First published back in November of 2017, ‘Splatterpunk Fighting Back’ formed the second anthology to come from ‘Splatterpunk Zine’s creator Jack Bantry.  The collection was edited by Bantry along with British author Kit Power, with proceeds going to the Cancer Support charity.

They Swim By Night – Adam Millard - 15 Pages
Alex didn’t usually come this far out of town.  Looking around the bar, he could see why.  It was a Friday night, but Killion’s was practically empty.  It was probably because the bar wasn’t exactly what you’d call welcoming.  In fact, Alex would go so far as to say it was a dump.  Nevertheless, they were obviously attempting to entice punters in.  The first live band of the night were just coming off the stage after playing what Alex could only describe as bland and uninspired indie rock.  Next on was a solo artist.  Ana the singing girl.  Apparently she had a voice more beautiful and intoxicating than any others.  And when she walks out on stage and sings her first note, Alex finds he can’t disagree.  Her haunting voice is beyond anything he’d ever heard before.  Its mesmerising tones transfix him.  Although, as Alex looks around, he can see Ana’s presence is doing a lot more for all the other men in Killion’s…

Kick-starting the charity anthology off with we have Adam Millard’s darkly deviant little offering incorporating a vampiristic style siren story that builds from a sensual overload into a wonderfully dark bloodbath of grim horror.  Of course, this is an Adam Millard story, so expect some weird off-the-wall shit, most notably with the punters’ response to Ana’s signing.  It’s sordid and messed-up and just that little bit unnerving.  Then, as the story creeps its way towards its conclusion, Millard gets his hands well-and-truly bloody with one damn vicious ending.

Melvin – Matt Shaw - 7 Pages
Claudia woke gagging on the penis.  Despite her obvious discomfort, the rigid cock pushed on down her oesophagus.  Before she had time to pull the offending appendage out of her throat, it had slipped down too far.  The dismembered and fully engorged penis was now inside her.  Surely it was a nightmare.  A freakish vision brought on by the memory of the vile man who had badgered her and her friends all night long.  There couldn’t really be a detached sexual organ burrowing down into her gut.  Could there?...

Ha!  What a story.  Okay, so it’s probably more bizarro than splatterpunk, but who gives a rat’s ass?  It’s fucking hilarious, that’s what it is.  A dismembered cock, crawling around, forcing its way down the throat of its poor victims.  Yeah, this is some weird, messed-up horror with some odd-as-hell deviancy splattered across its cheeks.  It’s constructed utilising a bookend device, with the explanatory backstory wedged into the middle section, and the resulting sexual horror beginning and concluding the piece.  It’s short, it’s snappy and it’s funny as hell.

Extinction Therapy – Bracken MacLeod - 21 Pages
If you wanted a guided meditation session with Dr Miah Walker, you had to sign up for one of his expensive week-long retreats at his SkinWalker Temple outside of Seattle.  Or, alternatively, you could make a healthy donation to his foundation and put him up in a luxury hotel for the week.  Of course, Walker had explained that he didn’t normally arrange such private meetings, but the personal endorsement of their mutual friend convinced him to make an exception in this instance.  After all, the individual was Spencer Cronin of Cronin Global Investments.  A man of considerable wealth and power.  Although Spencer was clearly a sceptic of Walkers work.  He didn’t buy into energy fields and chi and other New Age bullshit.  But he suffered from a crippling hesitance, and Dr Walker’s technique, however unorthodox, was highly lauded by many of Cronin’s trusted friends.  He’d give Walker a go.  Perhaps there was even something in his mumbo-jumbo.  Something to free him from the constraints society had always imposed upon him…

