Review: Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror

bad apples 2About Bad Apples 2

The minds behind the bestselling BAD APPLES: FIVE SLICES OF HALLOWEEN HORROR return this October with another batch of frightful fare. This time, they brought along a friend - Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke!

Dive into the season with these six Halloween treats:

• Two boys enter a Halloween attraction that holds a devilish secret - but one of the boys has a surprise of his own in Edward Lorn's HALLOWEEKEND.

• Halloween was his birthday, and all poor Bob Talley wanted was for his family to be together again. This year, his wish might come true amid whispers of CANDIE APPLE, from Evans Light.

• A deserter seeks to escape the horrors of war and pave a new existence in a foreign land in Jason Parent's DIA DE LOS MUERTOS.

• Does something putrid truly reside in a small town’s pumpkin patch, or is it only a local legend? Find out in Adam Light's TOMMY ROTTEN.

• An old man and his dog await Halloween visitors with candy and a shotgun in Kealan Patrick Burke's THE ONE NIGHT OF THE YEAR.

• Jimmy Stones and his Uncle Shel uncover the dark secrets of Medium, Ohio's annual Halloween puppet show in Gregor Xane's DOCTOR PROCLIVITY & PROFESSOR PROPENSITY.

My Thoughts

Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror is a follow-up to last year's Halloween-themed anthology and features the same authors as before, but with one new addition. Joining this cool little writer's troupe is Kealan Patrick Burke, who certainly wins points for atmospheric style with his short story "The One Night of the Year."

I found the first Bad Apples collection to be a perfect seasonal read in the evenings leading up to Halloween, so jumping on board for a second helping was a no brainer. If you liked the previous anthology, or are just in need of some solid and quick horror reads to get you in the proper mindset for October 31, buying Bad Apples 2 is an obvious choice and should satisfy your appetites nicely.

The tales here range from straight-up monster horror mayhem to dread inducing ghost stories, and a splash of Twilight Zone weirdness for good measure.

HALLOWEEKEND by Ed Lorn is a fun little romp of horror house mayhem. What happens to those animatronics when their keeper leaves them to their own devices for a night? Worse still, what happens when they get loose and venture out into the streets seeking a sugar rush? This is a great short story, and the gypsy Janzuzu...loved the heck out of this creation. All hail Janzuzu! Bonus points to Mr. Lorn for naming his characters are many very familiar horror authors that have no doubt provided him with a great deal of entertainment and inspiration over the years.

Evans Light's CANDIE APPLE is a wonderfully creepy ghost story (of a sort). The opening packs in a lot of emotion, followed a frenetic sequence of discoveries that had my heart racing. So far we're two for two in this anthology (but based on the first Bad Apples, I wasn't really expecting anything less...)

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS by Jason Parent - I freaking LOVED this tale of an AWOL soldier hiding out in Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration. The writing and story telling is freaking crisp and absorbing as all get out, and even managed some great military-horror in the process. The Afghan-set B-story is every bit as compelling as the A-story as Russel goes on the hunt through the Day of the Dead parade. Just absolutely superb, and perhaps my favorite of the collection. On a small note, I really liked the small nods and references back to Lorn's story that peppered Parent's narrative, and which gives the anthology a bit more depth and interconnectedness.

TOMMY ROTTEN by Adam Light is a perfectly serviceable short story that keeps the Halloween theme right at its center by focusing on a pumpkin patch haunted by the titular figure. My only real complaint is that, compared to the other works in the antho, it's so very short. By the time I really got into the groove of this story, it was over.

THE ONE NIGHT OF THE YEAR by Kealan Patrick Burke is another short short story, but one that practically oozes atmosphere right out of my Kindle's screen. Here we find an old man and his dog, resting on their porch, awaiting the arrival of a few much-expected and very unwelcome visitors. There's enough humanity to balance out the dread here perfectly, and this story just sucks the reader right on in. I kinda want to see a short black & white film made out of this one ASAP. Note to self: Read more of Burke's material pronto!

DOCTOR PROCLIVITY AND PROFESSOR PROPENSITY by Gregor Xane more than makes up for the brevity of the prior two short stories and amounts to nearly forty percent of the page count all by itself. Thankfully, it's a damn engrossing page-turner that sends the anthology out on a high note. Xane brings a welcome touch of noir to the proceedings as Jimmy and his Uncle Shel - "investigators" of a sort - chase down the trail of missing children to Medium, Ohio and the small town's annual Halloween puppet show. There's a procedural element to the narrative, but one that rapidly shifts gears into the ultra-weird during the story's climax and pushes right on through to a bitterly dark finale. In short, I dug this one quite a lot!

Bad Apples 2 is certainly one of the more consistent horror anthologies I've read, in terms of quality and tonality, and it's perfect reading material for All Hallow's Eve and the days leading up to it, as night falls ever faster.

Buy Bad Apples 2: Six Slices of Halloween Horror At Amazon

Michael Patrick 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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