First published in August of 2009 by Ghostwriter Publications, the ‘Creature Feature’ anthology was compiled and edited by Neil Jackson (ex-Nanaimo Film School). Jackson’s love for the ‘Creature vs Mankind’ subgenre of pulp horror becomes obvious after reading his short, but in some ways nostalgic, one page introduction to the book. Indeed, Jackson had built strong connections with one of the most renowned authors in this field, Guy N Smith at the time of publishing the collection.  Sadly, no more than a few copies of the ‘Creature Feature’ made it into existence before Ghostwriter Publications disappeared into the night with many people left waiting for their book orders to materialise.

Opening Night - Barry J House - 9 Pages
The renovation of Botley Picture Palace cinema into all of its previous 1950’s glory has just been completed. Darren Williams, the cinema’s owner, celebrates the opening night of the cinema by showing three of his personal favourite ‘creature’ movies. When the audience dismiss the first showing of the night - ‘Tarantula’, Williams flicks a hidden switch unleashing hordes of real life deadly tarantulas into the confines of the cinema. However, Williams still has one final and monstrous grande finale for his dying audience before the first show draws to a close…

This first short sets the anthology off in style, with giant tarantulas causing mayhem left-right-and-centre. House jumps straight into the action, throwing a wildly over-the-top storyline straight at the audience without a second to ponder the absurdity of the scenario. The madness continues until the final curtain is pulled, where a comical conclusion ends this truly excellent first short. This really is a great first tale to get the collection underway with.

Old Slippery - Stuart Neild - 4 Pages
When Max is told the story of a giant eel known as ‘Old Slippery’ that inhabits a local lake, Max dismisses it as just a fantastical story created by his doddering old grandfather.  And so without a second’s thought, Max disobeys his grandfather’s instructions and takes a stroll down to the lake. But there appears to be more truth behind his grandfather’s story than Max would have ever believed...

This super short tale spends hardly any time in setting the scene before the naive character of Max discovers the altogether predictable truth behind ‘Old Slippery’.  There’s no great depth, twists to the plot, or jaw-dropping revelations thrown into the mix.  Nevertheless, the short keeps together its intriguing plot, delivering a compelling and altogether enjoyable read.  Neild concludes the short well, ending this amusing tale on a comically sombre note. As a quick little story to spend a couple of minutes reading, this is a gloriously light-heated addition to the book.

The Fish-Thing - Guy N Smith - 6 Pages
Leo's brief love affair with the visiting gypsy girl has come to a very sudden and abrupt conclusion.  A single shot between the eyes using his airgun, which ended the gypsy girl's life, really put the full-stop at the end of their romance.  And after her body falls into a Pike Pool where a giant killer pike is said to reside, Leo finds himself being summoned back to the pool from powerful commands within his dreams.  However, when he returns for the very last time, Leo discovers the terrible secret that lurks within the algae covered water of Pike Pool...

Smith alters the overall mood of the anthology thus far by delivering a much darker tale, dripping with eerie tension. With a backdrop somewhat similar to that of his early novel ‘The Sucking Pit’ (1975), Smith instantly shovels on the underlying menace that encapsulates the downbeat atmosphere of the tale.  Almost Lovecraftian in places, the short is a somewhat surreal and suggestive affair that seems to follow an almost randomly meandering storyline until it blunders upon its final conclusion. Indeed, Smith plays around with a number of vague ideas, ultimately leaving the reader with a weird and downright bizarre tale to really set them on edge.

Sun - Ian Faulkner - 10 Pages
Patrick Robinson has be having a secret affair with the Korean nail beautician Sun Nukdae. After suffering for a number of years at the hands of his grotesquely fat wife (Stephanie), his equally repulsive daughter and his tiresome step-mother; Robinson decides that he is going to leave his wife for his new Korean lover. However, his wife has other ideas, and puts her husband in an impossible dilemma. That is until Sun finds out and reveals her hidden side to the women who stands to tear the two apart...

