More Christmas goodies are coming your way this week. Okay, I know it’s still only autumn, but as I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here, I’m bringing out two collections of festive-themed horror stories this year, and the sooner the better I reckon, now that the days are shortening, the nights lengthening and the rolling winter fog lurking just off-stage.
They are, as I promised you all quite a few weeks ago: THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE and IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER.
While we’re talking scary short stories, I’ll also be taking the opportunity today to review and discuss Mariana Enriquez’s quite remarkable debut collection in English, THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE.
For any of you Brits who don’t know Argentine author Enriquez’s work – and why would you as, previously, she’s mostly been published in her native Spanish? – this is horror with a conscience. But it’s still horror, trust me.
If you’re only here for the Mariana Enriquez review, that’s fine as always. Scoot on down to the lower end of today’s post, and you’ll find it in the Thrillers, Chillers section. However, if you’re also interested in spooky tales of the Yuletide variety, then stick around here for a bit first, while we get stuck into some …
First things first. My apologies for hitting you with Christmas stuff when it’s still only October. I know it’s a pain. I, like everyone else, find it bewildering and irritating to see Christmas movies on television when there is still two and a half months to go. But the reality is that if I want people just to know about this stuff, never mind buy it in time to be able to read it, I’ve got to put the info out there well in advance. Contrary to popular belief, bringing Christmas fiction out in Christmas week itself doesn’t really work. In that case, it most likely wouldn’t be looked at until January at the earliest, and let’s be honest, how many of us are ready to deal with anything concerning Christmas in the drab, dreary days following New Year?
As already mentioned, the two new titles are: THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE and IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER.
Before we look at them individually, I should add that very soon we’ll be bringing both these titles out in Audible as well, read by actor Greg Patmore, who did such a sterling job with last year’s big autumn publication, SEASON OF MIST. All info on that will be posted on here as soon as it’s available.
Before we look at them individually, I should add that very soon we’ll be bringing both these titles out in Audible as well, read by actor Greg Patmore, who did such a sterling job with last year’s big autumn publication, SEASON OF MIST. All info on that will be posted on here as soon as it’s available.
The first of the two new books is called THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE and it’s a completely new collection, which comprises four stories and a novella. Some are reprints, obviously, but one story, The Tenth Lesson, will be published for the very first time. It is available to order right now, in both Kindle and paperback. Just follow the links. You’ll find a full Table of Contents and a few brief trailers a bit further down.
The second of the two new books, meanwhile, IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER, may sound vaguely familiar. That’s because it was first published as an e-book several years ago. On that front, nothing has changed. The e-book remains as it always was, and is still available to purchase. Just follow the link. The real development with IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER is that it’s also, at long last, coming out in paperback. Yes, those of you who don’t have e-readers will be able to give it a whirl too, in your case in the good old-fashioned way by flipping pages while seated comfortably, malt whisky in hand, next to a crackling winter fire.
Both these titles, THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE and IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER, sprang from my lifelong love affair with Christmas ghost stories. Regular followers of this blog will know that I write new ones annually, and often post them on here. But even before the days of the Internet, I was a student of that unique subgenre, and penned seasonal spook tales regularly, many seeing publication in magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Of course, I’m not being particularly original in having done this. Both MR James and Charles Dickens got there well ahead of me, and even Shakespeare references the tradition, mentioning in A Winter’s Tale the Old English custom of telling ghost stories communally around the roaring flames of the manor house hearth.
I’m not putting myself in that august category, by the way, but I always like to point out that I’m ploughing a time-honoured furrow, so that you hopefully won’t think me too much of an eccentric.
And now, enough gabble. Time for some …
THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE is specifically designed to put the chill back into the coldest part of the year. Here is the full list of contents, and some choice snippets:
The Merry Makers
The walls were stone, but hung with sumptuous, brightly coloured tapestries. The roof, far overhead, was vaulted, supported by great oaken hammer-beams, and now crisscrossed with swags of evergreen. At the far end towered a colossal Christmas tree, perhaps twenty-five feet tall; I imagined that it had been hewn down in some frosty Norwegian forest and brought over here especially. It reached as high as a stained-glass skylight in a slanted section of ceiling, and was hung with ribbons and ornaments, and glowed with myriad electric lights. Down the centre of the room lay a vast banquet table laid with all kinds of festive delicacies. My eyes skated perplexedly over yet more pies, puddings and pastries, over roasted fowl and baked fish, over dates, sweet meats and fat German sausages.
