First published back in June of 2017, Darkwater Syndicate’s anthology ‘Shadows And Teeth: Volume Three’ offered up another batch of terrifying tales of grisly horror and nail-biting suspense.

Foreword – R. Perez de Pereda – 3 Pages
Author and Editor Ramiro Perez de Pereda is back with another entertaining foreword for this next instalment in the Shadows And Teeth series.  Here Pereda examines what is at the very root of a damn good scare.  To do this, he zeros in our two main strengths: our ability to figure things out, and our aptitude for spotting danger before it can plunge its incisors into us.  With the removal of one, Pereda ponders the resulting repercussions.  From here everything comes back around on itself, as Pereda returns to our inherent fear of both shadows and teeth, before signing off with a quick appreciative nod to a handful of the contributors in this third volume.

Cannibal House – Guy N Smith – 30 Pages
Linford House had been on the market for almost three years before Jack Enfield bought it at a rock bottom price.  It’s true the property required a lot of work.  The remote rural house hadn’t been lived in for years and it was obvious that even when it had been occupied, the owners had carried out little in the way of maintenance.  Furthermore the place stank of a weird odour which Enfield couldn’t identify.  Not only that, but Enfield’s springer spaniel, Ellie, seemed permanently ill at ease in their new home.  However it’ when he discovered the human skeleton hidden away in a priest hole above the kitchen ceiling, that Enfield began to think his purchase of Linford House, no matter how low the price had been, was potentially a bad move.  A feeling that escalated further when Sergeant Williams of the local police force confirmed that the skeleton had belonged to a woman.  And it appeared the woman’s flesh had been eaten away by what could only be a cannibalistic killer…

What a way to kick-start a horror anthology - having the opening story by a legendary veteran of the genre.  And what an absolute cracker it is.  From start to finish this is textbook Smith.  The rural setting is spot on.  The growing unease surrounding Linford House is paced out to near perfection.  The characters are all down-to-earth and all the more believable for it.  In a nutshell, it’s a haunted house tale that pushes the nastiness a good stretch further than the vast majority of its peers.  Pure, undiluted horror entertainment through and through.  Absolutely love it.  As I said, what a way to kick start the anthology.

The House Wants What The House Wants – Adam Millard – 32 Pages
They’d found the perfect student house.  From the minute they’d arrived to look around the property, Craig had been dead set on taking it.  And Craig was right, it was perfect.  A stone’s throw from the college campus, a pub just across the road, plenty of room for the five of them, and a greenhouse for growing some wacky backy out back.  The rent was an absolute bargain too.  They’d quickly gotten the deposit down to secure their new digs.  Within a few days the five of them had moved in and everything seemed to be going well for them.  Then eight days after moving in, things became strange.  Very strange indeed.  It all started with the house being ransacked.  All their stuff getting trashed, and for no apparent reason other than for the sake of mindless vandalism.  But that was just the start of it.  Things were about to get a whole lot odder…

Millard’s imagination is a force to be reckoned with.  Some of the weird and wonderful shit this mohawked madman comes up with – its mindboggling.  But you can’t help but love it.  Take this fucked-up-head-trip as an example.  It all starts off pretty much on the level.  Five college mates all moving in together.  I remember this very situation in my own past.  Getting excited after securing ‘the perfect house’.  Those crazy booze-filled first few days of living there.  Only Millard’s taking this premise, and allowed an atomic-sized brain-surge to decide where the story’s going next.  So expect nothing but weird lunacy and tongue-in-cheek horror to flow like Special Brew down a tramp’s gullet.  It’s bizzaro with a smattering of the horrific to mop up the juices with.  It’s a story that doesn’t take itself seriously for one second, and it’s so much more entertaining for it.