Faulkner’s tale is certainly a slow starter, with the initial few pages used in setting down the characters and overall premise for this strangely intriguing tale. With Patrick Robinson’s dilemma within his trapped marriage becoming more and more apparent, Faulkner brings the tale to a pinnacle and then throws in a perfectly pulpish twist, wrapping up the story in a delightful and entirely suitable manner.

Belvedere’s House - Daniel I Russell - 13 Pages
Under the cover of night, four burglars are attempting to break into the old mansion where the eccentric Mr Belvedere resides. Whilst one of the men (Steve) tries to disconnect the burglar alarm, the remaining three (James, Louie and Bradley) creep inside the building in an attempt to locate some valuable documents a pre-arranged buyer has requested that they obtain. However, Steve doesn’t get very far before he is grabbed and dragged below the ground by a gigantic creature hidden under the surface of the ground. The other three burglars have no idea that they are mere flies entering the web of a monstrously sadistic Mr Belvedere...

Russell has managed to create an oddly mysterious tale that gradually unveils the B-Movie-esque hidden secret that lurks in the shadows of Belvedere’s mansion. When the curtain is pulled down, Russell pumps the story full of ludicrously over-the-top creatures that slice-and-dice their way to the comical conclusion of another thoroughly enjoyable short.

Wookey Hole - Peter Mark May - 8 Pages
It's 1932 where two pot-holers are on a mission to explore the depths of the Wookey Hole caves in Somerset in a hope of obtaining further proof to the existence of the Mill Mermaid. All is going well until one of the explorers is attacked and killed by a strange aquatic-like being. Now alone in the dank caves, the remaining pot-holer is warned that no one else should ever venture again into their caves, or there will be terrible consequences.  However, exactly seventy-seven years later, when the warnings have been long forgotten, a local tourist board opens up another two of the previously closed off underground caves within Wookey Hole. But something pale and deadly still lurks in the dark waters of the cave...

May’s eerie short screams of Lovecratian inspiration, with its sub-race of pale skinned fish-men causing havoc in the atmospherically oppressive confines of the Wookey Hole caves. Indeed, the first few pages of the tale bare similarities to the Neil Marshall’s 2005 film ‘The Descent’, with the claustrophobic setting of the underground caverns hiding away an unknown race of beings. The short ends in a quick and disappointingly straight-to-the-point fashion, which doesn’t seem to do the carefully laid down premise the justice it deserves.  However the short still remain an enjoyable and well selected choice for the anthology.

Day Ten, Last Option and Peek-a-Boo - Simon Kurt Unsworth - 23 Pages in total
 - Day Ten - 4 Pages
Simon Kurt Unsworth’s contribution is a three part tale which is spread out over the anthology. 
The story starts off with the first instalment entitled ‘Day Ten’. This four page introduction to the tale tells the story of a group of scientists who embark on a hunt to capture a monstrous creature that resides in the depths of a forest. Upon locating the rough area where the beast has been known to frequent, the scientists set up camp for the night with their traps all ready and waiting. That very night the beast is heard approaching...

 - Last Option - 14 Pages
The beast is now caught by the scientists and has been transported back to their secure lab for research to be performed on this illusive creature. However, when the beast kills a number of the scientists, an order is put forward to put the creature to death with poisonous gas. But the scientists weren’t expecting such a savage creature to be so cunning and insusceptible to their defensive measures. Underestimating the beast has proven to be a fatal mistake...

 - Peek-a-Boo - 5 Pages
The beast is now on the loose and causing mayhem in the local communities. And when the beast appears from out of nowhere into the backgarden of Ellie's parents, the frightened young girl takes refuge by hiding within a cupboard under the sink. With her parents slaughtered and her little brother Timothy suddenly answering her desperate calls for help, Ellie is put in a very difficult dilemma...

Unsworth’s three-part-story is a bizarre stitching together of three separate story styles that clumsily fit together sketching out a strange spiralling turn of events from capture, to escape, to rampage.  Although the three instalments each have their own merits, the second part is by far the most involved; packed with action and copious amount of pulpy-splatter throughout. That said, the final part remains the strongest of the three, with a more mature-readership-style adopted, as well as a slightly harrowing shadow lurking behind it. All in all, Unsworth’s three contributions to the anthology deliver an enjoyable and ingeniously varied injection of beastly terror.

