First released back in June of 2012, Fangoria’s ‘Dreadtime Stories: Volume 1’ brought together the first six audio presentations from the series.  The set was released by AudioGo in a 4 CD audiobook collection which included unabridged recordings of the stories with additional extended scenes.

The Late Shift – Dennis Etchison - 5 tracks - 39 minutes 31 seconds
Whilst driving back from a midnight screening of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, Jim Macklin and his Native Indian friend White Feather (better known as ‘Whitey’) decide to stop off at ‘The Stop ’N Start Market’ for something to eat.  And there they find the cashier strangely devoid of any personality.  A mere husk of a man, only able to say three simple words.  And then Whitey recognises who it is.  It’s Juano from the Mexican restaurant.  However Juano doesn’t seem to recognise them.  Furthermore, he barely seems to be able to register their presence.  But it’s not until Whitey returns later on that same night in order to speak with his old friend that the situation goes from strange to unnervingly eerie.  A situation that sees Whitey driving off a cliff edge in his car, apparently under the influence of alcohol.  A situation that left Jim with no choice but to see who’s dropping off these late shift workers.  After all, working the nights isn’t the most desirable of jobs.  But someone’s got to do them, don’t they?...

First published back in September of 1980 within Kirby McCauley’s anthology ‘Dark Forces’ (1980), Dennis Etchison’s short story ‘The Late Shift’ is one of the US author’s better-known offerings.  With a ‘Creepshow’ (1982) esque tongue-firmly-wedged-in-his-cheek, Etchison delivers a sinister horror story with a thin slither of a social commentary slipped in for good measure.  In November of 2009, Etchinson adapted the short into a radio script for the first Fangoria Dreadtime Story.  For the adaptation, Etchison decided to depart quite considerably from the original short; changing the overall flow of the tale, with a more purposeful and direct structure in place for its delightfully chilling goal.  And the end result is a rip-roaring success.  Each of the cast members deliver a sterling performance, awash with nervous energy and believable suspense.  The cashier at the ‘Stop ‘N Start Market’ provides an excellent ‘braindead’ impression with his slurred and painfully drawn-out speech.  The horror energy and mounting suspense within the audio presentation is superb.  And with just the right amount of black comedy thrown into the chilling horror mix, the adaptation sets Fangoria’s audio series off perfectly.

Reincarnal – Max Allan Collins
- 5 tracks - 42 minutes 9 seconds
On the 30th May 1981, teenaged couple, Rod McRae and Heather Meeker, decide to leave their Senior Prom in order to get better acquainted with each other in the back of Rod’s cherry red Mustang.  But their night is about to come to a nightmarish end when the notorious ‘Lover’s Lane Killer’ turns up with his butcher’s knife; slaughtering the two teenagers as they were making-out in the car.  The last thing that Heather saw was the thin-faced killer’s one blue and one brown eyes, and his smile that looked sadder than any smile should be.

Now, fast-forwarding to the present day, and Professor William Wyman has just hypnotised the young artist Nora Chaney during one of their regular Friday Night social get-togethers.  And in front of her small gathering of guests and friends, Nora relives the horrific murder of the two teenaged lovers from behind the eyes of Heather.  A disturbingly convincing regression that has Wyman more than a little worried.  And with the Chicago Ripper currently at large, there’s something eerily poignant about Nora’s traumatic vision…

First published back in 1994 within Jeff Gelb and Michael Garrett’s erotic horror anthology ‘The Hot Blood Series: Deadly After Dark’ (1994), Max Allan Collins’ short ‘Reincarnal’ offers up a well-balanced mix of mystery, suspense and supernatural horror.  Spanning two distinct generations, with a serial killer at large during each period, the connection between the two is somewhat predictable but no less engaging or entertaining for it.  And indeed, the Fangoria audio adaptation delivers a ‘straight-in-for-the-thrill’ slimming down of the original short; with a fast-paced and rich-in-energy directness to the storyline keeping the listener engaged and on the edge of their seat throughout (even if the story is annoyingly split over two CDs).

A Fungus Among Us – Steve Nubie - 5 tracks - 47 minutes 7 seconds
Millions of years ago, a simple life began to form across the planet earth.  A carpet of mould formed, covering much of the rock on this planet.  It was a basic form of life that would allow for other life to form around it, and then gradually lake the lead in domination.  But it would one day take it back.  Now that day had now arrived.

It started with a bank robbery.  A man and woman demanding money at gunpoint.  And when they had what they wanted, the woman simply collapsed dead on the bank’s floor.  The man left the building with the money and seemingly without a care in the world.  When the police arrive on the scene, they are greeted with the dead woman’s head cracking open and a snake-like worm growing out of her brain.  But this isn’t the only such incidence to happen that day.  Suddenly, all over the city seemingly normal everyday citizens are taking part in an impulsive wave of crime.  And shortly afterwards, their bodies would give out on them and a fungal protrusion would sprout outwards from their recently split skulls.  The day of the zombie fungus had arrived…

Written for Fangoria’s Dreadtime Stories, Steve Nubie’s ‘A Fungus Among Us’ is an action-rich story of a fungal invasion which, in the space of just half-an-hour or so, brings humanity to its knees.  With close comparisons to the likes of ‘The Body Snatchers’ (1955), ‘They Live’ (1988) and perhaps even ‘The Thing’ (1982); Nubie’s tour-de-force of mounting horror already verges upon an all-out apocalypse by around half the way mark.  But what really makes this radio dramatisation work so darn well is with the special effects.  Here the story comes into its own; with nauseating sounds of heads cracking open and that nerve-chilling fungal growth creaking out from the dead skull.  Very probably the highlight of the entire series.  And talk about one hell of a bleak ending!

