Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Genital Grinder is a collection of short stories written by Ryan Harding. While Harding’s name may not be instantly recognizable among the hardcore horror authors of the 21st century, it probably should be. Both Edward Lee and Brian Keene have praised the author for his uncompromising style. There are few works that hold up to the gore and sexual perversion presented in Genital Grinder.
The collection includes:
Enjoy the Gang Rape (an introduction by Edward Lee)
Genital Grinder: A Snuff Film in Five Acts
Genital Grinder II: Dis-Membered
Aftermath (summary with notes on each tale)
While each story is a standalone narrative, the characters, events, and setting carry over from tale to tale. The two primary protagonists are Greg and Von. Taking on an almost Beavis and Butthead like role, the necrophilia-loving morons show up in three of the seven tales and their exploits are mentioned in several others. The boys’ behavior is offensive and often inappropriately humorous.
In “Damaged Goods,” Greg and Von find the corpse of a hit and run victim. Our duo take the body home for a little fun only to find out to late that the victim is Von’s cousin, Sarah Pensie. Von ponders whether his sexual acts are incestuous, while Greg finds a use for Pensie’s full bladder.
Then in “Genital Grinder: A Snuff Film in Five Acts,” Greg and Von take the plunge into murder. They capture several celebrities including a porn star and news reporter in an effort to make a snuff film. The boys believe this is their ticket to becoming celebrities themselves. They are not just going to kill them. To make the moment special, they have brought some toys including a cheese grater and a screwdriver.
The duo return in “Genital Grinder II: Dis-Membered” with a get rich quick scheme. This time ransom is the ticket, but what to capture? A man treasures his penis above all things. They decide that is what they will take. If that doesn’t work, he will pay for his girlfriend, right? Hijinks ensue as Greg finds things to eat more disgusting than an aborted fetus.
Genital Grinder is an ode to the splatterpunk of the 1980s and early 1990s taken to even more extreme and absurd levels. It clear that Harding was inspired by Brite, Ketchum, Laymon, Lee, and Skipp among others. He has decided to do his best to upstage them. It is debatable as to whether or not he accomplishes this task. Certainly, the violence and sex is there, but the complexity and underlying narrative is not.
There are no heroes or morals here. These tales are exploitive. They are acts of evil meant to delight an audience wanting to laugh at the misfortune of others. The true horror is in the fact that Ryan Harding succeeds. You will smile throughout the collection at both the shock and hilarity of the situations.
However, the absence of a moral compass ultimately causes the long-term impact of these tales to falter. Harding isn’t so much pointing out societal ills, but rather embracing them. Genital Grinder is an entertaining escape with an unmatched level of depravity, not a classic.