Written by: Drake Morgan
I love Poppy Z. Brite. I’ve read her books, shorts stories, and blog. I buy books just because she does the introduction. Her dark fiction is my favorite, and I’ve been hearing rumors about her return to horror writing for months now. I think I’ve found her. In the new anthology, Enter at Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences, there is a story from an “anonymous” author. It has Brite’s style all over it. But I get ahead of myself.
This is a unique horror collection. There are four incredibly famous stories. Poe’s “The Black Cat,” Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu,” and Polidori’s “The Vampyre.” Each one is a masterpiece on its own, but there are also stories from modern authors about these famous stories. Each modern writer takes a character and rewrites the story from a new point of view.
Poe opens the collection. The classic tale is a first-person story told by a madman. In what I believe to be Brite’s story, the tale is turned inside out and we see everything from the black cat’s perspective. Suddenly a tale of madness takes on a dark, fierce tone as this small creature battles human evil for its survival. The story becomes a battles of wits setting Man against the animal kingdom. The story has Brite’s lyrical, poetic style throughout. Both of the other offerings are interesting, including a view questioning the very authorship of the tale, but the “anonymous” story is the standout in this set.
We move on to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” T. Fox Dunham takes the macabre rivalry between Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones and gives it a twist that gives the story a completely different meaning. Marcus Kohler gets inside the mind of the headless horseman and we finally learn why the dark rider carries his head around under his arm! The story also creates a chilling link between the town and the ghost that will leave you with shivers every time you pass through those small, isolated places.
The two stories for Lovecraft are both brilliant. Mike Chinn builds a surreal, fantastical tone as he tells the story of the Necronomicon. It’s a dark tale, and links with the theme that “anonymous” uses in the Poe. Man is the evil that warps the world. Gregory Norris continues that same theme in his exploration of Chtulhu. Man becomes the genesis of sinister evil. Darkness feeds on humanity and we give it strength. Humanity is definitely not the victim here.
John Polidori’s story, “The Vampyre” set the stage for vampires in the 1800’s. Anne Rice resurrected that image and returned the elegant, sinister fanged one to the horror world. B.E. Scully’s version, called “The Tygre,” reveals a world even more macabre than Polidori’s blood-sucking Lord Ruthven. Potions, spells, murder, soul transfers, and vampires are the only answer for a young woman trapped in a world of frilly gowns, shallow conversation, and marriage.
I was disappointed here and there, particularly with the last story. Ruthven is the mysterious center in the original story, but we really don’t ever learn that much about him. Polidori never develops the character and this collection missed the opportunity to fill in the gaps. The last story doesn’t follow the events of the original book. There are glimpses here and there, but the long passages about Charles Darwin, dolls, and London magazines weren’t what I was looking for. I wanted Ruthven. The killer, The seductive, sinister vampire. Aubrey’s tale vilified him. Was there a story of redemption there? We never get it.
This is a daring anthology. In something this tough, there were bound to be weak spots. The classic tales are masterpieces worth the read on their own. Each new perspective gives the old story a different angle and infuses the old stories with new blood. A great read.