More important than any of this, there were guests. Guests the like of which I had never seen; eight seated one side of the table, eight on the other. Life size effigies, I realised, my blood chilling, lumpen papier-mâché monstrosities clad in gaudy robes. Sinterklass in his bishop’s garb and mitre, a crozier clamped in his gloved, ring-covered hand. Krampus, with his humped back and shaggy goat’s head. Belsnickel, with his bearskin cloak and cap, his Mr Punch features, and his vicious, many-tailed whip …
Before sitting and making himself comfortable, Hetherington scrutinised the life-size Scrooge puppet standing up close. Less detail was visible in the night-vision’s green mist. With head drooped, its face was completely indistinguishable aside from its long, tapering nose. In terms of shape, the figure was bone-thin – almost emaciated, like a suspended corpse. The fact it would be hanging just behind and to his left was added unpleasantness.
Determined to push such nonsense from his mind, he shoved his chair backward a few feet, so that at least it hung in his eye-line. Then he settled down.
The chair, which was hard and stiff-backed, was uncomfortable, but that was good – the last thing he wanted was to drop off to sleep. Murmuring these thoughts to his viewers, he appraised the auditorium as it stood empty in front of him. Night-vision wasn’t perfect; but at least he could distinguish its basic dimensions; the rows of seating, and the two downstairs aisles. It was only when he glanced up to the balcony that he glimpsed what he thought was a person.
Hetherington blinked once, twice – then stood up and walked to the front of the stage.
He had to be mistaken. Perhaps the fogginess of his vision was playing tricks on him? But it definitely looked as if someone was sitting in one of the seats up there. In the extreme right-hand block, three rows up from the front barrier.
“Hello?” he called hesitantly. “Mr Lampwick?”
But it surely couldn’t be Lampwick. He’d left, and the whole place was locked up. And there was nobody else here, or there wasn’t supposed to be. The shape on the balcony didn’t respond, or even move, but the more Hetherington stared up at it, the more it resembled a seated figure, possibly wearing a heavy overcoat.
“Hello!” he shouted again, more belligerently, his voice echoing to the high ceiling.
Still the figure sat motionless …
I yanked off my balaclava, my hair soaked with icy sweat – and heard a distinctive clank as the front gate banged open again. Incredulously, I listened to the progression of heavy misshapen feet along our snowy front path, and then into the alley beside the house, whereupon they abruptly stopped. I was now listening so intently that I fancied I could hear the whispering of the snowflakes outside, but apart from that there was only silence. Torturous, prolonged silence.
It is almost impossible to convey the horror and isolation I felt at that moment, even though I was ensconced in my own home. I stared fixedly at the kitchen door. For a time, there was nothing else in the world but that door – and what I suspected lurked just beyond it. I was unable to move; I didn’t dare move, terrified that if my feet scuffed on the floor they would alert the thing to my presence, even though such thoughts were patently ludicrous – it had followed me all the way home. Even if it hadn’t, it knew where I lived; according to our myths, it knew where every child lived.
There was a soft crunch of snow, this directly on the other side of the door, and then a further pause. Was it listening in through the planks as I was listening out? We had a telephone – I don’t know why it never occurred to me to run and dial 999. I suspect I was simply too mesmerised by events. My nerves were taut as cello strings, my hair standing on end. But I quickly broke from this stupor when the door-handle started to turn …
Tregarron came to an abrupt halt at the top, eyes scanning the darkened passage ahead, along which several bedroom doors stood open, each one shedding even darker darkness.
“I’m warning you,” he shouted, hefting the poker. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I write children’s books, I’m some kind of sissy.”
There was no response.
He advanced a few yards, eyeing the carpet. But if there’d been any snow left on the intruder’s boots by the time he’d arrived up here, there was no trace of it now.
“Look, if this is just a joke … if you work for someone who thinks he’s found something out about my real attitude to Christmas, maybe I can live with that. Maybe there won’t be any need for rough stuff. But you’ve got to step out where I can see you.”
In direct response to this, he heard a sudden whirring and clicking, as if gears and wheels had gone into motion, and a steady repeated creak: the sound of timber under pressure.
And then it appeared, at the far end of the passage, from a bedroom on the right.
Initially he saw it only in profile. Until it swung about to face him.
