Review: Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror

bad apples

About Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror

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.


My Thoughts

Short horror stories can be a terrific thing of beauty at times. Quick character sketches that bring to life the cast, and a plot that cuts right to the bone, getting those scares front and center. Balancing these two necessary components in a small burst is an art, and to make them truly effective requires some very strong story-telling mojo.

Bad Apples: Five Slices of Halloween Horror does a sublime job of collecting five such effective stories under a single cover. The anthology is based around a simple, timeless tradition: the Halloween scare story. October 31st is ripe with things that go bump in the night, and the five authors collected here seize the stage for their own wicked tales. In short, these are the kind of storytellers you'd want around the campfire sharing their stories of haunts and legends. The anthology has it all: maniacs and monsters and ghosts, oh my.

Gregor Xane's The Riggle Twins starts the show off well and gets the anthology off to a strong start. It's also one of the most perfect examples of effective characterization done quickly. When we're introduced to Kelly Crenshaw, a surly old man, we immediately know his mindset. He makes the "Get Off My Lawn!" elders seem downright quaint and picturesque, but is cognizant enough of his own behaviors to question how he can possibly be melancholy when he enjoys misery so damn much. The Riggle twins are creepy products, thanks to Xanes descriptive tellings, and they might even make you question the wisdom of trying to ride out Halloween with the lights off, the shades drawn, and lacking any candy to give out.

Pumpkinhead Ted is a powerful, emphatic tale of abuse and bullying. Ted is malformed thanks to a birth defect, and the subject of ridicule for seemingly everyone. Evans Light does a terrific job illustrating how sometimes monsters are man-made, rather than born, and ties it all into a much too-real legacy of urban legend. This one is a brisk and compelling read that will tug at the heartstrings while possibly being the darkest, amoral story of the bunch.

Urban legends are a theme that Adam Light picks up with his Ghost Light Road. This one was a fun spin on kids seeking a few scares and getting far more than they bargained for, and added a little extra depth to the backwoods fright. Jason Parent's Easy Pickings, too, was a fun twist on the bully-victim dynamic, and managed to bring a different facet to the proceedings than Pumpkinhead Ted so that it never felt redundant. While less emotionally shocking and abrasive as Evans' story, it makes up for it with an eagerness that's both scary and somehow light-hearted.

Capping it all off is Edward Lorn's The Scare Rows, an erotically charged tour through the world's worst Halloween carnival. It's a fun, vulgar, dark riff on all of those haunted house, corn maze attractions that pop up annually to entertain for a few nights and then disappear back into the ground.

Bad Apples is some serious horror entertainment, and makes for a perfect Halloween anthology that readers just may find themselves turning toward every October 31st.

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Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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