Hell Comes To Hollywood: An Anthology of Short Horror Fiction Set In Tinseltown Written By Hollywood Genre Professionals (Volume 1) [Paperback]

I quite like the premise of “Hell Comes to Hollywood.” Create a short horror story that in some way involves Hollywoodland and its devices. In that general framework, Eric Miller’s compendium of various horror stories from a cadre of actual Hollywood screenwriters and television writers makes Hollywood feel so bleak and hopeless. There are no happy endings in any of the stories presented here, and thankfully there isn’t a bad story to be read either.

The stories here range from forgettable to really damn good. Even the worst story is really just a groaner that will inspire you to quickly flip to the next story hoping for the best. Most of “Hell Comes to Hollywood” does tend to fall in to the trappings of monotony most times, which is a caveat. The writers base their stories on vapid shallow human beings or the horrors of the movie studio system, and there’s never really anything that breaks out from the pair of themes. Sometimes they collide in the most unusual ways.

I would have loved to see something more interesting all things considered. Regardless there are some really good stories to be told here, and I enjoyed myself when I found a gem. My favorite is easily “Bad Fix” by author Paul J. Salamoff about four Hollywood wannabes who get golden tickets to the hottest club in the city. When they’re invited in to the VIP section for exclusive clubbers, they seek out the new drug “Feather” from enigmatic club owner Stefan, that promises the greatest high in the world. I have to say I did not see that finale coming and was shocked to see how it ended. “I’d Like to Thank…” from Jed Strahm and Ray G. Ing. is a short but brutally disgusting and demented gem about an uptight has been actress who spends most of her time treating people like trash. When given a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming Oscars, she eagerly awaits a fur dress from the best dressmaker in Hollywood, and gets a surprise.

It’s a fantastic and well written little interlude with a truly disturbing ending that made me grin from ear to ear. “Pyre” from Travis Baker is much more tragic than anything, with the story of an old man preparing to do battle with a fire that’s strangling the Hollywood hills. In spite of his distant son and daughter’s attempts to get him to safety, he remains in his house prepared to confront the fire and re-visits the last years of his marriage that only he considered a great union, in spite of his children’s inherent hatred toward him. With a sick final scene, it’s a twisted look at the conscience and reaping what we sew. Alan Bernhoft’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollywood” doesn’t really make much sense, but it breaks out of the doldrums of the morality stories for the most part. It’s a surreal tale of an alien, a hunter, and Hollywood icons watching with glee. Author Joseph Dougherty’s “Town Car” is exactly the kind of the story I expected from him, but it’s still a very good short thriller. Centered on a limo driver who has simply had enough, he spends his nights deciding which of the vapid Hollywood youths will live and die. When confronted with a young partier too drunk to stand, he begins quizzing her on American history, and it could very well mean life or death.

It’s a dark and depressing warning about the decline of American culture and the dark road we’re headed. Author Richard Tenne’s “The Power” is predictable, but still very well written and a vivid look at a writer’s worst nightmare. When confronted with a psychic who can help him break out of his dry spell after a successful screenplay put him on the map, he violently confronts his absolute worst demon imaginable with surprising results. I enjoyed the message, in the end. Author Jamison Rotch’s “The Box” is a classic tale of a man whose fame has come with a price. Our character simply called “The Man” is watching his fame waning and has decided it’s time for another trip to the bank. When he arrives home with his mysterious box, he’s prepared to offer up another innocent soul all for the price of more fame he professes to hate. It’s a sick drug, but one he’s happy to endure. If you want an insane, funny, and absolutely ridiculous horror story, Shane Bitterling’s “They Go in Threes” is a riot of a black comedy that features a wannabe Entertainment reporter named Kalvin who is desperate to become the new host for his network, along with the station’s female editor. Sadly, the chair is held by the sexy and lovable Lorna Hope, a mid-fifties host too popular to quit who sucks up the air time and always seems to be able to grab last interviews with celebrities right before they die.

Anxious to find out how the squeaky clean and insanely sexy Lorna is able to grab her exclusives and stay ahead of the game, Kalvin follows her and uncovers something he never thought he’d witness. “They Go in Threes” is a hilarious and violent short that really does view career competition at its worst. My second favorite story of the bunch, competing for first place is John Schouweiler’s “Dog Eats Dog.” Centered on two inept mail room guys trying to become film producers, When the clumsy Davis fails to deliver a big agreement with Steve Jobs for his boss Lassiter, Magnussen comes to the rescue to make the important delivery and bail Davis out. When the duo arrive back to their agency, they discover that every failure in Hollywood comes with a price, and everyone has to give something of themselves when they’ve failed to carry through on their duties. An amalgam of “Swimming with Sharks” and “Ravenous,” it’s a deliriously vicious dark tale and one that really kept me guessing the entire way through. I look forward to volume two since volume one of “Hell Comes to Hollywood” is an entertaining anthology. There’s immense creativity, even in spite of the fact that not every story is a winner.

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