Tregarron insisted to himself again that it was someone inside a suit. And yet the inflexibility of its painted grinning face, the jerkiness of its movements, the ramrod stiffness of its posture made this seem incredibly unlikely. Abruptly, the soldier went on en garde, tilting sharply forward, musket levelled at waist-height. To Tregarron’s even greater incredulity, he now saw a glint of steel at the weapon’s tip …
The observatory was accessible by a narrow, winding stairway, which during daytime would be bathed in sunshine from an overhead skylight, but at night was a black spiral. Nevertheless, they proceeded up it, silent and bunched together. At the top, the doorway to the observatory stood wide open. Frosted moonlight filled the spacious room beyond it from the overhead dome. At this ungodly hour it didn’t reveal a great deal, though one thing was quite clear: the observatory had been trashed.
Broken ornaments lay scattered on the carpet. Every item of furniture, even the heavy four-posted bed, had been overturned.
At last, Wilkes found the light switch and turned it on, which brought additional macabre detail to their attention. Previously plump upholstery had been slashed and gutted. There were daubings on the walls in some vile black substance: to Rick they resembled the runic symbols from Night Of The Demon, though they were so crude and unclear they could also have been attempted recreations of the devil-figures painted on the floor for Wilkes’ original Black Mass scene. More worrying than any of this, though, were the shapes laid out in the centre of the room. These had been formed from folded bedsheets. The sheets themselves were pristine, not damaged in any way. But it was the shapes they made that were so significant.
They were human coffins.
And there were seven of them: one for each person present …
IN A DEEP, DARK DECEMBER is published in paperback for the first time today, (but as previously mentioned, has already been available for some time in ebook form). Here are some short whistle-wetters:
The Christmas Toys
In the very centre, on a raised mound, there was a stable, its front section removed, revealing a baby in a manger and toy soldier-sized figures of Mary and Joseph kneeling one to either side. Above them, a single star was suspended. Somewhere on the floor one of the wires to the fallen Christmas trees sparked, and the star began to shine with a pale, silvery luminescence. At the same time figures started moving in the town. Tookey watched in fascination as three or four men, again no more than toy soldier size but distinctly sinister in hoods and cloaks, and with curved daggers, roved up and down the narrow streets, moving along electric runners that he hadn’t noticed previously. One by one they visited each house, the internal light to which would then turn blood-red – to the accompaniment of tinny shrieks.
“What the …?” Tookey breathed. He had some vague memory of a school lesson during which he’d been told about that bad-tempered bastard – wasn’t his name ‘Herod’? – having all the babies killed to try and get to Jesus. But Christ, you didn’t put something like that in a Christmas decoration!
“Can I help?” came a voice from behind.
Capstick spun around. A tall, lean figure in a gray suit and clerical collar, with a pale face and short sandy hair, had entered the hall behind him.
“Oh, I’m sorry …” Capstick stammered, not sure whether to address the man as ‘Father’ or ‘Reverend’. “But, well, this may sound a bit ridiculous …”
“Gentleman of the road, are you?”
“What?” Capstick was startled. Surely he didn’t look that bad? He brushed self-consciously at his beard. “Erm … no, though I will admit to being lost.”
“So many do at this festive time of year.”
As the vicar wove his way forward through the seats, Capstick saw that he was actually quite old, his face wrinkled with a yellowish tinge, his eyes rheumy. His hair, which was colourless, was extraordinarily thin; it looked sandy from a distance because he’d greased the few lank strands of it that remained backward over his liver-spotted scalp. His suit, once smart, was dusty and crumpled.
“I’m stuck in town by accident,” Capstick added, slightly distracted by this. “Trying to find some … well, first of all, some accommodation. And secondly, some transport out of here.”
“The first of those we can help you with ... of course we can.” The vicar smiled, his bloodless lips drawn back on brownish pegs, and laced his fingers together. “The second, alas, no.”
“It’s a grand-looking place,” Arthur said. “Can’t think what it’s doing all the way out here in the wilds of Derbyshire.”
He reached for the knocker, but the door creaked open as soon as he touched it.
They glanced through, and saw an arched stone passage with low wooden beams across its ceiling. It ended at a flight of four broad steps, which led up into a living area. A rosy flush of firelight was visible up there, and a pleasant scent struck their nostrils, a combination of oranges and cinnamon, and something else: evergreens. The reason for that soon became obvious. The beams in the entrance hall had been decked for Christmas: alternating strands of ivy and holly had been woven around them. The only sound was a distant crackle of flames.
Oddly, she began to tug on his arm, trying to draw him away. “We should go, Daddy. We should go right now.”
He glanced down at her, puzzled. “What’re you talking about?”
“I bet it’s the furry house,” she said.
“It was in that book you got me. It said that out on the moors, when people are lost, the furry house comes and the people go inside and think they’re safe. And the furry house disappears, and they go with it. And they’re never seen again.”
