Tag Archives: horror

Skeleton Crew #10 – Word Processor of the Gods…

13440

Word count – 7,000

Word Processor of the Gods is about a writer who happens upon a word processor, left to him after the death of his brother. He quickly discovers the machine has the ability to add and delete things from his world.

This story spends a long time setting everything up, and – although the background is relevant to the protagonist’s justification – it really doesn’t make the words more enjoyable. In that way it feels unbalanced.

Word Processor of the Gods is a great concept, and the writing itself is competent, but it’s not as good as I wanted it to be. After the initial set-up, it seems to reach a crescendo very quickly and then it just fizzles until the end, but thankfully, there is enough good stuff here to see it across the line.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #9 – The Raft…

13440Word count – 10,900

The Raft is about four teenagers who decide to take advantage of the dying summer and swim out to a wooden raft in the middle of a lake. Unfortunately, there’s an undisclosed creature living underneath the water, and it’s not happy to see them there.

The Raft is extremely graphic – almost comically so in places  – and it is the kind of no-nonsense monster tale that Stephen King used to write a lot more back in his younger days (and the kind of stuff those who don’t follow his work think he always writes).

Sometimes I wish King would return to this kind of fun, pulp horror more often, because The Raft is up there with the best that King has offered so far in this collection.

Recommended ⇑

Cannibal Holocaust – A Dissection…

MV5BN2YyNWI1ZjAtZjZmOC00MDU4LWE0ODktYmMyZmMzZGExZWE4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1_UY268_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Pun intended.

My university dissertation was about censorship in cinema, and the ways in which the law has imposed itself on what we are allowed to see on screen. It’s a shame I don’t have a copy of it because I think it was pretty good.

But one movie I didn’t mention in all of those ten thousand words is Cannibal Holocaust – partly because I had never seen it, and finding a clean copy of such a notorious movie at the turn of the millennium (when I still had dial-up internet, and there were certainly no streaming platforms) would have proven difficult. Having just watched it, it’s hard to know where to begin.

I’m generally not squeamish when it comes to movies. I have my limits, of course, just like everyone else, but I can usually hold it together. Cannibal Holocaust is as close as I have come to shutting a movie off and walking away.

It is really a movie of two halves. The first half shows a team of academics who go into the Amazonian jungle to discover the whereabouts of a group of young and reckless documentarians who had decided to get up close and personal with a tribe of cannibals, and the second half shows the footage the missing kids had filmed before they were slain.

The idea of the movie, and the way it is put together, is actually not too bad. It’s probably the first genuine example of the found footage sub-genre that The Blair Witch Project popularised two decades later… so even if you are fine with the horror of some of the scenes here (and I’m not sure why you would be), at the very least, you should probably throw blame in its direction for that little contribution to cinema.

There is a lot here to be upset about – scenes of rape, torture, forced abortion, along with scenes of genuine animal cruelty that are difficult to watch, and if that isn’t enough the final ten minutes are extremely grim.

And of course, there’s the cannibalism.

A lot of these graphic scenes are juxtaposed with some oddly upbeat music – the kind of sounds you would expect to see in a lighthearted seventies romp – lulling viewers into a false sense of security…

… and then someone’s foot is hacked off with a machete.

There’s undoubtedly a deeper message underneath all the blood and gore, but you’ve got to wade through a lot of entrails to get there.

Avoid.

Skeleton Crew #5 – Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut…

13440Word count – 11,400

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut hangs on the familiar King format of using a minor character to narrate the tale. King is particularly good at this, and he often manages to add a little spice into the story that otherwise would not be possible. This attempt is no different.

Mrs. Todd likes to drive, but more than that she likes to find the quickest route to wherever she is going. It’s fun listening to how she manages to shave miles off each of her journeys by taking different roads, and the fact that it doesn’t really go the way I had expected doesn’t matter.

Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut is a good tale, but unfortunately it’s not as well done as I had hoped. The premise is fun and interesting, but the execution is a little long-winded for my liking, and it nearly outstays its welcome. If some of the detail here was trimmed I think King may have had a story that stays with you more.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #4 – Cain Rose Up…

13440Word count – 1,900

Cain Rose Up is a very brief story about a school shooting, written in the late sixties – before school shootings, unfortunately, became far too commonplace in the real world. This would likely be a controversial story in these sensitive times, and King (who has mellowed somewhat in recent years) probably wouldn’t write this in 2020.

Curt is a troubled college student who decides to snipe his way out of his funk from his dorm room… and that’s all there is to it. As short as this piece is, I certainly can’t say that that it outstays its welcome.

Cain Rose Up is very brutal in its stripped-down nature. It doesn’t pull any punches, and it wouldn’t be any better if it did. You don’t get a happy ending here, and that is why it works.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #3 – The Monkey…

13440Word count – 15,000

The Monkey is a fairly chunky short story about one of those old spooky looking mechanical monkeys with the cymbals, and how this particular one has a tendency to reappear in protagonist Hal’s life.

The Monkey is a basic horror story that has been stretched almost to the point where it is in danger of really losing me. I think King could have excised half of the words here and been left with a better story as a result.

Having said that, ultimately there is something worthwhile reading in here. I just wish that there was a little less fat in between all the good stuff. I’m just out of the blocks, but this the weakest entry I have read in Skeleton Crew thus far.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #2 – Here There Be Tygers…

13440Word count – 1,500

Here They Be Tygers is one of the earliest Stephen King stories that is available for the public at large – having been written when King was a teenager – and it’s also one of the shortest.

Charles is a child in class and he needs to go to the toilet. When he arrives at the bathroom, there is a tiger sitting on the foor. Because, of course there is.

There’s not much to this, but at this length that is expected. Here There Be Tygers is about one thing – one jolt – and it is laser focused on delivering that one thing. Maybe this was polished from it’s original state to how it appears in this collection – maybe not – but it’s easy to believe this was written by a teenage King.

Recommended ⇑

Skeleton Crew #1 – The Mist…

13440Word count – 50,500

All right, let’s get this out of the way up front: The Mist is not a short story. In fact, it strays into novel length, albeit a thin one with a singular thread. But I have included it here because it is the first story in Skeleton Crew.

A dense and strange mist creeps towards a small town and strands a group of people in a supermarket, after which it soon becomes clear that there are creatures in the gloom waiting to strike. For a long time we don’t know why they are there, but towards the end of the story King does throw us a bone. It’s a satisfactory reason, even if it is not really required to enjoy what’s here.

The Mist is a wholly enjoyable tale, and a good ol’ proper horror story from King as well. It’s a very good start for this second collection of stories, and a high bar is set early.

Recommended ⇑

Night Shift #20 – The Woman in the Room…

619i-4slsfl645695221..jpgWord count – 5,300

The Woman in the Room is a dramatic tale about a man dealing with his bed-ridden mother who is dying of cancer, and his struggles over whether or not euthanasia is his only option.

Back in the late seventies this was likely a much more controversial narrative thread than it is these days – not that readers are blasé about euthanasia in fiction, although to some degree that is probably true – but this story simply lacks the punch that I think it once did.

The Woman in the Room is the last story in Night Shift, and unfortunately it is probably not the final kick to the gut you are looking for or expecting from King. It’s a perfectly serviceable tale, just not a particulary memorable one.

Recommended

Night Shift #19 – One More For the Road…

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Word count – 6,300

The first story in this anthology, Jerusalem’s Lot, acts as a prelude to King’s second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, and One More For the Road is somewhat of a suffix to that novel.

What this piece has going for it over Jerusalem’s Lot is that it takes a more modern approach to the storytelling, and that in itself is immediately a tick in the pro column. The narrative style of that first companion piece is one of the main reasons that I could not recommend it.

You don’t need to have read ‘Salem’s Lot (and certainly not the other short story in this collection) to get or enjoy this piece. Ultimately, this is a straightforward vampire tale, but familiarity does help to flesh out the world. One More For the Road gets a pass, but it’s a very thin recommendation.

Recommended ⇑