Tree Huggers – Nathan Robinson – 34 Pages
The eight of them had chained themselves to the trees as an act of protest against the bulldozers and chainsaws that were supposedly coming the next morning.  The trees were going in order to clear the land for an exclusive housing estate to be situated by the lake.  So, not only had the eight of them chained themselves to the Abcastle Oaks that they were trying to save, but they’d also tethered themselves to the chain with a smaller, second chain, and then swallowed the keys to show that they really meant business.  The protest had been Clementine Loft’s idea, but Ziggy Moonstone had been the one to suggest swallowing the keys.  Such a further act of defiance was typical of Ziggy. But they’d all followed suit in a show of solidarity.  However, just as the last of them had swallowed their key, they’d noticed a strange blue-tinged meteorite-like object flashing by overhead.  No huge explosion followed confirming the impact, although it must have crashed down close by.  But, as the group of protesters were soon to find out, what they’d witnessed was no meteorite.  What they’d just seen landing close by was far worse than a mere lump of rock falling from space.  And the thing was hungry for flesh and blood…

Gorehounds are you ready? Man is this just the tastiest chunk of gore-soaked B-Movie Sci-Fi Horror.  Think ‘Xtro’ (1983) copulating with a proper 80’s style pulp horror creature feature.  One with a giant earwig like beastie sucking all the wet goodness out of you.  Fuck yeah, this is the real deal.  This has every slither and slurp and flesh-slicing grimness that you’re hoping for.  It’s unashamedly pulpy with plenty of viscous gore and screaming teen bloodshed splashed about a shadowy dark woods.  Author Nathan Robinson knows how to entertain a horror loving audience.  It’s cheap and tacky and oh so bloody enjoyable.  There’s absolutely no pandering to a highbrow audience here.  It’s just all about the sci-fi horror thrills and spills and gruesome-as-fuck kills. Absolutely loved this one from start to finish.  Spot on mate.  Spot on.

No Thanks – Antonio Simon Jr – 18 Pages
Danny Pannacotta had found the perfect way of getting out of things.  If something cropped up in life that he didn’t like - say a credit card bill or a parking fine - then he’d just say “No Thanks” to it, and the problem would go away.  How and why it happened, Danny wasn’t all that bothered with.  It just did.  It nullified the situation.  Made everything just about sweet as a nut for good old Danny Boy.  So he’d started having fun with it.  Getting himself some expensive stuff and then simply “No Thanksing” the bill away.  Worked a charm every time too.  But, with his thirty-sixth birthday approaching, it was time to settle a bigger score.  It was time to give his boss and all his good-for-nothing colleagues at work a nice big slab of comeuppance.  And then he’d just no thank you away the repercussions.  Simple…

Author Antonio Simon Jr isn’t one to stick with a tried-and-tested run-of-the-mill premise.  If it’s been written before, then he’s not going to touch that idea.  Instead, what you get with a Antonio Simon Jr story is one that’s one-hundred-percent born out of the man’s quirky imagination.  Nothing’s ever normal in his world.  Rules are twisted and bent for his own strange purpose.  There really are no boundaries.  And that’s exactly what you have here.  In essence it’s a tale about a previously straight-laced office worker who, for reasons never disclosed, gets his wishes granted.  Well, not exactly.  He gets to nullify stuff.  Say “No Thanks” and it’ll simply go away, whatever it is.  Of course it’s not going to be a story about saving the world from poverty or climate change or anything of that ilk.  Nah, Danny Boy’s not going to use his newfound abilities for any such good.  Instead, in the space for a handful of days, he goes from getting more and more expensive stuff, to flipping out and going all ‘Falling Down’ (1993) on our asses.  It’s as quirky and imaginative as it is witty and entertaining.  Furthermore Antonio has a way with describing stuff.  A quick-witted prose that is instantly engaging.  The end result is a black-as-coal-comedy that’ll keep you grinning like a madman until the bitterly-sweet end.

