Friday, 17 December 2010

The Power of Three - 5th Installment

I’ve finally yielded to the clamour from without. And no, I’m not talking about the gangs of so-called carol singers who routinely bombard our front doors with their tuneless ditties in this part of the world during December. But those avid horror fans who won’t stop demanding that I dedicate my next two Fridays to choosing trios of terror tales with a specific Yuletide flavour.

So here we go. As always, there’s no rhyme or reason to these selections (apart from the Christmas element). I’ve not picked them with regard to preference or anything like that. They’ve come out of a hat in no particular order. But hopefully, there’s a least at least something here you won’t yet be familiar with and can now go and spend your entire Christmas holiday looking for. If there isn’t, I’ll be doing one more batch of festive favourites next Friday, which of course is Christmas Eve (so then you’ll really have nothing else to do but read my twaddle).

And All Around The House by Jack Oleck

Bored by her life in the suburbs, a scheming housewife elects to murder her husband on Christmas Eve, but can’t dispose of the body because a maniac killer, who’s escaped from the asylum, turns up outside dressed as Santa and demands to be let in.

Probably the ultimate Christmas horror story. So evocative of the season, and yet so utterly terrifying (and possessed of such a horrific twist at the end) that it’s perhaps no surprise it has been adapted twice for movie and TV horror portmanteaux. Oleck’s tale, which admittedly, is based on Milton Subotsky’s original movie script (which in turn was adapted from EC comic book stories by Johnny Craig, Al Feidstein and Bill Gaines), has been forgotten a little because of these quality celluloid incarnations, but it still stands on its own feet as a masterly slice of pulp fiction, and is a must-read for all fans of the festive fright.

First published in TALES FROM THE CRYPT (the movie version of which is pictured), 1972.

A Dickensian Christmas by Lanyon Jones

An elderly lady journeys to a country hotel to spend a Dickensian themed Christmas. However, the place is rather gloomy and heavy snowfalls mean that she is the only guest. In addition, she then learns that there is something very unpleasant down in the basement.

A curious choice maybe because this is at heart a gentle, rather charming ghost story, which is also tinged with sadness. But it does boast one particular incident which must be among the most hair-raising that I’ve ever read – and as said incident is prolonged over several pages, there is no easy way to forget it afterwards. Overall, a tale of lost loves and decayed revenants, which is perhaps not as well-known as others in the selection box of Yuletide chillers (and neither, it’s true to say, is its author), but because it rises to such a peak of spectacular nightmarishness, it would take pride of place in any seasonal anthology that I was compiling.

First published in the SECOND BOOK OF AFTER MIDNIGHT STORIES, 1986.

Loving Angels by Gary McMahon

Ten-year-old Tom has lost his dad in Iraq, and faces a terrible Christmas alone with his grieving mother and senile Grandma. At the same time, a paper angel that he made at school but which he now hates because it reminds him of happier times, has gone missing from the Christmas tree. It’s in the house somewhere, but where … and why is Tom increasingly afraid of it?

Gary McMahon’s ultra-dark and often despair-filled urban fantasies are rapidly becoming high points of the horror year for me, and this one was no exception. Christmas has never been as bleak as it is in this story, but, as is often the case with Gary’s work, this is a multi-layered fable, which while on one hand it delivers a perceptive study of a child’s anger that the adults he’s depended on for so long are all failing him (and at exactly the wrong time of year), it is also a horror story, and the undercurrent of supernatural evil (or is it just madness?) grows steadily stronger, finally reaching a sanity-shattering climax. Read this one if you fancy shedding a little darkness into your world of Christmas light.

First published in the GRAY FRIAR CHRISTMAS CHAPBOOK, 2007.

No comments:

Post a Comment