This is a quirky one.  The tale reads like a puzzle of many parts, each one disconnected from the other until the final segments slot into place and the whole gruesome picture comes together.  In essence we have two distinctly separate storylines, one following the wealthy businessman, Spencer Cronin, and the other following Legal Associate, Doug and his loving girlfriend Cary.  However, for the main part, the story follows Cronin as he undergoes the first session of his ‘therapy’ whereby his mind is sent back in time to a period of mass slaughter.  You see, Cronin is a man with urges.  A desire for death.  For the satisfaction of a brutal kill.  For this, MacLeod throws in all he’s got, transporting us to scenes of gut-punching brutality, before bringing us (and his antagonist) crashing back into reality and the repercussions of the ‘therapy’ that are sure to follow.  To be honest, it reads like a more involved and complex story that’s been stunted by the page count of a short.  As if it’s just the beginning of something bigger.  Nastier.  Something that wants to descend deeper into the pits of a dark human psyche.  The short ends on the cusp of such.  It does conclude – but with a chasm of deeper, darker horror yet to come.  And shit, do I want to see where MacLeod could take this further.  Hopefully, at some point we will.

The Passion Of The Robertsons – Duncan Ralston
– 14 Pages
When Eric and Jean Robertson came across Harry Maitland at the hardware store, it had been just about quitting time.  They’d bought their things – nylon rope and gaffer tape – and wished him a Merry Christmas.  But to Harry, with it being the 28th December, Christmas was now well and truly over.  Which is exactly what he told them.  The trouble is, the Robertsons were strong believers in their faith and the all the joyous festivities of Christmas.  In fact, they ate, shat and slept Jesus.  So they did the Christian thing.  As he left the hardware store, they knocked him down with their car and brought his broken body back to their house to save his immortal soul.  You see, over the years they’d come to realise that a man such as Harry – an atheist – would never truly appreciate the pain Jesus suffered without suffering himself.  So that night the Robertsons planned to make Harry suffer.  Oh yes, he’d suffer greatly…

If there’s one thing that Canadian author Duncan Ralston knows how to do, it’s dig into your flesh and gnaw away at your bones with his callous, cold-hearted horror.  This here’s a prime fucking example.  You’ve got yourself a couple of utterly psychotic Christian’s wanting to ‘save’ the poor wretched soul of an everyday-Joe atheist.  And of course, being a few screws loose, they’ll do that through sadistic torture.  Yep, we’ve got ourselves a nasty old story here folks.  The writing’s absolutely spot on.  It’s fast-paced and straight into the nitty gritty of the tale in seconds.  You instantly connect with young Harry.  His dry deadpan wit and straight down the line view on his relatively mundane life is recognisable from the outset.  And you get the number on the Robertsons pretty damn early on too.   From there, it’s just damn fine gritty horror, with a touch of the very blackest comedy woven in.  The end result – one goddamn fine horror yarn that’ll knock your teeth out before the final festive page is turned.

Hellscape – Rich Hawkins – 10 Pages
Yesterday blood had fallen from the sky, and before that there’d been some kind of black rain, oily and pungent, its smell reminding Freya of human grease.  Now she was wandering the village alone.  Machete in hand, trying to keep hold of her memories and all the little things that made her the person she was.  The person she had been before this ungodly Hell visited upon their world from some incomprehensible reaches of the unknown cosmos.  Her only wish now, as everything slowly slipped away, was to find her missing son.  What was his name?  Under the toiling heat of the apocalyptic summer, she could barely even remember it now.  But she had to press on.  If only to see her son one last time.  And hope he hadn’t become one of them…

British author Rich Hawkins knows a thing or two about fucked-up and downright depressing apocalyptic fiction.  Take his ‘The Last…’ trilogy.  There we saw the world being brought to its knees in a truly messed-up vision of the apocalypse, somewhat akin to John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982) gone completely berserk.  Then take that little nugget of nastiness and weave in some proper Lovecraft style otherworldly mythos, and you’re pretty much on the right track for what this nightmarish short has to offer.  Hellscape indeed.  The title says it all.  And Rich has given us just that.  It’s dark and incredibly, intrinsically well written.  There’s a dark as sin poeticness about the delivery.  Every word seems to drip with a pungent corruption.  A malignancy that infiltrates everything.  And wandering through this seething cesspit of malevolence is Fray.  Lost, alone, and losing her mind.  Horrific.  But such a damn good read.

