Lost Films edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle
Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing (August 2018)
226 pages, $18.95 paperback; $6 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
We all love films, both personal home videos and big screen productions. They become a part of our lives. But what do we do when our lives interweave with the celluloid?
I jumped on this puppy primarily because of the presence of two of my favorite writers of the new wave, Betty Rocksteady and Jessica McHugh, and they didn’t disappoint. Rocksteady’s “Elephants that Aren’t” stands as a picture-perfect example to other purveyors of the weird and bizarre; such a surreal but grounded experience that really packs a wallop. Then Jess comes in with “Things She Left in the Woods,” a deceptively simple yarn of an abandoned shack in the woods that twists the folk-horror approach of creepypasta and fleshes it out with her deft hand at character. These two would be worth the ticket price on their own.
But there is plenty more here to rave over. Gemma Files gives us an intriguing exploration of lost religion and the ways in which we bury it via a barely-remembered film that works to trap a young woman within it in “The Church in the Mountains.” Meanwhile, Kristi DeMeester’s “Stag” stands as a heck of a thematic counterpoint, birthing a new religion from a love denied by family traditions steeped in self-loathing and repression. The damn thing is beautiful, and possesses one of the best plays of connotation versus denotation in a single word title I know of. Fair warning that the closer, “The Fantastic Flying Eraser Heads,” is more of a novelette than a short story, but it uses the space to explore those silly “Mandela Effect” conspiracy theories via the use of videocassettes as a metaphor for cultural memory, and that is pretty awesome.
Yeah, there are a few that lean too much on regurgitating themes from Carpenter’s In the Mouth Of Madness, and some bits that rely too much on a witty idea over story and character. It’s hard to come across an anthology that doesn’t have those issues. Overall, though, I dug the willingness to play with some really bizarre ideas and found some refreshing new voices here in addition to the ones I came to read.