REVIEW: “The Auteur” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “The Auteur”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 98-115 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Simon, Cate, and Edwin all work in a movie rental place, and Cate — self-described “in-house horror specialist” (p. 99) — spends a lot of time rehearsing the merits and demerits of various horror movies to her co-worker Simon. None of them are what he really wants to watch: What he wants access to are the movies Cate, “world-changing auteur of pure horror” (also self-described, p. 101), makes.

It’s difficult to describe a movie in words, and even more difficult with a movie that relies so much on timing, pacing, angles, and sounds, as horror movies do. But that’s what we get in this story when Simon finally gets a chance to see one of Cate’s movies, alternating description of the movie, recounting of dialogue in the movie, and Simon’s reactions to it. In the end, this story felt much more like a clinical description of horror than actually horror itself.

(Originally published in Turn to Ash, 2016).

REVIEW: “Mired” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Mired”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 82-96 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Unlike some of the other stories in this collection, which go more for the grisly and the gory, this story opens with a nightmare scenario so parody-like it’s more amusing than horrifying: A researcher confronts a neon green blob in his closet, while the blob eats his research. (What kind of research? you might ask. Apparently Randolph is the type of pretentious guy who reads Derrida, Hegel, and Nietzsche. He is also the type of guy who when confronted with a neon green blob panics and calls a woman (whose name he doesn’t even remember correctly) to come and sort things out for him — but he’s not even got enough courage to go through with that!)

I sort of feel like I should’ve come away from this story with some great weighty reflections about man’s relationship to his work, and the weight of ideas that are never read or grappled with, or even some sort of sense of kinship to Randolph, an academic philosopher like myself; but he was never really sympathetic enough for me to be all that bothered by what ended up happening to him.

(Originally published in Double Feature Magazine 2016).

REVIEW: “Party Time” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Party Time”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 68-79 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Content note: Gory violence

This is the story of Steve. Steve is a drunken asshole with a tendency to violence, and an overdeveloped sense of possession when it comes to women. Steve is not a likeable person — this is made utterly clear from the very first paragraph. The question that kept me reading was: Does Steve have any redeeming qualities? Does he have any redemption at all?

Unfortunately, no, not really. He gets a comeuppance, but it’s not in any sort of poetic-justic way. Instead, it’s just a successively violent stream of gore.

REVIEW: “A New Kind of Drug” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “A New Kind of Drug”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 48-66 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Content warning: Drug and child abuse; homophobia.

Being a teenager is complicated. Being a lonely teenager trapped between the charybdis of behavior you know is wrong and the scylla of not wanting to be alone any longer is even more complicated.

“Are you a killer?” is the question the story opens up with, asked of the narrator by one of his classmates. It’s all too easy for that question to bring up thoughts of all the high school shooting incidents that populate recent US history, from Columbine on down. The story we’re always told about them is that it is the lonely, bullied outcasts who suddenly snap, grab a gun, and kill. But more and more we’ve been learning that that “story” is not true: It is the bullies, not the bullied, who tend to act so lethally. So when an insecure and lonely teen is asked, in this story, if he is a killer, the quiet voice that runs through my head is “This isn’t how things go.”

No, the narrator (whose name we never learn), isn’t a killer. That doesn’t mean his friend doesn’t end up worse than dead. This, like many of the other stories in this anthology, is not a pleasant story.

REVIEW: “Mictian Diabolus” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Mictian Diabolus”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 28-45 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Content note: graphic descriptions of human torture and mutilation.

It’s a strange experience to read a story that is well-written but nevertheless not a nice story. Such was my experience reading this one, a story of petty crime, drug addiction, the grotesque and demonic, all carefully put together and elegantly wrapped up, but still sordid.

The story follows the classic structure of a high school/teen horror movie, each step leading inexorably on to the predictable ending. At the end, the only question I left with was ‘what (or who) is Mictian?’ — a question unanswered in the story but easily answered via google. So I learned something new reading this story, so the unpleasant experience wasn’t wholly without reward.

REVIEW: “Hair” by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, “Hair”, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017): 12-26 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

The opening line of the opening story in this collection grabbed me viscerally and left me deeply uncomfortable:

Tonight, Theodore voluntarily ingested hair for the first time.

All it took was the insertion of the single world ‘voluntarily’ to conjure up images of some bizarre and creepy fetish — and also to conjure up questions that I must have answered in order to be satisfied: Why does Theodore choose to eat his own hair, and what is the reason for the strange elation it brings him?

In the end, I’m not sure I got any answers: But the sheer creepiness of the story carried me from start to finish almost without allowing me to pause for breath.

(Originally published in DarkFuse, 2016).

REVIEW: Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn

Review of Mike Thorn, Darkest Hours (Unnerving, 2017) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

One of the perks of reviews is discovering new stories and new authers that one would not otherwise have ever come across — this goes both for reading reviews and writing them! Were it not for running this site, I doubt I would have come across this collection of short stories (mostly horror, but some have a stronger SFF element or slant). This is also the first time we’ve reviewed a collection of short stories all written by the same author, instead of an edited anthology, which is itself a treat: A single story never can display all facets of a single author.

The stories in this collection display many facets: Creepy, disturbing, but also skilled and precise. The overall tenor is a gory, sordid one — not really up my alley, unfortunately. In the end, I found I came away from too many of the stories feeling vaguely unclean from having read them, and I also found the glorification of male violence and the centering of the male characters rather depressing.

Nine of the stories in this collection have been previous published, but the remaining seven are new. As is usual on this site, we’ll review each of the stories in turn, and link the reviews to the list below:

If horror is your thing, you’ll probably find a story for you in this collection. If horror isn’t your thing, you may still yet find a story for you in this collection. Or you might be better off avoiding it.