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Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles- Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published December 5th 2020
Gods, monsters, and movie stars
horror, short story, horror anthology, short horror stories, Final Cuts, Hollywood Horror, horror stories about the entertainment industry, Ellen Datlow

Final Cuts, edited by Ellen Datlow, is a collection of eighteen horror stories about the dark side of the film industry, many from well-known authors including Josh Malerman (author of The Bird Box) and Kelly Armstrong (writer of the Otherworld series). The stories range from mildly unsettling to nail-bitingly terrifying, with one or two that are even funny. Some I loved, some made me need to put the book down for a bit and go for a walk or watch some My Little Pony or something before bed. The stories that stuck with me most were;

Das Gesicht by Dale Bailey

"Even now, after all these years, it is all the old man can do not to recoil. Even now, he remembers the flies. Even now, he dreams of them."

This one is a creepy tale from the era of silent film about an old cameraman being interviewed about a film he once made which was the end of an actress' career. The visuals from it stuck with me for a while after reading it.

Drunk Physics by Kelley Armstrong

This relatively light-hearted story was a bit of a palate cleanser after Das Gesicht. Two physics majors start a vlog where they try to explain concepts in physics while drunk.Things go well until they start to get strange, abusive comments and something mysterious appears in the background of their videos.Timey wimey stuff happens.

Exhalation by A. C. Wise

Henry has incredibly sensitive hearing, which allows him to hear things like worms crawling in the soil. His friend Paul, who he knows from their days in film school together, is now a cop. When he comes to Henry to ask for his help, Henry can't refuse him, however terrible a favour he asks. Henry must listen to a snuff film and see if he can identify anything in the sounds on tape that might help the police identify the location and find the victim and the killer.

Content warning: I suppose there is a general content warning on all horror stories, but this one, in particular, contains something awful that happens to a child, which personally I could have done without.

Aside from that, it is a beautifully written tale, which, despite the murders, is ultimately more of a love story than horror.

Scream Queen by Naithan Ballingrud

Filmmaker Alan, who has given up hope of making his own feature film, jumps at the chance to interview Jennifer Drummond, an aging actress whom he has admired since he was a teenager. Drummond reveals why she gave up acting after a single, influential role in 1970, and the reason is more bizarre and horrifying than he could have imagined.

I really liked this one. It has an HP Lovecraft vibe and a Hell of an ending.

Family by Lisa Morton

This story focuses on Hong Kong cinema for a change, and I was fascinated by the part about filmmakers being discouraged to make movies with supernatural themes after the Handover, and the ways they found to get around the rule.

Night of the Living by Paul Cornell

This story about a cinema worker dealing with the customers on senior's day is an interesting take on the zombie genre.

The One We Tell Bad Children by Laird Barron.

This one is a bizarre blend of genres- sort of an alternate history/horror/fairy tale. I am not really sure whether I liked it or not, but it was certainly different.

Altered Beast, Altered Me by John Langan

A horror author buys 'Dracula's ring', a prop used in several movies about the vampire, and its influence creeps into his work as he becomes obsessed by the legend behind it.

Vampire fans will love this one, with letter format as a homage to Dracula, and references to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Camilla, Elizabeth Bathory and numerous films.

Not all of the stories impressed me equally, but none of them were bad. It's a high-quality anthology that's sure to appeal to horror fans.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Published: June 2020
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