Top positive review
The New Flesh - a great anthology for body horror fans
Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2022
A Bad Patch (by Brian Evenson) – 5/5
Gives off major early Cronenberg movie vibes (think Shivers & Rabid). Loved the unreliable narrator & how his memory issues were not truly revealed until the very end. The monster of the story was also really nasty, and I could really see it as belonging in a Cronenberg movie. This was a great way to start off this anthology.
Red Lips In A Blue Light (by Sara Century) – 5/5
This story of a strange woman (who doesn’t seem to belong to the world around her) comes very close to capturing the feeling of nightmare logic (where events can happen, but never completely make sense). You get small hints here and there in the story, that there’s something not right with the woman’s world. There are no concrete answers as to where or when this story takes place. The author’s work reminds me of Betty Rocksteady, in that she’s really good at capturing overwhelming unease and that sense of being stuck inside a nightmare.
Descrambler (by C.M. Muller) – 3/5
There’s a movie obsessed teen, a sketchy video dealer in a van, and a mysterious and unlabeled VHS tape that induces strange hallucinations. This story felt like it was part of Cronenberg’s Videodrome universe. I could really see the protagonist being a fan of Max Renn’s channel. The ending felt a little disappointing, since the story seemed to hint at something larger happening (which never materialized).
Lackers (by Leo X. Robertson) – 3/5
What if you mixed Tod Browning’s Freaks with some Clive Barker & David Cronenberg inspired body horror? You would get “Lackers”. I think this is a story that could definitely have benefited from a couple extra pages. The end was very good, but it felt abrupt.
Hekati Yoga (by Max D. Stanton) – 5/5
Old college friends reconnecting through the power of yoga. That’s not quite what the real story is, but trust me, this short tale by Max D. Stanton is GOOD. I thought it would be a typical slow burn tale with some typical gross body horror reveal at the end. Once I got to the part where the yoga class did their chant, I knew this was my kind of story.
Convex (by Emma Alice Johnson) – 5/5
A new pair of glasses being marketed to an audience. A strange hallucination of a mutated woman. A transformative virus. This honestly feels like some long-lost deleted sequence that belongs right in Cronenberg’s Videodrome (the main protagonist’s last name is even Convex!). I absolutely loved the sense of dread in this and how far the ending went. Very good use of descriptive language.
Seminar (by Cody Goodfellow) – 2/5
A group of company executives at a strange retreat. There are promises of success through suspicious means. The setup for Seminar is so great. An odd corporate retreat with some body horror mixed in, sounds great! The problem for me were the characters. Almost every single character (including the narrator!) felt like an outline, like they weren’t developed enough.
Emergence (by Bruno Lombardi) – 4/5
A disappeared moon. A black, empty spot in the sky. A nightmarish monster at the end of it all.
This is one of those few stories which manage to capture the mood of a nightmare perfectly. Emergence has everything you’d want in a creepy read. The only let down was the revelation of the monster at the end (it didn’t fit at all with the abstract nature of the apocalypse described by the narrator). Despite that, I’d still recommend this.
Genital Freak (by Katy Michelle Quinn) – 5/5
With a title like that, you know that you’re going to get some serious body horror descriptions. This story does not disappoint in that regard!
This story starts out pretty mild, but definitely goes there at the end. To the more squeamish readers out there, the story gets pretty graphic with bodily descriptions at the end. I loved the main character & her continued inner monologues throughout the story. The story at the very end drops a tiny bit of info (the doctor’s last name), that made me love the story even more.
Elk: An Oral History Of An Abandoned Film 1987 (by Jack Lothian) – 4/5
This story is structed as interview snippets, jumping back and for between half a dozen or so characters. The story is about an abandoned film called Elk, and what happened to everyone involved with the project. This was such an odd little story & I loved it! The ending is ambiguous and open ended, and you never know if what happens to one of the characters will happen to others.
The Taint Is Saintly With Her Welcome (by Mona Swan Lesueur & Fiona Maeve Geist) – 2/5
There were a few scenes that I loved (the surreal gun battle in the hotel room or the humorous scene in the video store), but something just didn’t click with me with the story. I could never 100% tell if the story was actually taking place or what parts the main character (Mirna) was hallucinating or overexaggerating. The ending seems to come out of nowhere, we never find out more about the organization/company/group that is working to ‘liberate’ the flesh of people like Mirna’s. If you’re into surreal narratives with little explanation, then you’ll probably like this story more than me.
Tiphoid Ananya (by Madeleine Swann) – 2/5
Hard to judge this one. The premise is interesting, but the story feels very disjointed. The narrative jumps from scene to scene, and this barely feels connected as one cohesive story. This is another story in this anthology that honestly could have used a few more pages to develop further.
A Future of Violence (by Charles Austin Muir) – 2/5
This was just so disappointing. What started off as an interesting tale of espionage (body horror mixed with shady business deals mixed with an unreliable narrator), became very boring. When Dylan (who is our main point of view through the whole story) is told what the drug he’s been testing truly is, was when I lost interest. Up until that point, the buildup was great. The author was building tension, the narrator was acting more crazier by the page, and I was waiting to see what would happen next. After that revelation, the story just fizzled out. The ending felt anti-climactic.
Orificially Compromised (by Ryan Harding) – 5/5
A bit of Existenz, a bit of Videodrome, a bit of Scanners. I loved this story and it’s blend of corporate espionage and relationship issues. Don’t want to spoil too much, but if you love that moment in Scanners (you know which one!), you’ll love the story’s ending. Plus, this story serves as a good reminder to always read the terms & conditions before proceeding. ;)
Limbs (by Alex Smith) – 5/5
This was so good. The themes of missing limbs & sense of belonging from the “Lackers” story earlier, are present in this. I loved how descriptive the beginning was. As the story went, you got more and more pieces to paint the picture of what was really happening at the compound the main character was in. The ending was so eerie and creepy. I loved it. Have to give the author credit for creating a truly alien creature/monster.
A New Mother’s Guide To Raising An Abomination (by Gwendolyn Kiste) – 2/5
The writing was beautiful & the concept of alien-like children born all over the world is interesting. I liked how the mother character felt alienated & was slowly losing her grip and connection to humanity, the closer she got to her daughter. The story still felt somehow incomplete to me. None of the human characters were fleshed out in any way, and the mother character lacked consistency. Occasionally she felt confused and afraid, and sometimes was written as happy with the strange changes happening around here. This story is also not really body horror at all. Other than the birth scene at the hospital, nothing felt connected to Cronenberg’s work. Maybe this would work if it wasn’t so abstract.
The Human Clay (by Brendan Vidito) – 3/5
What starts out as a story about a heist gone wrong, ends with some pretty explicit body horror. Some very good nightmarish scenarios in this story! What I wish was done a little better was characterization. Other than the main character, no one else felt like a well-developed, rounded character. This story could have used an extra page or two. But the slow build up of tension and unease is still here.
Reborn of Ash (by Sam Richard) – 4/5
Did you love The Brood by Cronenberg? Wished the weird therapy aspect was a larger part of the film? Well, this is the story for you. This was an excellent story about how grief can change a person, both mentally and physically. There were also some very, very good body horror moments (like the reveal of the end goal of the therapy all the characters are undergoing at the institute). Even though I wished it had gorier and/or splatterpunk-y moments, this was a good read. Plus, I loved the fact that even minor characters (like all the patients in the therapy group) got developed.