When Walt Blackmore moves into an old gable front house on the outskirts of a small town, things are really looking up for him; he has an adoring girlfriend to whom he plans to propose, a new job teaching English at the local high school, and an altogether bright future. His outlook and destiny are irreparably changed, however, when an unusual dark red spot appears on the ceiling in the hallway. Bit by bit, the spot grows, first into a dripping blood stain and eventually into a grotesque, muttering creature.
As the creature grows, Walt finds himself more and more interested in fostering its well-being. At first he only feeds it stray animals so that the blood-hungry monster can survive, but this soon fails to satisfy the creature’s ghastly needs. It is gradually becoming human again, and for that to happen it requires human blood and human flesh. And once Walt has crossed the line from curiosity to murder, there is no going back…
Okay, let’s get this out the way first – it’s a bit like Hellraiser! Right, now we can move on, because to become bogged down in comparisons would do this enjoyable quick-paced romp through a hellish abattoir a terrible disservice.
Bleed is classic horror tale in the sense that it is about a small group of characters in a remote setting, trying to deal with a peculiar scenario in which they should really seek professional help. Of course, this is not what they do, and the story descends into bloody mayhem. As a reader, struggling against it will collapse the whole damn lot on top of you like so much unbelievable mush, but if you go with the flow you’ll find moments of gruesome hilarity. I loved the tea-party-like dismissal of government help when the lead character discovers a monster growing out of his ceiling!
What is strongest in Ed Kurtz’ novel is the writing. Despite the constant butchering the descriptions never feel tired and we are constantly repulsed by the graphic prose. I was kept guessing about certain elements of the plot right until the end, quite an achievement given the relatively straight-forward story. Alas, I feel the narrative goes on a little too long for the concept and could do with being trimmed by a couple of killings.
Bleed is a piece of visceral entertainment, much like an 80’s splatter movie. Kurtz doesn’t overburden the story; he takes a concept and exploits it to its full potential, showing surprising restraint for the genre. If you want some gore with a creative flair, you can’t go wrong with this.