(Editor’s note: DOUBLE FEATURE is a column where I read at least two horror books per month in 2020 and review them for my website.)
February’s DOUBLE FEATURE: Bottled by Stephanie Ellis and Kill Hill Carnage by Tim Meyer.
If dread was a genre, Stephanie Ellis would own it. After last year’s tragic Asylum of Shadows, Ellis follows up with Bottled, a modern gothic masterpiece that gripped me in the same way Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher did. Released by Silver Shamrock Publishing in January, Bottled is a slow-burn psychological drama that rages into a climactic fire of foreboding fear. The story opens with a funeral and the main character Tyler inheriting his grandfather’s house, a place filled with nightmarish memories from his childhood. A clause in the will entices Tyler to stay the night at the home where a sinister housekeeper from his youth, the aptly named Mrs. Waites, remains. Once inside the house, Tyler tries to face down the demons haunting his family history in an attempt to stop a generational cycle of horror. As expected, bottles play a key part in the story and in the symbolism of the Vitrum family. The bottles are works of art created by Tyler’s ancestors, holding miniature settings of beauty and danger so lifelike that you can smell the scenes from within the glass. By the end, Ellis has led the reader down to the basement of the Vitrum family secrets, a room where the sins of the fathers are as real as the bones of their bodies.
Kill Hill Carnage
The 2018 novel Kill Hill Carnage, published by Sinister Grin Press, is my first exposure to author Tim Meyer. It won’t be the last. Kill Hill Carnage is a fast-paced creature feature with a 1980s B-movie vibe. I spent all of my teenage years in the ’80s, so horror that hearkens back to my favorite decade is right up my alley. I expected to read a typical Friday the 13th slasher. You know the kind. Not-so-bright college students spend the night in the forest at an abandoned location where a slaughter happened 25 years ago. Kill Hill Carnage begins as that kind of trope (which I enjoy), but Meyer injects the plot with a couple of major twists, and suddenly I’m reading a story more akin to the 2011 film The Cabin in the Woods. Once the action kicks into high gear, Kill Hill Carnage never lets off the gas pedal and ends with a gut-punch. Fans of fast-paced ’80s style gorefests should enjoy.
March’s DOUBLE FEATURE: True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik and The F***ing Zombie Apocalypse by Bryan Smith.