Nothing says Halloween quite so much as a new horror anthology devoted to carved pumpkins, witches, ghouls, and murder as we turn toward the darker half of the year. Doorbells at Dusk is a solid entry into the annals of such anthologies, gathering fourteen short stories from a range of the horror genre's talents like Josh Malerman, Amber Fallon, Chad Lutzke, and more.
Doorbells at Dusk showcases a broad range of Halloween horror themes, as well. There are some truly fun and occasionally depraved and psychotic stories (my favorite kind, personally), as well as gentler, spookier slice of life riffs. I always find anthologies to be a mixed bag, and this latest from Corpus Press proves to be no exception. While there a few stories I didn't care for, I still found plenty of others that impressed and delivered exactly what I was looking for in terms of haunting effectiveness and unbridled mayhem. Most of these latter were from authors whose works I've enjoyed in the past, and I found them delivering the best of the bunch here.
Adam Light's "Trick 'Em All" was easily my favorite of this antho. As I said, I like my Halloween stories depraved and bloody, and Light delivers with his story of a psychotic teen receiving messages from his newly carved pumpkin to kill his family. This is a brutal, crazy gorefest and I'll be damned if it wasn't straight up my alley.
Jason Parent serves up a fun little treat as a group of thieves break into the wrong house in "Keeping Up Appearances." Gregor Xane's "Mr. Impossible" is a fun bit of science gone wonky as a neighorhood is drugged and costumers believe they actually are whatever they are dressed as. "Rusty Husky," from Dusk's editor Evans Light, delivers on its premise of revenge on a serial killer in a nastily inventive way that's all about its tricks and treats.
Amber Fallon's "The Day of the Dead" puts a cool little The Twilight Zone spin on Día de los Muertos, one that will definitely make you want to dress up for Halloween this year. Chad Lutzke's "Vigil" goes in an entirely different direction and stands proudly as a bit of the odd man out here. Eschewing the paranormal entirely, Lutzke focuses on a different sort of monstrosity altogether as a stunned and shaken neighborhood gathers to watch the police discover and exhume a score of bodies from an abandoned house. There's no shocks or scares, but Lutzke writes so well, and so honestly, that this small town vignette captivates the whole through. Sean Eads and Joshua Viola present a historical slow-burn work of Halloween horror that good and truly sticks the landing once the full scope of "Many Carvings" atrocities are fully revealed.
Doorbells at Dusk is a welcome addition to the pantheon of Halloween horrors. Not that this is much of a shock, mind you. Evans Light knows how to deliver a great Halloween antho; you don't need to look past any of the three Bad Apples books he co-created to find proof of that, and Doorbells at Dusk serves as further evidence to this claim. Doorbells at Dusk, in fact, is a natural outgrowth from those earlier anthologies, and this one is larger and more diverse in both its stories, their premises, and contributors. Unlike Bad Apples, though, it also seems rather deliberately aimed at a wider, more general audience of horror readers, forgoing the occasionally vulgar, gruesome, splatterpunk sensibilities of its harder-edged, dare to offend cousins. This isn't a bad thing, certainly, but I still found myself wanting Doorbells at Dusk to get a bit meaner and dirtier than its raison d'être permitted. It's safe to say, though, that Light has deftly generated a small library of Halloween attractions to satisfy any number of tastes.
Doorbells at Dusk presents a fine sampling of tricks and treats for readers jonesing for some good and proper seasonal reads as the leaves turn color, a chill sets in, the world turns a little bit darker, and it arrives just in time as the membrane separating this world from another grows thinner and thinner day by day.
[Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this title from the publisher, Corpus Press.]
View all my reviews