Edited by Tom Piccirilli
Published by Cemetery Dance
Even as a young child, I’ve always been a big fan of the horror story. At around eleven I read Pet Sematary. I may not have understood it then as well as I do now, but it was creepy and I loved being freaked out – even if it meant I’d be cowering under the covers that would inexplicably protect me from the boogeyman. Horror movies are much the same for me; who doesn’t love a good scare? For all those thousands of hours of ghosts, zombies and terrifying gore that keep us trembling under bed sheets night after night, we can thank the many hundreds of directors, actors and writers of the horror genre.
Midnight Premiere is a collection of 18 short stories written by some of these geniuses and centered around the horror movie-going experience. With contributors such as Mick Garris (director of Stephen King’s The Stand), Kyra Schon (zombie child from Night of the Living Dead), and Patrick Lussier (director of Dracula 2000) along with many fiction authors of the genre, the collection is a sort of tribute to Hollywood’s undying affection for the horror story.
Reading the book from beginning to end, I didn’t notice any particular structure to the arrangement of stories, but I did note that much like anything else, not all pieces of horror fiction are equal. Among the more notable is the very first story. “Onlookers”, written by Gary A. Braunbeck, is a chilling tale about a world where film is not fictional and where the camera’s eye is closer than you think. Stick-to-your-ribs creepy and close to home, “Onlookers” channels a little George Orwell and somewhat reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis’ recent Lunar Park. Makes you think a little differently about our little bubble of an existence.
In “Del Corazon’s Curse,” by Carl V. Dupre, the most incredibly perfect movie script can never be made. Jeff Morse knows he’s holding big bucks in his hands, but Del Corazon is cursed and it will kill anyone who attempts to change a word of it in production. It’s already killed his friend Nick. But the script sells itself and Jeff can’t keep it out of the wrong hands; he can’t even burn it. If he does it will just show up in his car again. The ending is a tad anticlimactic, but the buildup speaks volumes about what it could have been.
Let’s move on to the achingly predictable “Evrything Must Go” (no, it’s not a spelling error) by Ray Garton, where we are immediately introduced to Typical Horror Movie Couple Who Asks For It #326. Peaceful weekend drive near a town called Brandy Creek. The creepy yard sale sign awakens Susan’s penchant for yard sales up ahead. Yawn. She whines at Nathan to turn off the road and he agrees, like an average man would, just to shut her the hell up. It’s a long, windy way into the woods before they arrive and when they do, they’re greeted by loads of expensive clothing, bags and watches, a graveyard of stripped cars, a family of toothless hillbillies and an odd-smelling barbecue wafting at them from out back. Hmm. Guess away. Interesting mostly for its decent descriptive visuals, the story does include a mediocre attempt at a twist ending. But in my opinion, a twist ending only works when the reader doesn’t see it coming.
There were a few other screen-themed gems sprinkled into this collection, “Sleepdirt” (by Jack Ketchum, author of The Girl Next Door), “Vision” by Patrick Lussier and “The Passion of the Beast” by Brian Hodge. “Seven Knives” by John Shirley isn’t one of them, however. Strangely framed and maddeningly overdramatic, the story is written like a bad B-movie. It’s about a jilted film director who tortures himself in an iron maiden in front of the pretentious and annoying actors who had once screwed him over. It took me forever to read the story because every time I rolled my eyes I would lose my place on the page.
Overall, many of the best stories I think could have been made even better with a hundred or so more pages to devote to the full story and therefore seemed chopped and unfinished. Perhaps that’s an arguable downfall of the short story – it leaves you wanting more. But despite its blunders, Midnight Premiere is an entertaining read for anyone with a short attention span who loves good (or even bad) horror films.
3 out of 5
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