As a huge fan of Stephen King’s Creepshow, I was thrilled to see the long-lost short story “Weeds” in the table of contents for Dark Screams: Volume One. I knew it as “The Lonsesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” but it has even more barbs and thorns in prose form (as well as being a little bit less campy).
It’s a good, tone-setting start to a solid anthology of genuinely creepy stories that harken back to the five-short-story structure of Creepshow itself, or even the original EC Comics. “The Price You Pay,” by Kelley Armstrong, is a fast-paced, twist-a-second revenge story with bloody consequences. Even if I didn’t buy every turn the story took, it was a still a compelling read.
Bill Pronzini’s “Magic Eyes” is a classic tale of a potentially homicidal man in an insane asylum. Well told, though somewhat familiar-feeling in shape and feeling.
The last two stories are the knockouts here, however. Simon Clark’s “Murder in Chains” had me delighted from start to finish. A simple story about a man who wakes up in an underground chamber, chained to a stranger. I never knew where it was going, but it was suspenseful and exciting the whole time.
But when I felt certain that “Murder in Chains” would be my favorite of the lot, Ramsey Campbell’s “The Watched” put on a clinic of how to place one creepy detail after another for terrific effect. I’m still in awe of the construction and execution of this story, which focuses on a young boy, a spooky cop with odd requests, and the neighbors who live next to the boy and his grandmother. Well done story with a pitch-perfect ending.
So some stories knocked my socks off while others were a bit more average, but there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. I thought this short anthology was a whole lot of fun, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for volume two.
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