Dark Screams: Volume One

July 6, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

screamsDark Screams: Volume One, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

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For the most part, I avoid short story collections unless they’re by authors on my Must Read. Everything. Right Now. Or As Soon as It’s Available. list. The last significant anthology by various authors I’ve read (not counting Six Scary Stories) is 999, from way back in 2000. This collection was only 99 cents, though, and it included a rare Stephen King story, and I couldn’t resist.

The first story — the headliner — is Stephen King’s “Weeds”, a story not reprinted since its initial publication in 1976. “Wait!” I hear you saying. “It was in Creepshow!” Well, yes, it was, but after reading this story, you’ll find they’re very different. Sure, the high points are still there — Jordy Verrill, a simple-minded handyman finds a meteor that sprouts grass on whatever it touches, taking over Jordy and his house — but the version in Creepshow is remarkably better. There’s something scarier about a passive threat to the planet than a thoughtful, malicious one like King presents in the original story. Still, it’s early King, when his style wasn’t quite as overwrought as it is now, and it’s fun to be able to go back and experience it again.

“The Price You Pay” by Kelly Armstrong is the next story, and might be better classified as a thriller than a horror story. It’s about toxic relationships, and how men and women react to them. It’s somewhat pedestrian, in that this is a story written and read time and again, but the author mentions that in the story itself, making me question if that’s the point. Stories like this are only relevant when they affect you in some way, otherwise they’re just “the same old story”. That alone makes it thought-provoking.

Bill Pronzini’s “Magic Eyes” follows, and is about a mental patient keeping a journal. He’s in the hospital because he killed his wife, but of course that’s not his take on things. This is another kind of story we’ve read several times (if we’re fans of horror, that is), and there’s not much to it to elevate it above all those other tales. At the very least, Pronzini creates an effective reliable narrator, while showing us that he’s the opposite.

Next is “Murder in Chains” by Simon Clark, a pointless story about abduction and survival. And mindless killing. It’s stories like these that remind me why I’m not as into horror as I used to be, and makes me question why I was into it as much as I was when I was younger.

Concluding the anthology is Ramsey Campbell’s “The Watched”. Campbell is a hit-or-miss author with me, with more misses than hits, but his short story “The Words That Count” is a favorite of mine, and is especially chilling. This story isn’t quite as resonant, but it’s definitely creepy. Campbell captures the proper atmosphere of the story, and creates some haunting imagery. It’s a bloodless horror story, and is more effective for it.

Armstrong’s and Campbell’s story are worth the price of the collection, and King’s story is an amusement, especially for his Constant Readers. The rest are just okay, though more hardcore fans of horror might find the stories more to their liking. The collection overall doesn’t inspire me to read the remaining volume, even though some heavy hitters like Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, and Jack Ketchum are among the featured authors.

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1 Comment

  1. Dark Screams: Volume One — Veni Vidi Verkisto – horrorcontinued said,

    […] via Dark Screams: Volume One — Veni Vidi Verkisto […]

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