Written by: Josh Black
Bad Apples, the first anthology by these five indie horror heavyweights, was an auspicious one with strong potential to become a Halloween classic, and one of my favorite reads of 2014. Dead Roses has a looser theme, dealing as it does with “twisted love” in various forms and degrees, but rest assured it’s just as strong as its predecessor. Each story is unique, yet fits alongside the others perfectly well (except for the last, but it sure as hell fits the theme.)
Jason Parent gets the ball rolling this time around with “Eleanor”, a tale of covetous love and a parent’s protective nature gone horribly askew. Its subdued and poignant approach to the genre does well to get under the reader’s skin, so to speak, and it’s a good choice to start the book with.
“Love Lies in Eyes”, Evans Light’s contribution, is peppered with his brand of black humor but is dead serious and moving in parts. In search of “The One”, its ordinary college dude protagonist becomes entangled with a decidedly extraordinary lover, marking the beginning of a vicious cycle with more than its fair share of heartache, heartbreak, and murder.
Adam Light’s “Panacea” deals with terminal illness and the lengths we’d go to heal a loved one. Sometimes, unfortunately, those lengths just happen to be forced upon us and rife with unspeakable horror. This is by far the most visceral story up to this point, and will appease the bloody cravings of all you gorehounds out there.
Edward Lorn is up next with “Cinder Block”, a story in which the mentally unstable (to put it kindly) and spurned narrator conflates love, lust, possession, and violence with extreme abandon. It’s a short, nasty little piece with a fitting title.
Lorn laid claim to the wildest story in Bad Apples, but in Dead Roses Gregor Xane goes way beyond what-the-hell-did-i-just read territory with “Loving the Goat”. It’s another story with a fitting title, but one that gives only an inkling of what you’re getting into. Covering a wide swath of genres, from gross-out horror to comedy to sci-fi to detective fiction, this one closes out the anthology on a bat-shit crazy note and a bang in more than one sense of the word.
As with any anthology, not all of the stories in Dead Roses will be to everyone’s taste, but I urge all horror fans to pick this one up. It’s well-written across the board, and provides a glimpse into the singular imaginations of five of today’s most talented writers of horror. Here’s hoping they keep going with this whole shared anthology thing, because this is the kind of stuff the genre needs more of.