Arthur chuckled and tapped on the door-jamb with his knuckles. “Darling, this isn’t a fairy house. Look, it’s as solid as you and me.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. They have to look real to trap people.”
It was Eric Hazelwood who’d first told Phil about the mummers of Holker Hall.
This had been several years before, in the halcyon days when the Mercury had been the plain old Mercury. At the time, they were discussing a possible centrespread on local ghosts. Eric had long been a student of the supernatural, but he wasn’t keen on using the Holker Hall mystery. After all, this wasn’t some spectral pussy cat with a cute purr, or a thirsty pub ghost who drew himself generous measures after hours and in so doing helped drum up custom. There was little to snigger at in this tale, and those members of the Bradleigh public who knew about it responded accordingly. The myth wasn’t known widely enough for the hall to be shunned; the Groves still played host to adventurous children and picnicking families, especially in summer, while the ornate old building was a source of architectural interest, but that was about it. Few went near the place at night, and none on Christmas Eve. These spooks didn’t just scare you; they signed your death warrant. It was only a story of course, but why take the chance?
Phil still wasn’t sure if he believed it, though now, as eight o’clock came and went, then nine and finally ten, he was increasingly distracted from the drunken frolics in the banquet lounge to the opaque winter darkness outside. He could well imagine the miles and miles of frozen, unlit woodland lying between himself and civilisation. Once or twice, he thought vague forms were cavorting out there, though that was unlikely. It was way too early yet; the mummers were only supposed to emerge from the Groves at midnight. Of course, no-one could say for sure, because allegedly no-one had lived to tell …
And then the moon slipped out again, and thirty yards to his right he saw a ruined building.
When he ventured towards it, he did so slowly.
It sat on top of a small hillock and was maybe fifteen feet tall at its apex. It was built from pale stone, but as Alec got closer and saw veins and greenish stains all over it, he realised that this was marble. The building was a folly, or at least that was the impression it gave. It was octagonal in shape, but in each section of wall there was an open entranceway, all equidistant from each other, all upright and perfectly rectangular.
He ascended the hill and when he reached the building, halted warily.
The entrance directly in front of him seemed more like a doorway than the others, which perhaps were merely windows. This one had a lintel, and above that an engraving: a triangle with some kind of astrological symbol in the middle, possibly the Eye of Horus, though it was difficult to tell.
Definitely a folly though.
Alec poked his head inside and sniffed. Compared to the fresh tang of the snowy wood this place smelled damp, mildewed. He hesitated before entering, but the other seven apertures allowed in sufficient moonlight to show that the place was empty, even derelict, so he proceeded. He saw that each one of the other entrances, or windows, had a stump of broken, eroded stonework set into its base. The remnants of statues, he realised, though now that his eyes were attuning to the dimness, he spotted that one of them remained intact. It occupied an aperture on the north side, but though human in outline and roughly Alec’s height, none of its features were visible because it was covered with ivy …
Apologies by the way for the title of the first book, THE CHRISTMAS YOU DESERVE. Whatever happens at the end of this year, it certainly won’t be the Christmas any of you deserve after the difficulties you’ve had to put up with during 2020. But don’t read too much into that. Here’s hoping you enjoy these festive forays into the world of sprites, ghouls and winter demons. It’s just a bit of fun, a diversion for the holiday, but one that, with luck, will also leave you so discombobulated that phrases like ‘spirit of the season’ will never mean the same thing again.
(By the way, you’ll probably have realised by now that many of the festive horror images I’ve stuck in here and there have no actual connection to either of the two books, but are generic representations of Christmas nastiness. I located them amid a bunch of images depicting scary Victorian Christmas cards, so theoretically there shouldn’t be any copyright issues. But if there are, the owners need only to let me know and I will happily give credits or take down straight away if that is required).
THRILLERS, CHILLERS, SHOCKERS AND KILLERS …
An ongoing series of reviews of dark fiction (crime, thriller, horror and sci-fi) – both old and new – that I have recently read and enjoyed. I’ll endeavour to keep the SPOILERS to a minimum; there will certainly be no given-away denouements or exposed twists-in-the-tail, but by the definition of the word ‘review’, I’m going to be talking about these books in more than just thumbnail detail, extolling the aspects that I particularly enjoyed … so I guess if you’d rather not know anything at all about these pieces of work in advance of reading them yourself, then these particular posts will not be your thing.
by Mariana Enriquez (2016)
As a writer, journalist and respected social commentator, Mariana Enriquez is widely published in her home country of Argentina, but this is the first English translation of one of her books, and it’s to the immense good fortune of all genre fans that it’s a collection of horror stories cut from some of the darkest cloth imaginable.
