FEATURED CREATURE: Halloween
On Halloween: “Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, it is a childhood joy I've never outgrown.”
On his new collection: “With DARK TREATS, I wanted to bring the fun and darkness back, to remind people how exciting and titillating and wickedly fun Halloween is.”
Horror author Mark Allan Gunnells (Asylum, Ghosts In the Attic) is certainly well versed in the language of Halloween and in DARK TREATS he speaks it clearly and fluently, using all sorts of slick slang to breathe life into a collection that could have easily grown tiresome quickly. When every motif in your book involves the horror holiday, you have to take great care in crafting stories that all remain original and interesting; for the most part Gunnells succeeds in never repeating himself amongst the five tales presented. This leaves the reader with some great seasonal reading—and a nice chill down their spines, too.
Opener “Halloween Returns To Bradbury” is a solid start, giving the reader a nice introduction to some of Gunnells’ recurring themes. (Small towns, children, etc.) The story is straightforward—in the small town of Bradbury, Halloween simply isn’t “scary” enough—so the Devil himself pays a visit one Halloween night. The writing is simple and atmospheric, and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. It’s nothing too memorable, but nothing too shabby either.
The second story, “The Neighborhood That Halloween Forgot” is the weakest link here—generic and ultimately forgettable, it’s nothing a horror fan hasn’t seen a hundred times already. (The plot has been done much better in James Newman’s recent novel ANIMOSITY).
Mid-tale “My Last Halloween” lifts the collection back up with a twist ending that’s both mildly shocking and memorable. This is why kids shouldn’t sneak out of the house, folks—they might discover secrets better left unspoken. The writing really comes alive here for the first time, and the story nearly drowns in atmosphere and mood. The first of two highlights in the collection.
The other highlight is my personal favorite, and I suspect will be many readers’ too—creature tale “Treats” is both dark and fun; it doesn’t feature the heavy-handed tone of the former story, but it chugs along and never loses steam. The ending could have used a bit more punch and/or violence to it, but paired along with “My Last Halloween”, it’s a winner.
Closer “Family Plot” is also good, but like “Treats”, could also use some a slightly better ending. It’s a more-than-decent tale of family tradition, although slightly predictable. Note that this story is not in the eBook edition.
Still, the collection, now available from Sideshow Press, comes Recommended! Halloween is over now, reader, so relax and take a bite of this Dark Treat...