A Missed Phone Call – Nicholas Paschall – 26 Pages
Gwen walked out of her gymnastics class to find two missed calls on her mobile.  The first was her clearly already drunk mother wanting her to pick up a bottle of red on her way home.  The other was from an unknown number.  No doubt a pesky cold caller wanting to sell her some crap she didn’t want.  She’d called her mother back, planning to pick up a bottle of wine en route, purely to keep the peace.  The unknown number could go jump for all she cared.  But as she made her way to Palmer’s Meat Market where she’d get the wine, she’d almost walked straight into one of the creepiest guy’s she’d ever seen.  Something about the guy, in his high collared overcoat and wide-brimmed hat, creeped her out rotten.  Minutes later, in Palmer’s shop, she’d turned around to find him once again standing right behind her.  Who was this creep?  She’d gotten out of the shop and round the alleyway sharpish.  Which is when she saw the painfully emasculated youth cowering behind a dumpster.  A young boy who would all of a sudden jumped her, sinking his razor sharp teeth in her neck, and feasting on her spurting lifeblood…

One particular phrase comes to mind when reading Nicholas Paschall’s offering - “I didn’t see that coming”.  And trust me you’ll really not predict half the gut-wrenching twists that Paschall has in store for you in this blood-thirsty tale of vampirish glut.  It’s one of those tales where you’re just pulled along with the snowballing momentum of the piece, only to be derailed time and again as you’re flung onto a whole new dirt track that seems to push you deeper and deeper into a mindboggling nightmare.  Yeah, you’ve guessed it, Paschall’s vampires aren’t your boring-as-sin suave and sophisticated blood connoisseurs.  These badboys are savage as fuck.  However the story’s not all about some twenty-year-old teaching assistant dodging the razor-sharp fangs of the undead.  Instead Paschall weaves in a whole ‘Blade’ (1998) style of mythos, with an elaborate and well-executed backstory to boot.  Somehow it’s all crammed in there, and it plays out with a concentrated tightness that gets you tearing at the pages until that oh so fucking clever-bastard ending rears its head.  Yep, didn’t see that coming!

Bernadette – R. Perez De Pereda – 26 Pages
Locked away in a monastery in La Rioja, Tomás Martin Maior felt powerless to help.  All he could do now was write to his brother and try to warn him of the danger his brother was in.  The danger everyone was in, should no one act upon his words.  For, although he loved his niece deeply, she had to be killed.  There simply was no other way.  If not for the sake of her immortal soul, then for the safety of countless others residing in Aragon.  Bernadette must die…again.  Tomás knew this.  He knew it was his fault.  He should never have trusted the words in the grimoire.  He should never have summoned the djinni.  And he should never have bargained for his niece’s life back.  But he had.  It was all done now.  And so, because of him, Bernadette must die…

R. Perez De Pereda breaks his own ruling of never having a story in a book you’ve done the foreword for, and steps up to the challenge of continuing Shadows and Teeth’s unbroken run of delivering top-notch original horror.  Good job he’s damn good at this writing lark.  For what we have here is a dark and exquisitely demonic tale that seeps into your very core with twisting tendrils of proper old school demonic horror executed flawlessly.  It’s got all those textbook elements going for it – a Spanish monk dabbling in the dark arts, a hook-handed deacon, and a djinni that’s just so fucking influential it makes you cower inside.  Yeah, the plot’s pretty straight forward – you’ve got a seriously ill lass who the misguided monk is trying to save by summoning this djinni, only for it all to go horribly pear-shaped.  On paper it sounds pretty run-of-the-mill horror.  I get that.  But it’s in Pereda’s wordsmanship, how he projects the djinni and the hauntingly surreal way the demon converses with the monk.  In a nutshell, what you have here is a story perfectly suited for a dark stormy night with just a candle and crucifix for company.

Picture Not So Perfect – David Owain Hughes – 40 Pages
Adam knew his parents hated him.  Previously he’d thought it was all in his head, until the night when his dad had gotten drunk and told Adam how much he’d damaged his mother’s insides when he was ripped from her at birth.  Hearing that confirmed it.  Adam wasn’t just ugly, he wasn’t just an unfortunate deformity, he was a monster who his parents wished had never been born.  Knowing this explained why his father treated him the way he did.  Why he beat him time and again.  So Adam would spend as much time as he could in their garden doing his art.  Of course there were other benefits in being out in the garden.  There was always a chance that he might see their neighbour’s daughter – Eve – out there.  His drawings and Eve were the only things that kept him from taking his father’s shaving blade and slashing it across his lumpy, malformed throat.  Although the picture he was currently working on was special.  He was drawing Dorian Wilde – the golden-haired warrior that Adam believed lived inside of him.  The beauty he hoped was in him.  The beauty that maybe Eve saw.  And the strength that maybe he’d one day have…

