The five freshest voices in horror will make you reconsider leaving the house on October 31st with these all-new Halloween tales:
• A brother and sister creep out of the darkness with bags full of deadly tricks in Gregor Xane’s THE RIGGLE TWINS.
• A boy with a misshapen skull just wants to be normal in Evans Light’s PUMPKINHEAD TED.
• A group of thrill seekers learn that looking for terror is a whole lot more fun than finding it in Adam Light’s GHOST LIGHT ROAD.
• Two bullies go looking for trouble but instead find a young boy and his imaginary friend in Jason Parent’s EASY PICKINGS.
• When a mysterious, Halloween-themed attraction comes to the town of Bay’s End, everyone is dying to pay a visit in Edward Lorn’s THE SCARE ROWS.
Given that I was drawn to this collection by the inclusion of Gregor Xane, it goes without saying that I’m bound to be biased towards his story above the others. “The Riggle Twins” has the same discipline as “It Came From Hell And Smashed The Angels” but is much more humorous and befitting the holiday season on which it is set.
The story revolves around two playful, yet sinister children acting on behalf of a Halloween deity. What I liked the most about this story was the tonal shift depending upon whose eyes we looked through. Whilst the action focused upon the children and the world they inhabited, the macabre scenes are befitting their mental age. Xane describes the events in very much the spirit of the season, taking gruesome concepts but delivering them with humour. On the flip side, as soon as we shift to the viewpoint of adults whom the children terrorise, we lurch into straight-up horror. The purpose of this (or so it seems to me) is clear: for children Halloween is magical, for adults there is only cold stark reality.
Whilst I believe that “The Riggle Twins” is the gem of the ensemble, the quality of the other stories is consistent and worthwhile. First up is Evans Light’s “Pumpkinhead Ted”, a tale of persecution and retribution. The villains are odious, the protagonist pitiable, and when revenge is taken you are cheering it all on. The ending came a little out of left-field for me and I felt it actually detracted from the impact (there I go, dwelling upon structure again), but for others it might be just the right spooky element to wrap it all up.
Adam Light’s “Ghost Light Road” creates an atmospheric late night drive that soon goes awry for a small clutch of friends. Adam Light does well at creating tension within the group and keeps you guessing at just where the shocks are going to come from. In the end “Ghost Light Road” is a stew of horror concepts, with all sorts of juicy lumps to root around for.
“Easy Pickings” by Jason Parent toys with the reader until the final nefarious presence is revealed. A flip of “Pumpkinhead Ted” we now perceive Halloween bullying through the eyes of the assailant, though when he picks on a scrawny kid with an imaginary friend, he soon finds the world is not has he originally perceived.
So how do they all fit together? This is pure conjecture, but I imagine each author agreed to submit a piece, but didn’t run their ideas by the others until it was all done. The result is a collection slightly too lopsided towards the concept of trick-or-treating, a few too many cruel bullies getting their just deserts. That being said, this is a Halloween collection, so maybe I just read them all too quickly one after the other and should chill the fuck out.
Fortunately the final story, “The Scare Rows” by Edward Lorn takes us in an entirely different direction, instead dwelling upon the autumnal harvest aspect. Instead of focusing in on a single character, the author casts a wide net across a small town, bringing various viewpoints and equally various fates. Humorous rather than creepy, “The Scare Rows” makes small town Halloween seem rather appealing. On a side note, I think I spotted references to Troll 2, or at least thematic ones.
Overall, Bad Apples is consistent in tone. It starts strong and no story in the bunch lets the team down. If you have Amazon Prime you can borrow it today and have a Halloween read, and for that my friends, it is perfect.