Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Hardcore horror is having a renaissance within the genre. Authors, such as Ryan Harding, Wrath James White, and Bryan Smith, have pushed the levels of violence and sexual misconduct beyond their splatterpunk forefathers of the 1980s. In the 21st century, nothing is taboo. Nothing is off limits.
Horror has never been for the faint of heart, but hardcore horror has moved beyond the struggle between good and evil. Rarely are there heroes or happy endings. The only guiding principle among the authors writing within the subgenre is the notion that evil begets evil.
In the End, Only Darkness, by Monica J. O’Rourke, is a book that lives up to its title. It is hardcore horror by one of the forerunners within the subgenre. A collection of poetry, flash fiction, and short stories, In the End, Only Darkness is an uncompromising vision of evil in its myriad forms. The book includes the pieces:
What She Sees
Jasmine & Garlic
Vade in Pacem
Five Adjectives about my Dad, by Nadine Specter
The Rest of Larry
The Three Wishes of Henry Horgan
Not with a Bang
An Experiment in Human Nature
Dancing into October Country
Feeding Desire (with Jack Fisher)
Rape and self-mutilation are the tip of the iceberg, in a collection that directs much of the violence towards children and women. In stories, such as “Huntin’ Season,” O’Rourke moves beyond infanticide to describe the taste of “fried baby pecker.” “Jasmine & Garlic” twists the concept of abortion to include a doctor’s sexual perversity for amniotic fluid.
“Attainable Beauty” may be the strongest (and scariest) within the collection. It focuses on one woman’s obsession with Georgia O’Keefe’s White Camelia. In this tale, it is clear that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The woman will stop at nothing to achieve perfection both in herself and in her niece.
Another forerunner is “Nurturing Type.” The story examines what happens when a father is shipwrecked with his two children on a deserted island. He wasn’t going to win any father of the year trophies before being trapped in the Caribbean, but now he is getting hungry. The question is quickly becoming not how will they survive, but which of his children will taste better.
Perhaps most surprising to those unfamiliar with hardcore horror is the black comedy prevalent throughout many of the tales. It isn’t subtle. The author wants to shock you through your own laughter at such terrible deeds. The true horror in the collection is the reader’s own inability to turn away at the evil before them.
O’Rourke’s writing isn’t for everyone or even a majority of horror fans. However, if you enjoy hardcore horror, this collection is for you. In the End, Only Darkness is a celebration of the malevolent and immoral world we pray only exists in our nightmares.