you’ll probably feel the same.
The poetry is followed by art, and artwork is also placed throughout the book between stories. This is the only place where What Fears Become fails.
Imajin is not a self-publisher, but they use a self-publishing company to print their physical books. As with many self-publishers, they simply do not do justice to artwork. While the book is attractive with fantastic full-color cover art, the art inside the book is reproduced very badly. Comparing some of the art on the website with the reproduced versions in the book could leave an art lover in tears. Pixelated, dark, and sometimes not even printed in the correct proportions, the art would have best been left out entirely if it couldn’t be presented in a more appealing manner. Do yourself a favor and skip this section entirely and look at the originals on the site, which are wonderful. The work is amazing, but the reproductions here do a terrible disservice to the artists.
The final section is the “Editor’s Corner”, where Rector has printed a couple of her own stories. They stand up in quality to the rest of the collection so she was smart to do so.
Notice up above that I advised you to skip the art section? That’s because I’m recommending that you buy this book. It’s honestly one of the finest short story collections I’ve read in quite some time and kept me very entertained throughout. The poetry and art are really just bonus features, to me, as this would still be quite a large volume without them. I guarantee you’ll find some new authors you otherwise might not read and discover rare material from some of fiction’s best and brightest veterans.
3 1/2 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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