Goddamn does David Owain Hughes weave some fucked-up stories.  And this one’s no exception.  In essence what we have here is a story about some poor deformed young boy who’s bullied by the local roughians and treated horrifically by his equally cruel and uncaring parents.  But there’s beauty and strength inside this unfortunate young boy.  And soon enough, it comes shining through, along with plenty of delicious comeuppance for those that treated him so badly.  It’s a reasonably straight forward plot.  However, interestingly, Hughes has wrapped this whole story up with a strange ‘Adam & Eve’ thing going on, along with a completely messed-up reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ (1890).  Yes indeed, this is a strange concoction of oddly layered inspirations that somehow all seem to merge into a truly entertaining and surprisingly readable story that’s just so utterly, unmistakingly David Fucking Owain Hughes.  Loved it.

The Screaming – Richard Ayre – 40 Pages
After learning of his great uncle’s death, Felix MacKean had flown over from his home in Massachusetts, all the way to Strathcarron in the Scottish Highlands to work out what he was going to do with the estate he’d recently inherited.  He’d not seen Castle Doon for a good fifteen years, ever since he’d left for the US.  In reality it wasn’t so much a castle than a fortified manor house.  And as he approached the property, it seemed that Doon had been the one waiting for him for the last four months.  And now he was here, it was as if something embedded in the castle’s history was waking.  Felix had been told that his uncle had died of a heart attack.  Although, as he was soon to learn, no one local had seen the body.  The death certificate was signed by a doctor in Glasgow, and his uncle was buried the day after.  No wake.  No funeral.  No open casket for the Laird of Strathcarron.  It was as if someone didn’t want anyone to see the body.  Except someone did see.  Someone saw what happened to Felix’s uncle the night he died.  And it was no heart attack.  However it wasn’t until Felix was woken in the middle of the night that he realised there could well be something wrong with Castle Doon.  At some point the screaming had started.  And as he gradually succumbed once more to slumber, a thought weaved its way drunkenly through his mind.  The screaming had seemed to be drawing closer…

There’s just something about the Scottish Highlands that makes it such a perfect setting for a creepy-as-hell supernatural horror story.  Whether it’s the isolated location, the fact that so many of the impressive properties are steeped in history, or maybe it’s the numerous local legends that have been passed down through the generations – whatever the reason – having a bleak Highlands backdrop for a horror is rarely a bad move.  Ayre’s capitalised on the qualities afforded by the isolated locale with the skill and understanding of a writer who knows exactly what he’s aiming for in his tale.  Like with a lot of Ayre’s work, there’s a very noticeable James Herbert influence embedded within his style of writing.  Again, it’s another aspect that works in perfect harmony with the Scottish backdrop.  However, the real strength in the short undoubtedly comes from the mounting unease that Ayre’s managed to inject into it.  From the moment Felix first steps inside Castle Doon, a very real sense of foreboding starts to edge its way to the surface.  And when the Death Bogle – the screaming banshee of the piece – reveals itself, it’s like being shoved in front of an out-of-control careering lorry.  A proper, old school supernatural horror that, like Pereda’s earlier offering, is another absolute perfect accompaniment for a stormy winter’s night.