Molly – Glen Rolfe – 18 Pages
Caleb hadn’t been working at the Hilton in Oakman all that long, but he already hated the job.  It wasn’t so much the work itself, it was the stuck up people who stayed there.  And the worst of the lot were all staying at the hotel together now.  Apparently there on business.  But they just made life difficult for Caleb with their constant requests for service and snide remarks whenever he didn’t jump to attention for them.  Furthermore, he knew Anne Marie was fucking that Isaac guy.  He was supposed to be a family man.  But here he was, taking every opportunity he could to get in her knickers.  But there was something decidedly odd about the woman.  The other staff had said they’d already seen it.  The doll she kept with her.  Molly.  Let’s be honest, what sort of grown woman carries a doll around with her?...

This one’s odd.  Odd in a sort of 80’s B-movie kind of way.  We have a youngish lad who’s taken on a job that’s not exactly suited to his temperament.  He’s come from a rougher hotel job that was more him.  One where the clientele were at the opposite end of the spectrum from those staying at the Hilton.  He’s also not all that bothered about keeping his new job.  So he’s constantly trying to get away with slacking off.  Then you have the guests – well, in particular Anne Marie and her colleagues.  They’re an odd bunch.  Drinking and partying and getting into bed with each other.  Throw in a killer doll and you’ve got a recipe for some wacky 80’s style horror fun.  It’s quirky and meandering and oddly unnerving in an unpredictable sort of way.  Just don’t take it too seriously.  Rolfe certainly hasn’t.

Only Angels Know – George Daniel Lea – 13 Pages
He painted with bodies, making art from the flesh.  From the bone.  Sculpting from life itself.  His ‘Dead Dreams’ tour had opened the doorway.  There he’d utilised the bodies offered by the recently deceased.  Now it was the next step.  The natural progression.  He’d moved from the dead to the living.  To show that everyone had a purpose.  Everyone was a potential work of art.  And the critics and public loved it.  Loved him for it.  But as his work continued.  As flesh was cut, and blood was spilled, so too came an opposition to his art.  His followers were many.  They congregated outside of his home.  His studio of transformation.   But so too did those that couldn’t understand what he was showing the world.  But with every one that was taken from him, so too another would take their place.  To be reborn into his legion…

Holy shit this story is an intense assault on the senses.  Author George Daniel Lea delivers a barrage of fierce and purposefully provocative text, exploring the underbelly of culture, humanity and flesh, through the open doorway of art.  It’s somewhat akin to the work of French artist Orlan, only twisted and corrupted and ramped-up a good few thousand notches, until we have a cult like following equal to that of Nix’s from Clive Barker’s ‘Lord Of Illusions’ (1995).  However, it’s with Lea’s wordsmanship, his powerfully evocative prose, where the real strength of the short rests.  Each word is almost a poem unto itself.  It’s a battlefield of imagery, where you the reader, wade through a landscape of pain, suffering and transformation, until it’s hard to distinguish between ‘Art’ and fucked-up religion.  Utterly mesmerising.  And profoundly unnerving until the gut-twisting end.

Limb Memory – Tim Curran – 27 Pages
The doctors said he was lucky to have gotten out of the accident alive.  Although Will Shenard didn’t feel particularly lucky.  When the semi crossed the centreline, crushing his silver Volvo, Will not only had his ribs broken and one lung punctured, but his left arm was also torn out of its socket.  Of course he blamed Kim for all of it.  If she hadn’t dumped him, then he wouldn’t have been driving along the highway at that time.  Not that anyone really cared all that much.  His friends were mostly drunks and he had no family to speak of.  So here he was, one arm missing and alone in his misery.  But then, sometime after midnight, he’d woken to a sensation of coldness emanating from where his arm had once been.  It was not the feeling of a phantom limb that the doctor’s had been telling him about.  This was something else.  Something far stranger…

One of the pioneers of the original splatterpunk scene was British born author, artist and filmmaker Clive Barker with his seminal ‘Books Of Blood’ (1984 – 1985) collection.  In ‘Book Of Blood: Volume IV’ (1985) Barker offered up a story named ‘The Body Politic’ which involved hands cutting themselves off their owners’ bodies and going on the rampage.  It was (and still is) a fantastically imaginative and darkly deviant tale.  Now, over thirty years later, for his contribution to this splatterpunk anthology, we see Tim Curran returning to pretty much the same weirdly perverse theme.  It’s as creepy as it is bizarre, with just the right amount of vileness to the rotting limb to make even the strongest stomach feel that little bit queasy.  This is proper old school splatterpunk.

