TRUTH OR DARE?, Edited by Max Booth III

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Truth or Dare?
Edited By Max Booth III
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing – 31st October 2015
ISBN 9780986059452  – 234 Pages – Paperback
Source: NetGalley


CONTENTS:
“Shackled to the Shadows”, by Richard Thomas
“An Unpleasant Truth about Death”, by Eric J. Guignard
“Mantid”, by Kenneth W. Cain
“A Ribbon, a Rover”, by Jessica McHugh
“Iz”, by Eli Wilde
“Laal Andhi”, by Usman T. Malik
“The Bone Witch”, by Chantal Noordeloos
“The Pole”, by William Meikle
“Lucy’s Arrow”, by Jay Wilburn
“Change”, by Peter & Shannon Giglio
“Marco Polo”, by James Chambers
“The Dog Metaphor”, by Vincenzo Bilof
“The Whited Sepulchre”, by Nik Korpon
“Rattlebone Express”, by Sanford Allen
“The Shadow Life of Suburbia”, by T. Fox Dunham
“The Other Bonfire”, by Jeremy C. Shipp
“Oh Fuck, it’s the Cops”, by Joe McKinney

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I wish I would’ve had copy of this back around the time it was initially released, because it would be the perfect thing to read through the nights around Halloween. The short stories of this themed horror collection Truth or Dare of course share a framework around the party game. But they also share a common universe in setting and characters, the high school students of Greene Point High in Ohio who gather around a bonfire on Halloween night to reveal untold tales or meet the twisted challenges of peers.
While the shared aspect works fine as a setup, the collection doesn’t really hold up to many strong linkages between stories, and it is hard to envision how the events of all the stories could possibly all have occurred during this one supposed night. Yet, this aspect is something that can just be basically ignored, and each of the stories work fine with separate consideration as part of a shared theme collection rather than a shared universe narrative as well.
The stories reminded me of the quality and breadth that readers could expect from typical horror short fiction markets, including Nightmare Magazine, which I’m most familiar with, and the collection includes well-established authors and new-comers alike. A few of the stories didn’t impress me much, but on the whole the collection kept me entertained and provided the slight chills that scary stories and horror provide.
Truth or Dare opens with Thomas’ “Shackled to the Shadows”, which does a good job at setting the overall tone, first person narration, and a general structure shared by many of the loosely connected stories. With this story one already gets a sense that there are many levels of horror surrounding this high school game: the pains of being an outsider within the harsh realms of teenage existence, the monstrosity that people can manifest and the hatred it can in turn engender from victims. Beyond the internal viciousness of the characters there is also the impression of external malevolence, supernatural and ancient. In this opening story and beyond the reader sees that there is the horror of the story itself, but like all good campfire tales they conclude with hints of an even greater horror awakened, to come.
After the opening story heavy on tone, Guignard’s “An Unpleasant Truth about Death” relates an interesting plot about a near (or perhaps actual) death experience that highlights the dangers of intense curiosity and touches upon the power that games like Truth or Dare have, a superstitious hold of rules that one doesn’t take seriously on the level of rationality, but breeds deep fear in the soul upon transgression.
Though entertaining, Guignard’s story (or the one related by the character at least) has the feeling of being contrived – to have that creepy effect on the reader (or the fictional audience in the story). This isn’t a bad thing, I think it’s partially something integral to these kinds of stories, and it reminded me somewhat of the way classic creepy folklore goes, having an emotional effect but then triggering questions about how some plot detail could really happen – or why. This kind of effect casts doubt on whether the scary story is true, giving the audience a rational out to discount danger and allay fear. But what if it did happen?
Perhaps you can recall Schwartz’s classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections? Many of the stories in Truth or Dare reminded me of that style, tone, and plotting, but for an adult audience. Jessica McHugh’s “A Ribbon, Rover” is a great example of that, with a compelling plot that seems inventive yet also something born of ageless tales, mirroring the character of the story itself. I’ve read one novel of McHugh’s prior, but this is closer to actual classic horror and I look forward to reading more in that vein from her lovely mind. “The Bone Witch” and “Rattlebone Express” are two others that recalled those feelings of fairy tale and folklore in excellent modern fashion.
“The Bone Witch” also had slight tones of humor in it, despite a rather horrific situation and outcome. “Change” later in the collection from the Giglios also has this certain lightness, which provides some nice variety amid the more darkly emotional stories or the creature horrors of stories like “Mantid” and McKinney’s closing piece.
A few stories also delve into deeper waters of real horror, or in the case of “Iz” tackle the general issue of what makes a monster, what they do both to threaten society or perhaps provide for society. “The Pole” almost literally brings up Nazi skeletons in the closet and “Marco Polo” tackles the very real horrors of abuse. Malik provides a story (Laal Andhi, or Crimson Storm) of horrors from Pakistan, linking uncanny events with the real violence of terrorism, where macabre events from childhood end up imprinting damage on a young boy leading him to senseless and hopeless conflagration in the future.
A satisfying collection that would particularly fit reading in situations (beyond Halloween time) like a summer camping trip, Truth or Dare features a really good idea with the game as a theme for the horror genre. Even if Booth’s collection fails to make a cohesive narrative taken all together, it succeeds well in providing a range of tales that horror fans would enjoy and perhaps some new authors to discover.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To?, by David Roche

