Welcome to tonight’s feature presentation, brought to you by an unholy alliance of our spellcasters at Hex Publishers and movie-mages at the Colorado Festival of Horror. Please be advised that all emergency exits have been locked for this special nostalgia-curdled premiere of death. From crinkling celluloid to ferocious flesh—from the silver screen to your hammering heart—behold as a swarm of werewolves, serial killers, Satanists, Elder Gods, aliens, ghosts, and unclassifiable monsters are loosed upon your auditorium. Relax, and allow our ushers to help with your buckets of popcorn—and blood; your ticket stubs—and severed limbs; your comfort candy—and body bags. Kick back and scream as you settle into a fate worse than Hell. Tonight’s director’s cut is guaranteed to slash you apart.
I was looking forward to reading this anthology of 80s themed stories, and now that I am finished and have had a few hours to reflect, there are some things that this collection does well and some things it does not do well. One of the things that I really like is that most of the stories have one setting, most of them a movie theatre, and the authors do a great job in varying their stories told in this setting. It would be easy to have 15 stories about theatre hauntings, but there are only a few, and those few are really good ones. Many of these stories involve many different themes, from alien invasions to murders to crime cover ups, the variety kept me interested in the collection. I thought the art was very well done, and I have thought about getting a physical copy of this so that I could do the flipbook animation. One of the things that I did not like was that there was only one story that involved the multiplex, and this was in a story where they use the multiplex as a prop instead of a setting (where the kids saw a movie at the multiplex and did not come out the same.) The rest of the stories were set in old, one screen theatres and drive-ins. I know that it makes for great, and easier stories, but the idea of many of these stories being set in the 80s or being inspired by the 80s just does not come across very well. These stories seem to be more inspired by the drive-in movies from the 60s and 70s than the mall culture of the 80s.
This is not to say that the collection does not have some highlights. I really enjoyed the first two stories, “Alien Parasites from Outer Space” by Warren Hammond and “Return of the Alien Parasites from Outer Space” by Angie Hodapp, a alien story with a legitimate sequel as the next story. I have not seen this very often in anthologies, and the stories were fun so I was fully engaged in the plot with both of these stories. I did not know what I thought about Keith Ferrell’s story, “The Cronenberg Concerto” while I was reading it because it is written in a more passive, reflective way, but in hindsight, I think about this story more than most of the others. This is a quiet, body horror story, and it is more interesting in concept than it initially appears. The only story that involves a Multiplex, “The Devil’s Reel” by Sean Eads and Joshua Viola is a great Satanic Panic story, which seems to capture the spirit that this collection felt like it was trying to gear toward. There are a few other pretty good stories, particularly Stephen Graham Jones and Steve Rasnic Tem, but there are not many that really stick out and make me think I’ll remember much about this anthology in six months. They are good stories, but not memorable. I know how hard it is to work on these types of anthologies, and if anyone wants to read it, I would not discourage it, but this is a soft recommendation from me.
I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.