Wolf – Max Allan Collins - 4 tracks - 40 minutes 51 seconds
Jack Wolff hadn’t visited the old-fashioned Wistful Wagon Lodge since he was a young lad staying there with his parents.  He didn’t like to ‘feed from the same trough’ more than once; but with the lodge he’d made an exception.  After all, no one would recognise or remember him after all these years.  However, after the first vicious murder, the police came snooping around his lodge pretty quickly.  But they had nothing to tie him to the savage mauling of young Amy.  So he felt free to stay a little while longer at the resort, to enjoy any other young pickings who might wonder his way.  And as it happens, fifteen-year-old Anna Mullins had just come into his sights.  A trim young blonde who was obviously having a tough time with her father.  A situation only too ripe for Wolff to exploit…

First published as a short story within Martin Harris Greenberg’s anthology ‘Werewolves’ (1995), Max Allan Collins’ werewolf tale utilises a classic horror story premise with an additional (quite prominent) erotic edge.  And talk about an opening sequence to a horror story!  Within seconds the listener is being bombarded with the brutal sounds of young Amy being ripped to pieces by a vicious wolf-like beast.  The special effects used to produce the sound of this brutal murder are second to none.  And throughout the story, wherever the SFX services are required for a beastial voice, the results are superb.  And it all goes to enhance what is a pretty darn entertaining read.  Although it must be said the use of a young fifteen-year-old girl as the object of Wolff’s lustful pursuit makes for slightly uncomfortable listening.  But the age is an important factor to the overall plot.  And although Collins takes on this risky angle for his storyline, at no point does he overstep the boundaries, turning the story into something else entirely.  All in all a thoroughly entertaining horror tale, with a nice twist whilst being just that little bit brave.

Living Space – M.J. Elliot - 4 tracks - 42 minutes 36 seconds
Twenty-six-year-old amateur comedian, Derek Weathers, and his partner, Francine Spinetti, have come to the not-too-difficult decision that they need to find themselves somewhere bigger and nicer to live.  But with Derek hardly bringing any money in with his comic performances, their joint budget is far from spectacular.  However, they happen upon an advert for a top floor apartment in central Manhattan with rent that seems just too good to be true.  And when they arrive to view the empty property, the owner, Mr Winkler, shows them a freshly decorated apartment that is far beyond either of their expectations.  But as the old saying goes, when some things seem too good to be true, they usually have a catch.  And for Derek and Francine, what they’re getting themselves into is far from the bargain it seems to be…

Written specifically for the Fangoria audio presentations, M.J. Elliot’s tale ‘Living Space’ is a deliciously horrific little treat with a thick wedge of black comedy thrown into the altogether entertaining mix.  Elliot doesn’t try playing around with any pretence in respect of a ‘whodunit’, but instead reveals Mr Winkler’s sadistic side from the outset, to spend the rest of the story playing towards what the young couple have in store for them in the empty top floor apartment.  And it’s a wonderfully nasty surprise, somewhat akin to aspects of Vincenzo Natali’s film ‘Cube’ (1997).  Furthermore, Elliot maintains a comically banter-heavy vibe throughout the storyline, utilising the dialogue between the young couple to full effect until the devilishly gruesome conclusion.

A Good Head On His Shoulders – Max Allan Collins – 5 tracks – 39 minutes 43 seconds
When Professor Dean Armstrong answered the door, he didn’t expect to be greeted by the medical impossibility that stood before him.  A towering monster that barely takes a second before it reaches down and rips off the professors arms.  And then, like the six college professors before him, Armstrong’s head is ripped clean off his body, all before his poor wife’s eyes.  By now, the serial killer had acquired the name of the Medical School Mangler.  And the murders have grabbed the attention of both Lieutenant Cliff Grafton of the Chicago City Police Force and Mob Boss Louie Carboni, who happen to be meeting that same night at Carboni’s lodge-like cottage just outside of the city.  But Grafton isn’t the only visitor that the mob boss will receive that night.  The unlicensed underground medical practitioner, Dr Stein, also wants a word with Carboni.  After all, he’s got promise to fulfil…

First published as a short story within Martin Harris Greenberg’s anthology ‘Frankenstein: The Monster Wakes’ (1993), Max Allan Collins’ third offering in the Fangoria audio collection is very much themed around Mary Shelly’s classic horror story ‘Frankenstein’ (1818).  Indeed, it soon becomes apparent that Collins has thrust this conceptual patchwork-monster into the setting of the 1930’s; tying in a plot of medical misadventure, gang warfare and vengeance.  It’s quite an ambitiously bizarre idea, with enough black comedy zing to generally keep the interest value up.  However, aside from the perverse wackiness of the idea, the story sadly offers little more, and after just a short while, begins to lose its fragile interest value, only pulling back the listeners full attention as the final sequence is played out.  Sadly, not the best story to end the collection on.  But there you have it.

The CD collection runs for a total of 4 hours and 12 minutes.

© DLS Reviews



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