Before we get into it, here’s the publisher’s own official blurb:
Twelve stories of ghosts, demons and wild women; of sharp-toothed children and stolen skulls. In this sleep-stealing collection, Enriquez transports the reader to the crime-ridden streets of post-dictatorship Buenos Aires, where exhausted fathers conjure up child-killers, and young women, tired of suffering in silence, decide there’s nothing left to do but set themselves on fire.
The first thing I really noticed about this in-your-face collection of succinctly-written but hugely effective horror stories, as translated (crisply and beautifully, I have to say) by Megan McDowell, was the complexity of ways in which the horror comes to us. Even though this is a strange, dark world filled with surreal twists and endless visitations by the supernatural, it’s also a circus of real-life urban horrors.
All the way through the book, in one form or another, Mariana Enriquez soliluquizes on the deep scars her country has suffered in recent history, not just during the days of the military junta, but throughout the cash-strapped aftermath that followed. So, while we have demons and spectres, we also have feminicide and malnourished children. The bizarrely grotesque, goblins and devils, jockey for attention alongside more commonplace killers, maniacs and torturers. It’s a place where the villainies of the undead and the evils of injustice are evenly matched, where haunted houses stand amid the appalling squalour of slum neighbourhoods, meaning there is no refuge either inside of them or out.
One of the most obvious shadows that lies over Mariana Enriquez’s world is that of the well documented ‘Dirty War’, the period of repression suffered by her countrymen between 1976 and 1983, when the ruling military power imposed state terrorism on its own people, thousands who were considered a political or ideological threat kidnapped and murdered, and countless others imprisoned without trial or driven into lifelong exile.
Simply writing about this period as it happened, providing an eye-witness account of the many brutalities, would be one way to respond. But Mariana Enriquez, who was a child through most of this period, has instead chosen a more subtle approach, portraying the darkness through the prism of ghost stories and Gothic horror.
The Inn is an excellent example. In this elegant tale, schoolgirl Florencia doesn’t much care for her family’s summer home in the country, though when she’s there, she does enjoy the company of village girl, Rocio, who, in her turn, despises Elena, owner of the village hotel, ‘The Inn’. One year, when the place is empty of guests, the two girls force entry, looking to cause mischief, neither paying any attention to the fact that the fine old building was once a police training school, or that during the dictatorship, people were tortured and murdered there. You won’t need to be a student of supernatural fiction to deduce what is going to happen next, though it’s still very delicately done.
Even more subtle, is Spiderweb, in which a young woman, her objectionable husband and her beautiful cousin enjoy the country’s new-found freedoms by taking a road-trip to the border, briefly crossing over from Argentina into Paraguay, which is still a police state under the iron control of Alfredo Stroessner. Here, they are menaced by drunken soldiers, but worse is to come on the way back, when they stop at a run-down wayside hotel, for there is much that is strange on the borderland between one world and the next …
Of course, it isn’t just the dictatorship itself that haunts these pages. Following the junta’s downfall, the country entered a period of democracy, which still exists today, but happiness didn’t immediately follow as the Argentine people were dogged by corruption, hyperinflation and economic instability, and a subsequent proliferation of drugs and crime, particularly in the major urban centres.
None of the stories in Things We Lost in the Fire better illustrate this new darkness than Under the Black Water, which again examines its subject through the lens of traditional horror, even adding a Lovecraftian vibe in this instance (in fact, this is probably the most ‘horror’ of all the horror stories in this collection, so more about this one later).
The social commentary continues with The Dirty Kid, in which a middle-class woman insists on staying in her family home in Constitucion, Buenos Aires, even though the area has now gone to seed. She worries endlessly about the dirty homeless boy across the street, especially when there is a child murder in the district, the victim mutilated in a ghastly Satanic ritual.
This is typical of many of Mariana Enriquez’s tales, which are strictly adult-reading but in which the youthfulness of the protagonists is a highly worrying factor. Many are female, but at least an equal number are also children, and their vulnerability in the face of unknowable and uncontrollable forces is skin-crawling, especially in a society so deeply damaged by events that occurred before most of them were even born.
