|Hark! The Herald Angels Scream
What could possibly get you in the
Christmas spirit more than horror stories?? Or maybe, you'd rather get in the Halloween spirit by reading about people being tormented during the most wonderful time of the year!
Frankly, I think Christmas is an EXCELLENT setting for horror. I mean, who WASN'T freaked out by the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol ? (I, personally, would have liked more characterization of him to really Amp up the creep factor.)
As a huge fan of Blumhouse Productions, I was very into the idea of reading their holiday themed anthology Hark! The Herald Angels Scream which features stories from some of the hottest names in the horror circuit right now.
Sadly, most of those stories just didn't do it for me. There were a handful that were definetly worth it, but more that fell flat.
This is why I hate reviewing anthologies, because I wish I could review each story individually, but that would just be a nightmare for you to read. Then what? They're short stories, a review would be almost as long as them, how would I keep from ruining it for you??
So instead I'll give you the short lists: the three best and the three worst. At least, that way, you'll have my recommendations for what to hit and what to miss.
Story 1: Absinthe & Angels
What couple hasn't thought about taking a nice, romantic, secluded holiday together in a snowy cabin with no one for miles around? (well, me, personally, but that's because I studied forensic psychology and I'm sure there's a psychopath hanging out waiting to take advantage.)
This story is about a couple who rents a cabin alone a few miles away from where their friends are staying, to have a more romantic Christmas. After indulging in some Absinthe, they receive some unexpected visitors. Based on the cover art, you should be able to tell that it all goes downhill from there.
It was a very solid start for the book, and left me very hopeful for the rest of the anthology.
Story 2: Christmas in Barcelona
Another great one came right at the beginning, really drawing me in. This one, follows a husband and wife as they travel out of the country for the holiday with their young infant. Like so many babies, he doesn't do well with the trip, but that isn't the most horrific part of this story. I'm really only going to tell you that much, because the uncertainty about what is going to happen is part of what made the build so fantastic.
Story 18: The Hangman's Bride
Finishing the book on a strong high note, is this story of a young orphan who is taken in by a manipulative chimney sweep who,in exchange for room and board (barely) forces the boy to work for him, climbing into the flues with his tiny, flexible body. (ie, literally the guy's dirty work.) While working in a large manor, he begins to experience strange things in the flues (and just in the company of the residents, frankly.) This one was a wild ride, and honestly was more of a novella, with more in-depth fleshing out of characters, as well as a beginning, middle, and end.
Story 5: Not Just for Christmas
This one, I think, was meant to be a lighthearted, comedic story. I just found it asinine and annoying. A father trys to buy his place in his estranged family back with an expensive, hybrid dog that can be programmed like a smart thermometer. As you can imagine, things go awry. That's all I'm gonna say.
Story 6: Tenets
Honestly, this one might have been a good kernel to start a full novella or novel, but as a short story it was disjointed, confusing, and not scary in the least. There were too many narrators to keep up with, for a "twist" ending that... Wasn't twisted? I don't know, you can read it, but I don't recommend it, and I wish I could get my time back that I wasted trying to figure it out. (I read this one twice to make sure I didn't miss anything. I didn't.)
Story 7: Good Deeds
Can I just tell you, that in trying to make this list and write my reviews, I have had to look this story up like five times because I keep forgetting what the fuck it was about. And then I remember. I can't even tell you anything about it because the premise is so basic, I would be giving everything away. What I can say, is this is exactly what we all feared sitting around a bonfire when some guy breaks out his acoustic guitar.
SO- the moral of the story? I don't know, I mean, some of them are good, some of them aren't, and they're all mixed together so it's hard to tell you whether you should read it or not. I, personally, will not be recommending it simply because the balance was tipped more towards boring than terrifying for me.