If you were to ask me what horror is I’d probably say something about nude teens being chased by a boogeyman armed with some form of weapon who is out to give his fans (since who really cheers for the teens anyway) a show with a high death count, exaggerated gore, goose bump raising suspense, and tons of jump scares. It’s all in great fun. The killers are over the top, the teens are idiots, the situations commonplace, and you actually look forward to spilling your popcorn.
What you wouldn’t hear me talk about is that form of horror that takes it just a step too far. Where you are almost disgusted, disturbed, hurt, or even haunted by what you just saw. Could you really be the type of person to enjoy that? Hint: The answer is yes. Unlike the first two of Samantha Combs’ horror anthologies which would be very much in the first kind of horror I mentioned, her latest, Helloween, is itching more towards the second. Six tales, each longer than her usual horror short story fare that makes for great nightmare inducing bedside reading, are included.
“Eat at Joe’s” was by far the most unsettling. It tells the story of Reynaldo, a wannabe chef, who finds that a little blood never hurt anyone, except himself, of course. The knife descriptions do a number on me personally as I’m the wimpy squeamish type that small knife cuts are more disturbing to than full outright gashes and I had a hard time reading this one, although that didn’t stop me from doing so repeatedly. The other stories are definitely more mild, but still in the same vein of uncomfortableness.
“Demon in the GPS” shows you how one fateful night Nadine finally finds a way to get her husband’s outward aggressiveness under control. In “Skin Deep”, probably my favorite tale in Helloween, Darla finds out all too well that beautiful skin comes at a frightful cost. “Imaginary Friend” shows you yet another reason why the voices in your head are best ignored.
In “New Neighbors”, you find that some people will do just about anything, including things you wouldn’t do yourself, to welcome a new family to the block. And lastly “The Serial Killer’s Wife” tells the tale of Elaine, a loving wife to homicidal killer Roland. Elaine finally decides she’s sick and tired off her husband’s nightly habits and decides she’s going to do something about it. Unfortunately for Roland, she was paying a bit more attention to his doings than he realized.
Helloween, although too easily finished in one sitting, made for great reading nonetheless. It definitely shows that Samantha has upped the scale as far as the chills go and that’s never a bad thing. It is definitely another great collection to go alongside Way Past Midnight, and Teeth And Talons: A Horror Anthology and all three are worth your time.
I can only hope she continues this upward momentum in any forthcoming anthologies which can never come too soon.
Book Review: Helloween – Author Samantha Combs