3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
BAD APPLES 3 continues the annual tradition of original Halloween stories started in 2014 by the amazing Adam Light, Evans Light, Edward Lorn, Jason Parent, and Gregor Xane. Bad Apples 3 also features additional new work by Mark Matthews, John McNee, and Craig Saunders. In an unexpected development, BA3 has Adam and Evans Light co-writing a single tale in the volume. All of the stories are penned by accomplished writers with increasingly acclaimed reputations in the horror genre.
“Belle Souffrance” in BA3 brings together the talents of the two Light Brothers in a horrific tale dominated by a protagonist that can best be described as a combined mad scientist/psychopathic murderer. As the character Serge Aubichon’s background is disclosed, readers watch helplessly the birth of a monster (considering one of the events in Serge’s past, the concept of birth itself can be monstrous). The sense of isolation that is so predominate in “Tommy Rotten” by Adam Light in BA2 along with the writer’s descriptions of nature at its least appealing and unnatural resurfaces in “Belle Souffrance.” The human suffering found at the beginning of Evans Light’s “Candie Apple” in BA2 and to a degree in “Tommy Rotten” is turned onto its head as Serge Aubichon allows the dark side of his father to dominate his psyche and motivations. The more loving and artistic abilities of his mother—attributes Serge most admired and hoped to emulate as a youth live on in only a morphed shadow of reality of what once was in the man who changes his name to L’Artiste. “Belle Souffrance” is a seamlessly written story with the reader pretty much unaware of which brother constructed which portions of the writing to the story. One thing is for sure, however: with the Light Brothers working together, readers get twice the horror as the writers’ two minds meld into telling one gripping, often graphic narrative.
Of all of the stories in BA3, John McNee’s “Chocolate Covered Eyeball” most reads like a story told by the old Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt. From the grotesque title McNee introduces his readers to seemingly innocent characters and a back story told by a man native to the equally innocuously appearing small town of Hollybrook to his skeptical, outsider girlfriend. Like so many of the Cryptkeeper’s tales, “Chocolate Covered Eyeball” contains elements of subtle, sardonic humor and dark, fanciful revenge all tied together with a warped sense of justice.
“October’s End” by Craig Saunders is one of the more rare tales of “quiet horror” to be found in the BA collections. Although there is no gore and next to no violence, the theme of the story is quite frightening in the same sense of Robert Marasco’s 1973 novel, Burnt Offerings. Contrary to the notion that everything comes to an end, not all things do in Saunders’ tale—especially evil that can over and over again rob life and existence from others.
In “The Uncle Taffy’s Girl” Xane gives readers a Halloween party like no other for his horny, horror-loving protagonist as he encounters many of his favorite “scream queens” from the movies of his youth. Perhaps the most outrageous story in BA3, “The Uncle Taffy’s Girl” reads like a mutation of Euripides’ play, The Bacchae, and a depiction of a bloodbath for the "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Báthory—all on speed.
In BA3 Edward Lorn’s “Last Stop” is illustrative of one of the volume’s advertised adjectives: “Badder.” The horror in this tale is less fantastic than “Halloweekend” in BA2 and far more realistic (which in many ways makes the horror of the tale all the greater) with plenty of splatter as a crazed psychopath bent on revenge for a personal life gone to hell seizes a hostage so that he has someone to witness the carnage he plans on perpetrating. As he does with “Halloweekend,” Lorn derails readers’ expectations with a plot twist near the end that few will see coming and which totally changes the outcome of the story.
Of all of the stories in the BA anthologies, Mark Matthews’ “Body of Christ” may be the most controversial for some readers (probably less so for most horror fans), not because of gore and violence (although there certainly is some), but because of the religious references beginning with the germane title that also appears throughout the story. Young Keagan lives with the most fanatical (and hypocritical) of pious mothers since Carrie White in Stephen King’s Carrie (1974), a dying, helpless father, and only a dark walk-in closet in which to take refuge and squirrel away what to others would be worthless bits and pieces of things, but for Keagan are among the only possessions that he can call his own. “October’s End” is awash in irony that builds throughout to the cleverly foreshadowed, apt climax.
For his contribution to BA3, Parent gives readers both a homage to and a twist on horror films of the 1980s (for the most part) as eleven high school students of a horror film club gather in a stereotypical remote setting to celebrate Halloween in “Pulp” (the longest story in the collection). Garbed in the costumes of famous horror characters, the youths look forward to an evening of spooky films, typical energetic antics, drinking, (and for some) sex, never expecting the grisly fate that awaits them. For Jamie Carpenter, it is a most memorable night as friends begin to meet grisly deaths and Jamie (along with the reader) is clueless as to who the killer might be or how to stop the bloodshed. He is both blessed and cursed by the appearance of a well-known “Grade B” horror character from film that repeatedly shows up at the most opportune moments and is most certainly not among the guests invited to the evening’s festivities. Parent provides a short surprise at the conclusion that will have readers smirking like Anthony Perkins at the end of Psycho.
Readers who delight in well written, original horror stories can only hope that another crop of Bad Apples awaits harvesting next year.