(Editor’s note: SHORT SHOTS is a column where I review horror short stories.)
“Slashbacks” by Bram Stoker Award-winning author Tim Waggoner is a vicious little wish-fulfillment tale of vengeance set inside a horror movie lover’s dream video store. The short story appears in the 2022 anthology Attack from the ’80s edited by Eugene Johnson and published by Cemetery Dance Publications. Attack from the ’80s also features a nostalgic introduction by filmmaker Mick Garris.
In “Slashbacks,” Dwayne Hunt is the horror movie lover who stumbles upon a mysterious storefront called ThrillerKillers! on his way home from work. Dwayne intends to find a bar to drown the anger that still lingers from his wife’s actions the day before, but the blood-red letters of the sign lure him to the video store.
The first moment Dwayne steps inside and views the formidable decor on the walls, his mind is assaulted by voices from his past shaming him for his interest in horror. The nameless employee behind the counter is a Gothic woman, pale and tattooed, with dark, shimmering eyes. She issues Dwayne a membership card, and he begins browsing the aisles.
When some of the video selections feature familiar faces on the covers, cruel memories are triggered, and old wounds are reopened. Inside the store, Dwayne feels the pain of his past encounters as raw and real as when they actually happened. Shaken, Dwayne decides to leave the store and never return, but the woman stops him with a question: “You’re not going to leave without checking out the back room, are you?”
Oh, boy! I bet you want to know what’s in the back room. Well, you’ll have to read Waggoner’s story to find out. Suffice to say, fans of horror fiction are going to love the back room … just hopefully not as much as Dwayne.