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Man Behind The Mask:
Horror anthology review
Darkerwood Publishing Group

As those who know me are well aware, I love a good short story collection. This extends to anthology films and shows such as Tales From the Crypt and Masters of Horror. I just love short and sweet segments that cover all different kinds of horror and fun. Many anthologies have a theme or underlying concept. I've read short story collections in which all the stories are about holidays, others where all the stories deal with the south. Man Behind the Mask is the latest book I've read in this wheelhouse and allow me to explain what it's all about as well as my thoughts.

Man Behind the Mask opens with an introduction by the great scream queen Linnea Quigley. She writes a bit about her experiences in the movies and soon it becomes clear that this book will feature primarily female characters. All the authors are women and while, as you will learn, there is a lot of diversity to the characters the stories contain, a female character will be making it to the end. Fans of the classic slasher film will know that more times than not, this is the case; Halloween, Friday the 13th, Hatchet, Texas Chainsaw Massacre; although not always the case, the “final girl” concept comes into play quite frequently. However, this is only a small fraction of how these characters will be utilized throughout the stories contained in Man Behind the Mask. The book sets out to match the tone and style of the classic Slasher on more than a few occasions, which is a lot of fun to see. This includes a lot of moments that recreate aspects of slasher movies with descriptive gore, attractive women, and even references to the movies of the genre themselves. There's also some different types of concepts and themes thrown around, so let's just dive right in.

After getting through the first few stories I found myself happy with the mixture of characters that I was presented with. Just because the book is about female main characters doesn't mean that they're all heroines. Some are, such as the brave 14 year old girl in Fox Emm's tragic story Broken Rules, as with several other stories where the characters show spine and will. However, there are plenty of female central characters who are evil themselves, those who do terrible things.

Paper, Rock, Scissors by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason has two twin sisters who are anything but heroic. Gleeful and evil, this story shows that just because a character (or characters) is front and center in this collection, that doesn't mean they're necessarily the type of individuals society would generally root for.

Love Will Tear You Apart by Rose Garnett, for another example, follows a woman commanding a horde of violent “servants” who may not be what they appear. This mixture of character background and intent is great, as I feel it humanizes the characters and gives them depth. It portrays the women within the pages as complex, capable of both good and terrible actions depending on the individual. There are plenty of things to do with this leniency, and the book takes every advantage.

The book also features the fan favorite concept of the “final girl”, but with a unique spin. Camp Counselors Wanted by Stevie Kopas, for example, perfectly encapsulates the fun adrenaline-pumping energy and feel of the classic slasher. It comes complete with our protagonist desperately trying to survive and fighting for her life at every turn. However, the places it goes are far from ordinary and there's nothing typical or “by the numbers” about it. This wonderful story is a prime example of how the tales in this book are able to match a fan-favorite style while finding a life all their own and painting their own creative picture.

Many different subjects were handled throughout the book and no one reminded me too much of another. The authors all gave their unique spin on classic horror/slasher subjects such as vampires, cabins in the woods, serial killers, movie theaters, the Ouija board, demons, a sinister circus and prom night gone awry, among many others. In Scream Campers, I Know What You Dreamed Last Bloody Halloween by Kasey Hill, buried secrets come back in bloody fashion, and in This Isn't the Breakfast Club by Delphine Quinn, detention turns deadly. Kindra Sowder's story Courtesy Call deals with a lunatic going after telemarketers. These stories are quite clever and cover a broad spectrum, which I appreciate. Subjects that resonate with us all are often featured as well, stories about death and loss, about the whole world being against you. Our greatest fears as a species are strewn throughout and in competent form.


As with any anthology presenting an array of stories and authors, there's going to be somewhat of a rise and fall in quality, or at least that’s how I see it. There are a few rare moments where a story seemed more like a bitter tirade than a series of events and these moments became very predictable without being interesting. Don't get me wrong, it's not always a horrible thing to know where a story will end up, but you at least need to have some twists and turns to make the ride there worth it. Telegraphing your punches will only get you so far. Fortunately, these blips are heavily in the minority. I was overall impressed with the consistent skill and flavor put forth and the majority of the stories held my interest and didn't let go until I had read the last word.

The stories also feature a variety of styles and perspectives. Some are first person, others are told in the third person, and some blur the line between the two with creative result. Best Damn Revenge by Jaime Johnesee, for example, goes back and forth between victim and predator, the normal mind and the deranged. This story shows the author's deft hand at getting into the mind of the respective characters.

The entries are all of similar length and arranged nicely. The healthy mixture of subjects is emphasized by the way they are organized with the tales switching back and forth between subjects. One second the reader will be delving into a good 'ol fashioned hack 'em up bloodbath, then the next will be dealing with some kind of monster or supernatural terror. It allows each story to be a palate cleanser from the last and at no point did I feel like I was being bombarded by too much of the same type of material one after the other.

All in all, I was very impressed with Man Behind the Mask. It never grew dull or tedious and each author gave their own flair and take on the world of horror. The stories weren't afraid to get down, dirty, and bloody, and I think that's something we can all be thankful for. All of the proceeds of the book go towards breast cancer research, so we can all certainly be thankful for that as well.

To put it simply, I heartily recommend Man Behind the Mask.

P.J. Griffin, HMS

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