In The Intoxicated Years, a trio of rebel girls from poor backgrounds grow up drinking and taking drugs at every opportunity. They are impressed one night when they see what they believe is a ghost girl in a local park, even though for a ghost she was giving off a distinct aura of evil. When one of them finds the ghost’s ribbon, the evil starts to infect them too. A similar note of darkness and despair is struck by End of Term, the focus of which is schoolgirl who continually self-harms until she is forced to leave school. All the way through, she insists that she isn’t ill and that a man who no one else can see is instructing her to do it. She also says that this man is now taking a clear interest in her best friend …
But this disturbing combo of social blight and innocence marred is never more searingly told than in the title story, Things We Lost in the Fire, which is really one of the most horrible tales I’ve ever read, uber-dark in tone and concept, but undeniably, astonishingly effective (more details about this one later).
I don’t wish to give the wrong impression, though. While many of these stories are ‘activist’ tales, the author using fiction as the tool by which she examines and criticises her malfunctioning world, the fantasy-horror is nearly always there. Readers purely looking for a good old-fashioned scare will not go wrong with this one.
Adela’s House and The Neighbour’s Courtyard are deeply chilling ghost stories in their own right; I’d go as far as to say that the former is actually terrifying, probably the most frightening story in the book (much more about these two later). But it doesn’t stop there. In Green Red Orange, Enriquez swoops through the ‘slipstream’ school with the psychological terror tale of manic depressive Marco, who locks himself into his bedroom, from then on living only through the Internet, where he is so captivated by the sordid secrets of the Deep Web that even his ex-girlfriend can’t get through to him …
More traditional but no less alarming (so much so on both scores that this one could easily date back to the nastiest days of the Pan Horror series) is the mock-amusingly titled Invocation of the Big-Eared Runt, in which a Buenos Aires murder tour guide, increasingly frustrated by his wife’s fawning over their new child while he himself is ignored, cheerfully informs tourists about the atrocities committed by serial child killer, Santos Godino. When the murderer’s hideous apparition suddenly appears to him (and to him alone), it weaves a strange and hypnotic spell …
Overall, Things We Lost in the Fire is a fascinating, multi-layered horror collection, and one which, because it was only translated into English relatively recently, may well have slipped under the radars of many UK and US-based horror fiction fans. Well, hopefully it won’t do for much longer. Check it out now. It gets my strongest recommendation.
And now, as usual …
THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE – the movie.
Okay, no film maker has optioned this book yet (as far as I’m aware), and to be fair, if they did, they’d be undertaking the production of one very dark and grown-up horror movie. However, this part of the review is always the fun part, so I’m going to crack on with it anyway, though I’m not going to be so bold as to try to cast this one. To do this project justice, it would need to be Argentinian from start to finish, and my knowledge of Argentina’s current hottest film and TV stars is non-existent, so I have nothing of value to offer. That aside, here are my thoughts in anticipation of someone loaded with cash deciding that this radical little bunch of Latin American terror tales should immediately be adapted for the screen.
Note: As always, these four stories are NOT the ones I necessarily consider to be the best in the book, but these are the four I perceive as most filmic and most right for adaptation in a compendium horror. Of course, no such horror film can happen without a central thread, and this is where you guys, the audience, come in. Just accept that four different women have been thrown together in unusual circumstances that require them to relate spooky stories relating to modern-day Argentina.
Without further messing about, here are the stories I would choose:
Adela’s House: Teenagers Clara and Pablo are best friends with one-armed Adela. The threesome love horror films and scary stories, and when they learn that there is an abandoned, bricked-up house in their town centre, they know they must find a way to get inside. It proves to be easier than they expected, but is still a terrible, terrible mistake …
Under the Black Water: Crusading DA, Marina, is trying to implicate a corrupt cop in the murders of two teenagers who were thrown into the industrially polluted River Riachuelo, which encircles Villa Moreno, the worst slum in Buenos Aires. When she learns that one of the dead boys has been seen walking the district, she heads over there to investigate. Alone, of course. Because no one else will go there with her …
The Neighbour’s Courtyard: Paula, an ex-charity worker disgraced by her failure to save a homeless child from serious injury, moves to a new house to try to restore her failing marriage. But husband Miguel’s intolerance of her ever-deepening depression only gets worse when she starts to suspect that a little boy, whom Miguel never sees or hears, is being abused in the mysterious house next door …
Things We Lost in the Fire: When a radical feminist movement adopts self-immolation as a form of extreme protest, young Silvina is inspired to join the group and films all the ‘bonfires’ as they occur. These aren’t suicides, however, the survivors afterwards walking proudly (and hideously) scarred among their fellow citizens. Silvina is awe-stricken by them, and wonders at what point she too will be chosen …