Late Shift - Maxwell Dowie - 13 Pages
It's Fred Miller's first night shift at the local supermarket where he is employed. That night, Miller is split up from his usual co-worker, the attractive young Louise Gabor, to cover the shift of an absent employee in the Produce Department. Not long into the shift, Miller discovers the mutilated corpse of another one of his co-workers. Upon the discovery, Miller races to the assistant manager’s office to alert the authorities.  However whilst there he is confronted by a bizarre creature that is somehow made up of the anatomy of a cat, bat and a monkey. This freakish beast is in the process of devouring the corpse of the assistant manager. Faced with such a hideous creation, Miller attempts to flee, only to end up knocking himself unconscious. But when Miller finally wakes, the nightmare is still there and it's very, very real...

Similar to the late Richard Laymon, Dowie has the remarkable ability to inject a wealth of charm into his writing, so much so that almost any piece of writing by the author is simply a pleasure to read in itself. This flare for storytelling allows Dowie to gradually weave a reasonably slow start to the tale, whilst still keeping the reader utterly compelled by the story. Dowie’s character of Fred Miller comes across as extremely likeable from the outset, which allows the reader to instantly connect with the character, creating a quick bond between character and reader. The tale does take a few pages to get going, but when it does, Dowie fires on all cylinders, creating a blood-drenched splatterfest with a tense and overtly dramatic ending.

It Lives In Dark Places - David Jeffrey - 7 Pages
Robert Ashford has been assigned to deliver an undoubtedly dodgy package on behalf of the notorious Fratellis brothers. However, upon arriving at the delivery address, Ashford is spotted and chased by numerous police and special unit officers. Now on the run, Ashford ditches his car and disappears down an open manhole. The police follow Ashford down into the gloomy sewers, but no one is prepared for what awaits them deep in the darkness of the underground tunnels...

Jeffery’s short is packed to bursting point with ‘Shaun Hutson-esque’ wildly-exaggerated-action from the very outset, delivering a mile-a-minute pace as it careens forward with the adrenaline-pumping storyline. With the chase on and Ashford’s escape down into the sewers underway, Jeffrey now brings out the big guns with an awe-inspiring display of mindless splatter brought on by a fantastically savage monstrosity. A magnificent splatterpunk / pulp horror crossover that is everything this anthology is about.

Rickman’s Plasma - William Meikle - 8 Pages
Rickman is an aspiring musician.  His natural creative flare has led him to invent an impressive piece of technology that produces an ever-moving plasma bubble that feeds off his dream compositions and the surrounding sounds of the city. However, Rickman’s creation soon takes on a life of its own and begins surging, devouring and ultimately consuming everything around it that creates a sound. With each new victim, the plasma blob gets bigger and bigger; its appetite seemingly unstoppable...

Heavily weighted in favour of a comically ‘The Blob’ (1988) style of approach, Meikle’s short reads like a classic 1950’s B-Movie with its comical villain and tongue-in-cheek characters. Almost poetically structured in its lyrical-esque repetitions, Meikle delivers a tale of escalating madness that will have you chuckling away until the end. A thoroughly enjoyable and light-hearted short that is by-far-and-away one of the highlights of the entire collection.

The Moths That Ate New Jersey - Rakie Keig - 12 Pages
Robbie is helping his granddad, Jeffrey, to board up all of the windows on their reasonably isolated house located in the rural countryside. Jeffrey soon explains his reasons for this, declaring to Robbie’s parents that he has witnessed a pack of giant moths devouring their beloved pony - Muffin. Alan and Elsie don’t believe a word of what Jeffrey is saying.  That is until one of these gigantic moths squeezes its bloated body down the chimney and plops out into their kitchen. With their house suddenly under siege by these giant killer moths, a glimmer of hope rests with Jeffrey and his plan...

