The Vaseline Dream Squad Horror: Gil-Ethan Logwood
Reviewed By Ben Walker
The most horrifying thing about Gil-Ethan Logwood’s The Vaseline Dream Squad Horror is its initial setting – a call centre. The titular squad are a bunch of phone sex operators who start receiving sinister messages, eventually forcing them into a confrontation with a mysterious evil force.
Call centres are not the most thrilling of places to set a story, which is probably why you don’t see many of them. That’s where characters become key – look at Chris Bauer in the Masters of Horror episode Sounds Like. No matter how dull that episode got, you had Bauer’s increasingly frustrated call centre manager mugging and scowling his way through every pencil bite and tap drip.
The characters here are little more than names on a page, with the opening scenes more concerned with talk of sales targets and office layouts, plus some tired office banter. Because you know so little about the staff being terrorised, it’s hard to stay invested once the demonic prankster dials into their system. One character simply leaves early on, and his colleagues barely seem phased. There’s no lasting impact on them or the overall story, nothing’s explained about the character or their motivation for leaving. They’re just gone, and maybe this is a sly critique on attitudes towards disposable office staff, but it doesn’t make for an interesting set-up.
This same theme of things just happening continues through the whole story, with a surreal scene in which the call centre staff are sent a bunch of black flowers. These dark roses offer different scents depending on the person sniffing them, which you might expect to lead somewhere. Instead, the bouquet is given its own paragraph in which their unusual blackness is over-described to the point of comedy, and someone pricks their thumb, and that’s about it. Once again, after they’ve had their moment, the flowers are forgotten about with nothing to suggest why they were sent or what they were meant to do. You can’t even draw your own conclusions, because no mention is made of them again.
You do get one moment of horror when a tragic car crash kills a school bus full of kids. A few effectively chilling descriptions rush past before the story gets bogged down in telling you about a girl with pigtails with a bent finger, who offers a prescient line before never appearing again. The point of the segment is to highlight just how evil the call centre staff’s demonic tormentor is and to trap the team into making a vile choice, but it’s also forgotten about just as fast as it happens.
After this, the story blunders towards a confusing climax, which is explained away in an epilogue so far removed from the actual events it describes that it has about as much impact as a feather on a lake. There’s nothing satisfying about the inevitable final encounter of good versus evil, and even less to smile about when the paper-thin characters eventually see a spark of hope in their futures. The ending doesn’t feel earned in any way, you just look on as people you don’t know do things you’re not invested in.
If you leave Vaseline in an unsealed container for long enough, it dries out, and no matter how much you rub it, you’ll never get it to do what it’s meant to be doing. That’s what this novella feels like, an idea that sat out for too long and lost all its juice. There are some promising parts, but never enough to make this feel like a vital purchase.
The Vaseline Dream Squad Horror
For Rory and the other employees at a tawdry but efficient Internet sex site, one day things go suddenly, miraculously, terrifyingly right off the rails.
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.