Dark Screams

Edited by: Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

Published By: Hydra

Reviewed by Melissa Minners

                Okay, I know horror is not everyone's thing this time of year, but why should I pass up a horror anthology simply because 'tis the season to be jolly?  Why can't I mix a little horror in to contrast with all that holly jolly Christmas stuff?  That being said, I was invited to check out an advanced copy of Dark Screams: Volume One featuring five spooky stories by well-known authors, how could I pass up the opportunity?

                The book begins with Weeds by the king of horror...Stephen King, of course.  In this tale, a none too smart farmer is unfortunate enough to have a meteor land in his field.  Smart enough to put out the fire the meteor started in his field, Jordy Verrill is not smart enough to leave the actual meteor alone.  Think you know what is about to happen in this story?  Think again.  This is not The Tommyknockers , folks.  This is something entirely different.

                Next up is The Price You Pay by Kelley Armstrong, which just happens to be my favorite tale in the anthology.  In this story, a young woman named Kara finds herself in yet another abusive relationship, but Kara decides it's time to end the cycle.  This story is a real shocker.  Flashing between past and present, the reader thinks that one thing is happening, when an entirely different and more shocking event is taking place.  Kara's plan is never realized until the very end.

                Magic Eyes by Bill Pronizini is simply creepy.  Written in the first person by a man named Edward James Tolliver, we are invited into the mind of a murderer and believed psychopath.  Of course, Edward claims to be innocent and is actually miffed that he is in a mental asylum.  After all, what he did to his wife was not murder.  His wife was already dead, her body taken over by something alien or demonic.  It's a horror story, so Edward is definitely on to something, right?  Or maybe the horror is really that he's not.

                This tale is followed by Murder in Chains by Simon Clark.  This is a story of survival with a sort of SAW meets Fight Club meets well...you'll get the point.  You see, our protagonist is named John and he is a freelance photographer, hired by a local paper to capture images of the city of Leeds at night.  Unfortunately, someone with a demented mindset has decided to go after night workers and revelers and chain them in various locations, pitting them against each other in battles to the death.  John is chained to a behemoth with an unquenchable thirst for death.  Can John survive the encounter or will survival bring on the real horror in this story?

                Rounding things up is The Watched by Ramsey Campbell, a creepy ghost story as seen through the eyes of a child.  It all starts with an innocent walk home from the grocery store where he has picked up a bag of potatoes for his grandmother, his sole caretaker.  It ends up with Jimmy spying on a family of drug dealers next door for a former cop obsessed with them ever since the death of his daughter.  Jimmy decides that the risk of spying on the family is too great after several strange things begin happening in the area of the two homes.  But can he afford not to keep watch?  Just how desperate is this cop to nail these bad guys anyway?

                What a fantastic collection of horror stories!  Dark Screams: Volume One is one of those anthologies in which the horror is different in each tale.  People have different ideas as to what consists of horror.  Everyone is afraid of different things: paranoid delusions, alien invasions, ghostly apparitions, battles to the death, abuse.  Each of these tales features a main character in a desperate situation, up against a horror he or she is not sure they will be able to survive...surely certain that they won't survive unscathed.  Each of the tales is captivating, featuring characters and situations that the reader won't be able to pry their eyes from until they are certain of the outcome. 

                Dark Screams: Volume One is an excellent addition to any horror lovers bookshelf.  I can't wait to see what evil lurks in Dark Screams: Volume Two!


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