Splatterpunk Forever edited by Jack Bantry
Splatterpunk Zine (November 2018)
158 pages; $8.99 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Damon Smith
Two years ago saw the release of Splatterpunk is Not Dead. Now Jack Bantry is back editing a new collection of Splatterpunk stories with Splatterpunk Forever. Does this second inning hit it out of the park? Read on to find out.
Short story collections are a bit of an odd beast. Not only do they survive on the quality of their content, but everything from the order that the stories are presented in to how well they fit the overall theme could hurt or help a reader’s enjoyment. Thankfully, on this macro scale, Forever succeeds. Bantry has chosen a great collection of stories that flow together very well; nothing presented here is too short or too long. Nor do any of the stories feel wildly off theme. In fact, I feel this collection is a great starter set to how diverse Splatterpunk can really be.
The collection kicks off with “The Seacreator” by Ryan Harding. A creature feature right out of the ’90s direct-to-video era, what it lacks in tension it makes up for in imagery and atmosphere. Shades of Edward Lee’s more sci-fi themed works such as Slither or Monstrosity echo throughout as we learn what’s really out on, and under, the ocean. Just don’t drink the sap. Not the best story in the collection, but something I would definitely love to see expanded to a full novel.
“Garrote,” by Lydian Faust, starts off on a weird experimental note, but quickly settles into a straightforward groin-punch of short story that puts the “punk” in Splatterpunk. Definitely a tale more grounded in modern events, which may make it hit or miss for some. What it does, it does well, leading up to a finale that’s A Clockwork Orange through the lens of Troma Entertainment.
Next up, “The Junkyard Shift,” by Ryan C. Thomas, is easily the most realistic story in the collection. Low on gore, but high on grit and modern-noir trappings, the sense of reality in the story of a hit job’s aftermath gives it a bit more of an emotional punch than the others in this book.
Written by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, “Cougars” feels very much like a modern day take on Tales from the Crypt. More focused on setting up puns and building tension than being as gory as its fellow stories, it’s nonetheless a fun, sex-filled road trip into the back hills of Mexico with a climax none of these bachelors will forget.
“Guinea Pig Blues” is a more straightforward story. Taking a page from the melt-films of the ’90s, it’s heavier on slime than on gore. While having a good EC Comics vibe like “Cougars,” it ultimately is a tale of medical experimentation that feels like a weaker take on “The Seacreator.” Out of all the stories in the collection, I think I’m least likely to revisit this one.
Much like “Garrote,” “Blood on the Walls” by Saul Bailey is tied in with modern events, but features even more heavy-handed imagery that could make it hit or miss for some readers. A wild ride that goes from political sexual parody to Lovecraftian horror then back again. It feels like a bizarre nightmare for better or for worse. This leads to a romp that’s a bit harder to follow than the others in this collection, but one that’s at least worth one read to see if it’s your thing.
“Chum” by Nathan Robinson is my personal favorite in the collection. I know I keep mentioning Tales from the Crypt and EC Comics, but more than any other story in this collection, I feel this creature feature fits the bill the best. I could practically see the cheap comic book ink. Excellently paced and written, if there’s any story that you should read in Forever it’s this one. Sharks, blood, and revenge, what more could you want?
Alessandro Manzaetti brings some 2000 AD-inspired bizarro to the collection with “The Bearded Lady.” A character piece set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s quick to the punch and darkly humorous. Another personal favorite in the collection and a world I’d be interested in seeing more of. Special kudos to the translator, Daniele Bonfanti, for making the English translation read so well.
Equal parts slasher and revenge story, “Finger Paint“ by Robert Essig is what happens when you stitch together Stephen King and Splatterpunk. Another favorite in the collection for me, it’s brutal and fast paced, with a Final Destination-infused finale that is well worth the price of admission.
Feeling more like a preview of a bigger novel, “Diamond in the Rough” jumps wildly from crime thriller to creature feature. You can feel grindhouse roots throughout in a tale of revenge that quickly takes on a new dimension. This story is helped by what is easily one of the strongest main characters in this collection.
Splatterpunk Forever closes with a bitter, brutal bang with Monica J. O’Rourke’s “Virtue of Stagnant Waters.” While it is definitely the least “fun” to read, this tale of kidnapping and worse things shows O’Rourke’s strength in crafting gripping, bleak, nihilistic stories. Little answers are given to the violence on page and it makes everything hit just a little harder because of it. Out of everything in the collection, it’s easily the story that has stuck with me the most, an incredibly strong way to wrap things up.
While Splatterpunk Forever has a bit of a slow start, it gradually picks up speed before sending you off with five incredibly strong stories in the back-end. No matter if you’re a fan of the genre or curious to see what Splatterpunk is like, this collection is definitely worth a pickup. Bantry really knocked it out of the park with the selection for this edition, plenty of great talent, gore, and stories that will stick with you. What else could a Splatterpunk fan need?