Few are the goose bumps in this new collection by the veteran British horrormeister.
You’ve got your restless undead, your voracious vampires, your screams, your groans, your inexplicables and imponderables, and all the rest of the spooky standbys spread throughout this macabre dozen. Masterton (Snowman, p. 21, etc.) is certainly familiar with the genre’s hot buttons, but he just might have pushed them so often that he’s become as dependent on them as a short-order cook on her microwave oven. What’s lacking is artistry—the creative spark that can coax even creaky old zombies to life once more. The young victim of “Out of Her Depth,” for instance, drowns in a puddle that grows wider and deeper with her every step. But since we never learn anything about her, it’s hard to shiver at her fate. In “Lolicia,” a man savages a woman sexually, ends by killing her, and suffers a dispiritingly contrived retribution. Sexual savagery is again pivotal in “Heroine,” and again the end is both predictable and unconvincing. The Jack in “Jack Be Quick” is Jack Kennedy, and in this tasteless addendum to conspiracy theory literature, the born-again president (resurrected, literally, through a combination of mysterious drug, neo-voodooism, and infernal compact) is such a clear and present danger to his country that his nearest and dearest take him out in the interests of patriotism. And so on down a lackluster list, except for “The Ballyhoolly Boy,” a near-miss about a ghostly nerd’s revenge on the bullies who once made his school days miserable. Characters who had room for a few more nuances might have made this one memorably scary.
Hardly any chills, but lots of explicit sex. Your move.