Making and Remaking Horror in the 1970s and 2000s: Why Don’t They Do It Like They Used To?, by David Roche
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
ASIN: B00IEZSL22
335 pages, Kindle Edition
Published February 2014
Source: NetGalley

As a big fan of horror movies and someone who agrees with the sentiment that the originals made in the 1970s were more disturbing (and simply put ‘better’) than the remakes of the 2000s, I happily requested a chance to read this. Seeing the publisher is an academic press I figured it would have an academic tone, but didn’t quite expect the degree to which this is an academic treatment. Its main weakness in terms of appeal is thus that it has portions that are incredibly detailed and dry. Nonetheless, for what it sets out to accomplish, this study does a fine job and will have appeal to certain audiences, particularly certain sections.

The opening chapter serves as an introductory overview or summary to the work as a whole, covering the ‘question’ of the study, the approach to address it, and a brief summary of the author’s conclusions. The next chapters then contain analysis of the films that are considered in their broad purposes and interpretations. These are the chapters that are going to be of the most interest to an average horror movie buff. Even if you have seen all the originals and the remakes several times over, I suspect that there will still be interesting insights raised, particularly to interpretations of aspects of the films, that you may not have considered before.

Having already viewed the films helps. I’ve seen them all save for the Dawn of the Dead films (though I have seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” which comes up in discussion as well). I found myself skipping even the general analyses of the Romero film and its remake then, both because references were unfamiliar to me and I didn’t want some aspects of the story ‘spoiled’. I’ve seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” however, countless times, and appreciated its discussions greatly. To be fair, many of the analyses of this section are not Roche’s per se, but summaries and responses to a previous academic study on the topic he is taking up here.

The latter part of the book is taken up with chapters that go into increasing detail into the construction aspects of each film (most interesting to me discussion of the film scores), eventually becoming a literal shot-by-shot summary comparison and analysis between the films. These sections, being less about the plot as much as the process of making the horror films, would be of tremendous interest to anyone wanting to create a work of ‘horror’. Even discussing what the term ‘horror’ means and how that compares to ‘terror’ or other concepts, these chapters are noteworthy of interest not just to those wanting to film horror, but even to those who strive to write a work of horror or suspense.

So, although academic, there is plenty here for a general audience, particularly if reading selective sections. For the horror fan, it may even re-inspire you to watch some titles, as it did for me. Out of all the remakes, Roche appears to look most favorably on Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I recall thinking it had the strongest voice, but was more “Rob Zombie” than “Halloween”, truly his take on it, which had led me to really dislike the movie. With time and consideration of Roche’s book I think it is the one film worth reconsidering now with time of having some merit despite being a less ‘disturbing’ remake.

Four Stars out of Five