Cruciform – J.S. Deighan – 46 Pages
The ritual to bring the demon to Earth had been within his capabilities – though admittedly unsophisticated in its crudeness.  Semen, blood and urine contributed to the demon’s summoning, in a foul trio of his essence, released one at a time into a wooden bowl with assorted etchings of sex positions that seemed to favour the male’s view and pleasure.  On his second attempt, when the gates to the abyss had opened, Mark had finally managed to pull a demon through the void and into his home.  Overwhelmed with his lustful achievement, he’d orally raped the demon, then used, abused and toyed with her as if she had been any other female, human or otherwise.  For about his person he had a potent weapon for use against the armies of darkness.  A small wooden box containing a medal, engraved with the image of Saint Benedict bearing the famous cross.  A blessed artefact that was capable of warding off many demonic spirits.  It had kept the demon at bay since it had been ripped from its dark domain.   However Mark knew his actions would not go unnoticed in Hell.  But he had his motivations.  He had his plan.  Dominance was the key.  Dominance was everything…

Holy shit is this a dark and blasphemously twisted offering.  Think Clive Barker meets William Holloway, with a ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ (1988) style plot going on.  It’s all pretty grim and unnervingly dark.  However it’s in Deighan’s visceral descriptions of the unholy acts performed - the stench of shit, sweat and semen – that the tale eventually overwhelms you.  It’s a magnificent display of how to drown the reader in Hell.  The imagery brought about through Deighan’s words is so incredibly vivid it’ll leave you breathless – if only it wasn’t so unnerving.  I kid you not when I say this is one of the darkest shorts I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  But amongst these blasphemous acts, we have a whisper of a plot that’s so shrouded in mystery you’ll struggle to detect it.  As the story unfolds, little in the way of a proper explanation is provided, and you’re left scrabbling around in the dirt for any clues as to the reasoning for such diabolical actions.  Even as the story comes to its quite abrupt ending, many aspects are still painfully unclear.  Whether this is purposeful or not I have no idea.  But the effect is one of bewildering bafflement combined with an overwhelming desire to scrub yourself clean afterwards.  Indeed, it’s a story that demands a second read.  And it’s a tale that’ll drag you into its darkness, caking you in the blood and grime of Hell’s eternal abyss, only to spit you out in a fog of mystery and fucked-up confusion.  Steven Deighan - if your plan was to mess with your readers whilst grubbying their souls, then I’d say you’ve well and truly achieved you mission.  Hats off to you.

(Sub) Routine – Duncan P. Bradshaw – 45 Pages
Oliver knew he wasn’t supposed to touch the locked doors and cupboards in the house.  It led to bad things.  Never had there been a time whereby doing so had ended well for him.  In the gloom of the house Oliver could just about make out the locks.  At the top of the staircase, in the hallway, the padlocked door brought back all those difficult memories.  His parents.  Their skin pulled taut across their shattered skulls.  Oliver didn’t like to think about those images.  And he didn’t like to dwell on the writhing, squirming things.  Bugs and beetles and dirt.  He had his chores to do.  He had to keep the house clean.  Floors, surfaces and blinds.  Clean, clean and clean.  It was all part of the routine.  All regimented.  All part of a strict schedule he always stuck to.  Because everything in Oliver’s life was set by the clock.  Waking up, his chores, eating, leisure time, sleeping.  All part of the routine.  All dictated by the grandfather clock that chimed away in that empty, murky, godforsaken house…

You’ve just gotta love Bradshaw.  His tales are always so jacked-up with originality.  His writing’s always got an instantly detectible taste of uniqueness about it.  And his style of prose is always different.  No two stories from the man - this mad professor of horror - are remotely similar in any way.  And this here voyage into an introspective lunacy is no different.  It’s weird and fragmented, bombarding the reader with a mishmash of vivid images from behind the eyes of a veritable looney toon.  Like a jigsaw where none of the pieces ever seem to fit right, you spend the vast majority of the tale trying to make some sort of sense from the images you’re presented with; impulsively trying to arrange the madness into some sort of understandable order.  Flashbacks and nightmares muddy the water further, until you’re wading through a veritable quagmire of taunting oddness.  Our delusional narrator suffers from some hardcore OCD.  He’s damaged and lost in a world of repetitive chores.  But there’s something behind it all.  A trigger.  A reason.  And Bradshaw coaxes the badness out like pus from an infected wound, until we’re left with nothing but an open and gradually cooling wound to reflect upon.  Damn that was gloomy. Damn you Bradshaw.  Damn you.

The anthology runs for a total of 338 pages.

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