Jingle Hells: Lee Richmond & Mark M. J. Green
Reviewed By Ben Walker
I like Xmas, I like puns, so how could I refuse a collection of 2 festive frighteners to check out? I have to say the cover did put me off a little, but my need for yuletide yikes drove me past that and right into the first story, Driving Home for Christmas.
That title may well set off alarm bells for anyone from the UK. Every Brit knows that when December rolls around, listening to the radio is like Russian roulette for the eardrums, each turn of the dial or press of the button bringing you that much closer to the moribund stylings of Chris Rea as he drones out his most banal of Xmas tunes. Thanks to this story’s title, that cursed ditty was bouncing round my head before I even read the intro, which gives you a quote from National Lampoons before getting down to business.
All that mood setting falls apart fairly soon as the miserable character of Gary is introduced, on an ill-fated trip home to confront his cheating partner. Xmas songs are named and sung along to, and used as chapter headings, but this isn’t a happy holiday, far from it. Soon Gary is fighting a troupe of murderous elves.
It’s a sometimes fun, often cheesy idea bogged down with a fair bit of over-explanation. Gary fancies himself as an action hero but never feels convincing as one, and the elves, while maliciously evil in that 80s movie kind of way, never feel like too much of a threat. They’re more Ghoulies than Gremlins, wisecracking little bastards with silly seasonal names who meet the occasional sticky end. It’s a creature feature where it’s hard to cheer for either the hero or the beasties, and not something I’d want to read as an annual tradition.
The other story is Do You Hear What I Hear? – again, successful in driving an earworm into your skull from the get-go. But again, it starts with its lead character of Albert complaining about things, and generally being a miserable old git, and so it felt like another uphill battle trying to get to the meat of the matter.
It feels like someone put Shaun of the Dead and Feast in a blender but took out most of the jokes before pouring the remainders onto the page and hoping for some pathos to stick. It’s very by the numbers, people getting picked off one by one, and then it throws in a bit of extra lore which you might not have been expecting as the monsters get their own POV. Those parts were far more interesting than the plight of the pub goers, despite some wince-inducing scenes involving violence towards children. It’s more of a Feast 2 in that regard, so probably not everyone’s cup of cocoa.
All told, this is very much a Xmas horror book for those who don’t really like the season. If that’s you, then you’ll probably get a lot more out of it than I did.
It’s the most wonderful time for the fear.
Pour yourself a glass of eggnog. Deck the halls with bloody holly.
Horror writers, Lee Richmond and Mark M J Green (Medley of the Macabre) bring you two tales of festive frights.
Driving Home for Christmas – Lee Richmond.
Gary Holbrook is driving home to his family on Christmas Eve when he witnesses something crash into the woods.
Gary, channelling the bravado of his hero, David Hasselhoff, decides to investigate.
What Gary discovers is a scene straight out of a Christmas card from Hell.
Will Gary survive the night, or will this (as George Michael once sang) be his last Christmas?
Driving Home for Christmas is a comedy/horror story in the vein of Evil Dead, but with a seasonal twist.
Do You Hear What I Hear – Mark M J Green.
Albert was looking forward to a few pre-Christmas drinks in his local pub with his best friend Mick.
But a grisly discovery in the snow leads to a fight for survival as the pub comes under siege from nightmarish beasts.
Trapped, cut off from the outside world and with a storm raging, can they survive the night?
Imagine Shaun of the Dead, The Thing and The Mist thrown into a blender and you’re halfway there.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.