Night Of The Living Dead’ (1974) meets ‘The Birds’ (1963) meets Rakie Keig’s passion for pulp-horror-style rampaging beasts. Keig follows the classic formula of not only using some giant-mutated insect, but she also traps a batch of potential victims within a house, with the beasts desperately clawing their way to get inside. The suspense builds up quickly, with the moth’s first appearance delivering a sudden burst of action, whilst also injecting a delightful shovelful of gore to the proceedings. The short tale quickly moves on to the cleverly contrived conclusion to the tale to end the story with style. Keig was later convinced by her partner to expand on the giant-killer-moth’s idea, and hence the novel ‘Moths’ (2010) soon followed in the wake of this glorious short.

The Devil Of Mons - Steve Jensen - 4 Pages
It's 1914 and rumours of a giant Siberian wolf-hound supposedly with a human’s brain known only as ‘The Hellhound’ are spreading amongst the ranks of soldiers who are currently making their way through No Mans Land. Before long the reality of this beast from hell becomes all too apparent to the weary soldiers...

Short and sweet, Jensen’s atmospheric tale delivers a gore-soaked punch with its straight-into-the-action approach, whilst going hell-for-leather with the splatter input. With the first set of troops slaughtered by the savage beast, Jensen piles on the gory entertainment with round two, as he sends in a Captain Marryat to investigate the disappearance of the previous squad. Alas, a sticky end is certainly anticipated; but Jensen has a darkly comical angle to take for the story's final curtain. Plain and simple, this short delivers some good old fashion gory pulp horror fun.

The Flies - Steven Lockley - 8 Pages
Kenny McLeish makes his way onto a deserted island where he plans to organise a ‘dodgy’ corporate bonding exercise in order to make some money. However, as McLeish arrives on the island, the heavens open, and so he takes refuge from the rain in a collection of long-forgotten WWII buildings. But McLeish isn’t alone on the island, and he is about to learn of a horrifying secret that the island has kept quiet for a long, long time...

This curious short is somewhat slower-paced than the majority of the previous contributions, and possibly for this reason alone finds itself as one of the weaker tales. The short spends too much time laying down the premise for McLeish’s appearance on the island, and far too little time on the disturbing situation the island has with the breeding of flies. However, the ending is still quite chilling with a nasty little revelation that should bring about a brief smile for most readers.

Le Carcajou - Kevin Lumley - 7 Pages
Our narrator's day takes a notable turn for the worse when he is abducted by two men and a woman, who tie him up and throw him down into their cellar. The abductors then disclose that they are actually bloodthirsty vampires who will be consuming his flesh at the next nightfall. But our storyteller has a secret of his own which the vampires had not taken into account...

Lumey’s short, although littered with numerous annoying type-o’s, keeps a good pace from the start, plunging the reader into the eerie premise of his abduction.  Written in the first-person-perspective, the short delivers an instantly captivating tale that escalates with tense suspense until the final turning-point is reached.  Once daylight comes and Lumley’s principal protagonist awakens, the resulting twist is a magnificent shot-in-the-arm for pulp horror fans. The tale ends well, with a nice concluding line to sign it all off with.

The Lake - David McAfee - 9 Pages
Wally has placed an online advert for five guys to share the costs of renting a small camp on the shores of Green Lake. The positions are filled by five college students – Brayden, Spencer, Josh, Mickey and our narrator - Wally. Upon arriving at the Green Lake, Wally announces that he plans to go off swimming in the algae covered waters. Unsurprisingly, none of the others wish to join him. However, when Wally doesn’t return, they begin to fear the worst and subsequently go out in search of him. But the Green Lake isn’t quite what it seems.  And smoking weed near its banks really isn’t the best idea…

Written in the first-person-perspective, McAfee begins this tongue-in-cheek tale setting down a ‘Cabin Fever’ (2002) style atmosphere to the proceedings. Once Wally disappears and the students go out on their search for him, the tale really begins to pick up on the suspense. With definite similarities between the likes of Eli Roth’s ‘Cabin Fever’ (2002) and ‘The Raft’ from Michael Gornick’s ‘Creepshow 2’ (1987), McAfee’s short comes across as a colourful homage to the glorious B-Movies of the 80’s. The short ends well, with a nice little twist in the storyline to keep the readers guessing.

