Friday, May 8, 2015

Dark Screams, Volume Four

The screams are darker than ever in this fourth volume of the digital horror series...
 This time out, Editors Richard Chizmar and Brian James Freeman have lined up new stories by Ray Garton, Lisa Morton, and Heather Graham, as well as a pair of reprints by Clive Barker and Ed Gorman.

 Barker's story , The Departed (Originally presented in The New York Times on Halloween day, 1992, as "Hermione and the Moon"), leads off the collection, and it's a fantasy/horror tale suitable for all ages, about a living dead woman who longs to see, and be seen by, her still-living son one last time. It's a gentle, heartbreaking little story, and it reminded me why I loved Barker's work so much, once upon a time.

 Next is Lisa Morton's The New War, a grim little tale about an old man in a nursing home who believes he is being stalked by a strange being that has been killing off his fellow residents. Morton usually excels in the short story format, but this one kind of left me cold. A well-told tale, but the subject matter didn't do much for me.

Sammy Comes Home, by Ray Garton, is one of the best stories I've read by him in a long time. A family's barbecue is interrupted by the return of their missing dog...horror ensues. Probably the less you know about this one going in, the better time you'll have. Garton serves up a story that evoked the 1980's B-horror movies I grew up watching, and I loved every minute of it.

 Hands down, the best story in  DARK SCREAMS, VOLUME FOUR  is Ed Gorman's The Brasher Girl, reprinted here from his 1995 collection, Cages. What starts off as a story about the troublesome relationship between a teenage girl and a twenty-something military vet quickly devolves into jealousy, murder, insanity, and....maybe something more. I've never read an Ed Gorman story that didn't floor me, and this one is no exception. No one does short stories quite like Ed Gorman, and this one is worth the price of admission by itself.

 The book closes with Heather Graham's Creature Feature, which is apparently part of a series featuring a group of FBI-sanctioned monster hunters called "The Krewe of Hunters". Just seeing the word "Krewe" immediately turned me off to the story, but I tries to keep an open mind....which didn't work. This story was basically the prose equivalent of an episode of Scooby-Doo, and the preposterous ending just screamed out for someone to say "I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for that pesky Krewe of Hunters!!!" A really weak story to close out an exceptionally strong volume in the DARK SCREAMS series.

 DARK SCREAMS, VOLUME FOUR sits right alongside Volume One as the best, to date, of the series.

 Hydra provided a review copy.