BadAss Horror, an anthology edited by Michael Stone and Christopher J. Hall is a lexicon of extreme and subtle horror rolled into one book. Some stories work, while others struggle to find themselves. As a whole, the book is a worthy effort to bring in fresh faces to a somewhat stale genre.
The first of these stories is “Pool Sharks” by Gerard Brennan, which is an account of a drinker who ends up playing pool for his life. If you’ve watched The Twilight Zone, then you may have come across this plot before. Even if familiar, the violence of the story (especially at the end) makes that episode look tame.
“The Stray” by Garry Kilworth concerns itself with a human born with cat-like behaviors who keeps company with a house of prostitutes. People have done cat stories to death, especially in horror – what turns this one into a gem is its humorous ending, which in itself uses the word “cat” to hilarious effect.
“Hardboiled Stiff” by Michael Hemmingson is the only real turkey in the bunch. A detective is killed while on the job and comes back to life to find out who killed him and why. It gets into a bunch of sexual stuff, which seemed an unnecessary weight on a story that was better without it.
“All The Pretty Girls” by Ronald Damien Malfi isn’t really a turkey, but it isn’t really good either. It has to do with an Indian guy and women being raped. He also has sex with dead people. It makes for a good midnight read when you’re drunk, but not when you are sober. The confusing narrative of the piece makes it hard to follow sometimes, and the end sort of makes you wonder what the rest of it was for.
Things begin to pick up with “Moving Pictures” by Gord Rollo. Ronnie is a “rent collector” and a ruthless one at that. In an attempt to gain new business with a Chinese tattoo parlor, he decides to take something other than money with him: a picture of a scorpion on his arm. The title of the story should be enough to give away what transpires, but it’s written in such a matter that you don’t get it at first. Rollo does a good job with wrapping a tight rope of suspense around the plot.
“The Essences” by Davin Ireland is a rather complex tale in a good way. The story centers on an insurance investigator who on a job witnesses a man die under unnatural circumstances. With only a piece of paper to guide him, he finds an address that leads to a secret laboratory. Inside, a dozen human emotions are kept in several jars and protected by an overseer. The “essences” of the human race are made up of waves: when one emotion grows in the human race, that particular emotion grows in the lab. There’s an overarching theme, but it took me a few readings to get it.
“Bloodbath at Landsdale Towers” by Michael Boatman is an NC-17 version of Shaft. A drug dealer who abuses well-to-do folks who need his products ends up paying for his crimes by way of two mysterious vigilantes. In a case of saving the best for last, it seemed like it belonged in the middle somewhere. I don’t even know if this was horror, more like pulp detective fiction (unless you count the ending).
As I said earlier, it’s a worthy effort. I do recommend that you keep an open mind as everyone’s idea of horror is different. Despite some reservations, I will keep a lookout for BadAss Horror 2 and see what these guys come up with.