It Came From The Multiplex: Edited By Joshua Viola
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Much like a movie, It Came from the Multiplex from Hex Publishers doesn’t get straight into the good stuff. Instead of trailers, there’s both a foreword and an introduction, during which I was impatiently munching on my popcorn, waiting for the main attraction, namely 14 short stories from an interesting lineup of authors.
Once the lights dim, there’s a lot to like about this anthology. It’s got a pulpy feel, the same schlocky vibe that 80’s and early 90’s horror exuded, where teens do questionable things in the darkness, out of which monsters lurch, half-seen, to infect, intimidate or injure the young cast. Many stories are set in and around those bygone eras, lending them an instantly nostalgic feel. I’ve never been to a drive-in, but the descriptions here easily plant you amongst the speaker stands, in dusty vistas where horrors lurk both on and off the screen. Plus, the artwork from Aaron Lovett, AJ Nazzaro and Xander Smith helps put you in the right frame of mind.
Even though some of the offerings don’t stick to a lean running time, the chills and thrills are still pretty effective, from alien invasions to angry spirits, killer bugs to serial killers. In the spirit of Jonathan Janz’s Witching Hour Theatre or Clive Barker’s Son of Celluloid, many of the tales blend reality and cinema in gorily entertaining ways, which means sometimes both you and the characters are left wondering what’s real and what’s not.
There’s a good mixture of one location stories and ones which move around with their characters, so don’t feel like you’re going to be stuck in the middle row for the duration with some jerk kicking the back of your seat. You might want to get up and stretch your legs every once in a while though, maybe pick up a snack from the lobby, because despite the variety, there are only so many stories you can read in one sitting before they start feeling a bit samey.
The stand out for me here was Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s Negative Creep, and appropriately for a title that transported me back to my Nirvana fanboy days, this is a tale told via flashback, with a bizarre supernatural entity stalking a bunch of movie-loving teens. There’s a creeping dread to the scenes where some of the cast are pursued by this weird spirit-thing, but besides that, the story delivers a timely message about the importance of film in people’s lives.
Other tales worthy of a spot on the highlight reel include Betty Rocksteady’s Rise, ye Vermin! which pits a pair of put-open cinema workers against an imaginative menace at closing time, providing lots of squishy gore and a thoroughly satisfying ending. Mario Acevedo’s Invisible slinks along with effective tension as we follow a man preying on moviegoers, until he picks up some unwanted attention, bringing to mind stalker horrors like Maniac, where you’re pushed uncomfortably close to the killer’s mind and their actions. And Stephen Graham Jones proves his mastery of the horror genre once again with Coming Attractions, perfectly encapsulating a teenage love of movies and getting into mischief, giving you a jolt of terror when you least expect it.
This would usually be the part of the review where I make a load more movie-based puns – “grab yourself a ticket”, “turn off your phone and settle in for some entertainment” and so on, but I don’t really know what going to the movies is going to look like post-Covid. Good thing then that this book offers so many fantastic, evocative tributes to the good old days.
It Came From The Multiplex
Welcome to tonight’s feature presentation, brought to you by an unholy alliance of our spellcasters at Hex Publishers and movie-mages at the Colorado Festival of Horror. Please be advised that all emergency exits have been locked for this special nostalgia-curdled premiere of death. From crinkling celluloid to ferocious flesh—from the silver screen to your hammering heart—behold as a swarm of werewolves, serial killers, Satanists, Elder Gods, aliens, ghosts, and unclassifiable monsters are loosed upon your auditorium. Relax, and allow our ushers to help with your buckets of popcorn—and blood; your ticket stubs—and severed limbs; your comfort candy—and body bags. Kick back and scream as you settle into a fate worse than Hell. Tonight’s director’s cut is guaranteed to slash you apart.
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.