Creeper - Brooke Vaughn - 10 Pages
Katrina Winters is a patient at the Bellevue Clinic for the insane.  Winters suffers from an extreme case of entomophobia (a phobia of bugs). Thanks to the help of the Bellevue Clinic, she has learned to cope with her psychological condition.  That is until she notices that the creeper-vines that the clinic imported from Haiti and cover the outside of the building, are growing at an alarming rate during the hours of darkness. It soon becomes apparent to her that the creepers are attempting to gain access to her room whilst she is sleeping. But of course, no one believes her; passing it off as another symptom of her mental illness...

Brooke Vaughn’s short plays with a couple of well used ideas for setting down the somewhat simplistic premise of her tale; neither delivering any real air of mystery or indeed any actual originality. This does not however detract too much from an otherwise well written and enjoyable story. The conclusion is somewhat uninspired and predictable, but nevertheless wraps the short up nicely. The characters are suitably well-developed for a story of this length. All in all, although not the most original of stories, the short is nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Each Step I Take Is In Darkness - Robert Morrish - 16 Pages
Our storyteller, together with three other fellow explorers (Vazquez, Mills and Renko) go on an extreme pot-holing adventure to make their way through the legendary underground passageways of Cueva de El Chorreadero. However, quite soon into their expedition, the caves begin to flood and the four explorers have no option but to desperately try to find an alternative exit from the underground chambers via an unknown and previously unexplored passageway. But the deep and dark chambers of the Cueva de El Chorreadero hide away a monstrous and bloodthirsty race...

Like with Peter Mark May’s earlier short ‘Wookey Hole’, the tale involves an underground race that doesn’t take too kindly to outsiders exploring their caves. Morrish’s tale is remarkably similar to Neil Marshall’s film ‘The Descent’ (2005). Although not the most original of tales, the first-person-perspective story is nevertheless pure edge-of-the-seat reading from start to finish; with a glorious and deliciously downbeat ending. Unoriginal it may be, but thoroughly entertaining nonetheless!

The Beast In The Mist - Guy N Smith - 7 Pages
Brent Bodine is a successful big game hunter.  He has shot and killed an impressive array of animals throughout his life.  And now he has his sights set on his next challenge.  And that is why he has travelled to the luxurious Carroch Estate, in the hope of hunting the king of the Scottish hills - an Imperial stag. However, the misty hills of the Scottish Highlands that surround the Carroch Estate are home to a paranormal secret known only to the locals...

With instantly recognisable similarities between Smith’s early ‘Werewolf’ trilogy (1974 - 1978), ‘Caracal’ (1980) and his more recent novel ‘Maneater’ (2009), his short includes a very Gordon Hall type of character named Brent Bodine. Furthermore, with a similar backdrop to that of ‘The Origin Of The Crabs’ (1979), Smith is at home in establishing an instantly eerie and atmospheric setting.  The characters are classic Smith style characters, with their own individual wildly exaggerated traits. The hunting premise is such a passionate subject matter for the author that you can really feel his knowledge and enjoyment for writing a tale around hunting seeping through the text. The story builds to a dramatic conclusion, whereby Smith warps up the whole short in an chilling and downbeat manner.  A definite highlight to the anthology.

Stingers - William Meikle - 9 Pages
It’s not been a particularly good day for Eric Strang so far.  He’s currently being held hostage by two ruthless outlaws - Pat and Frank. However, when their horses are disturbed by two giant scorpions, Pat and Frank rush out to fight off the gigantic beasts. However, these huge arthropods seem to be attracted by sound, and Eric’s screaming really isn’t doing him any favours...

The first thing that springs to mind about Meikle’s short is the utterly surreal way that it appears to be an excerpt taken from a much larger story.  The tale is certainly intriguing from the start, with the confusing premise to the tale never truly explained, but launching into the action nevertheless. Even when the gigantic scorpions appear on the scene, it is a while before Meikle actually announces what exactly the beasts are. The whole style of writing is surreal but still utterly entertaining. Once the scorpions attack, Meikle doesn’t let up on the fast-paced action, concluding with some spectacular splatter to finish off the tale and indeed the anthology as a whole.

The anthology runs for a total of 193 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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