Feast Of Consequences – WD Gagliani & Dave Benton – 40 Pages
Anna had stormed off in a rage.  She couldn’t stand being around Jason and his entitled rich-boy act.  Like he deserved what he wanted from her.  Problem was, she’d gotten herself good and lost in the woodland around Killdeer Lake.  Luckily it wasn’t all that long before she was able to locate a nearby road and flag down some help.  Although, just her luck, the guy that pulls over is some gawping hillbilly with a grotesquely deformed arm.  Nevertheless, beggars can’t be choosers and all that.  So, Anna gets in the truck and they drive off for help.  Somewhere where she can call her friends.  Or so that’s what this guy Jeb had said they’d do.  Unfortunately for Anna, that’s not quite what he had in mind…

For their contribution authors WD Gagliani & Dave Benton offer up what appears to be an excerpt (which they’ve subtitled ‘Anna’s Story’) from their forthcoming novel ‘Killer Lake’.  To be honest, as soon as I saw that the anthology included an excerpt from a novel, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat disappointed.  That said, if you’re ever going to pull out an excerpt and slip it into an anthology, then this is pretty much the perfect offering.  As a short story it reads incredibly well.  It’s tight, fast-paced and gut-churningly tense.  In essence the tale is a sort of ‘Wrong Turn’ (2003) meets ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974), with inbred cannibalistic rednecks lulling a young, lost girl back to their house for some rape, torture and eventual consumption.  To be fair, in the collection this forty-page short really is a standout story.  Hopefully it’s just the opening chapter to the novel and not an excerpt from further in the tale – otherwise the authors have ruined a potentially critical segment by publishing it separately.  Which would be a goddamn shame.

The Going Rate – John Boden – 3 Pages
As he stared at his daughter, Dennis felt the sad smile he wore wither.  If it wasn’t for his bitch of a wife, he wouldn’t be doing this now.  She’d abandoned them and left him with a mountain of debt.  And now it was a tax month.  Which meant one thing.  It was time to pay the collector…

Oh man, this is short, sweet and ever-so-frigging-creepy.  A broken man, whose wife has left him in order to “find herself”, now has to pay the tax man as he comes around the neighbourhood collecting his grisly payments.  It’s dark, gloomy and fucking weird in a wonderfully Lovecraftian sort of way.  Don’t expect to smile much at the end of it.

Darla’s Problem – Kristopher Rufty – 16 Pages
Sergeant Bruce Thompson was just digging into his sandwich when he heard the shaky voice.  Peering out of his cruiser’s window, he found a young eight-year old girl who introduced herself as Darla Kendrick.  And she had a problem.  She was scared to go back home for fear of the monster lurking in her closet.  Apparently it’d already gotten her parents.  Now they were dead.  Ripped to shreds by the monster.  It was certainly a wild story, and definitely something a kid would make up.  However, Bruce couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  He decided he’d better investigate…

What a cracker of a story to end the anthology with.  Yeah, ok so the plot’s not exactly jaw-droppingly original.  It’s a horror premise we’re all pretty familiar with (although I’m not going to spell out what it is in this review).  However, where the tale really delivers the goods is with the mounting tension that Rufty’s managed to create.  We know something pretty bad’s going to be waiting for our Brucey Boy back at the Kendrick residence.  However, it’s the pulse-pounding build up to it that really gets you chomping at the bit.  And then when the horror’s revealed, it’s oh so wonderfully 80’s pulp.  Loved every second of this story.  What a way to finish the anthology.  Nice one.

The anthology runs for a total of 185 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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