Giallo Fantastique is a solid new anthology from editor Ross E. Lockhart and publisher Word Horde. The collection is both a collection of, and a tribute to, the Italian genre of exploitation films from the 1960s and ‘70s. Much like the original films, the stories focus on difficult, often brutal subject matter using artistic and stylistic flourishes to draw the audience in. All twelve stories are original to this collection and boast established, talented horror writers and is headlined by horror heavyweight Brian Keene.
The festivities begin with “Minerva” by Michael Kazepis. It’s a great story and the perfect choice for the first story, as it follows a traditional Giallo plotline while bringing it a fresh voice. Celia Marrast travels to Greece following the death of her brother to settle his affairs. Just days prior to his murder his girlfriend met a similar violent fate. Marrast becomes involved in intrigue, including a run-in with a mysterious man in a hoodie, a contemporary riff on the classic masked-man of Giallos past.
Nikki Guerlain’s sexually charged “Terror in the House of Broken Belles” is more than just a great title. A man enters a bar and is immediately sucked into the tractor-beam of a woman’s eyes. He, and other men in similar situations, become the audience and then the entertainment at a club with very specific, and horrific entertainment.
Serious Giallo enthusiasts will recognize the the title and story of MP Johnson’s “The Strange Vice of LZA-313”. From the classic Sergio Martino film “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh”, also known as “Blade of the Ripper”, this tale reimagines the story as post-human, set in a world of “bots” that are trying to be less machine and more human. A very interesting and well executed story that the casual reader will enjoy and the film buff will love.
“Sensoria”, another in a collection of great titles, from Anya Martin, is one of the longest and most involved offerings in the collection. Unlike previous stories, this one explores the more fantastic and supernatural side of the subgenre. It’s a story driven by great characterization of Sasha and Dorian Cain, from their first meeting through the duration of their relationship. Rock and roll and psychoactive beetles collide with the afterlife in this compelling story. The description of a women plummeting through a stained glass window into a rock concert is vivid and a perfect touch.
The highlight of the collection is the fantastic, experimental and gutsy “Hello, Handsome”, from Garrett Cook. All I will say about this short tale is that Cook takes one of the trademarks of the genre and explores it in a truly unique way by employing the Giallo technique of varied points-of-view. This is a perfect example of an author taking a chance and succeeding on all levels.
Brian Keene provides the closing number to the anthology with “Exit Strategies”. He plays with another standard of Giallo, the lone psycho, in this first person story of paranoia, conspiracy and (possible) insanity.
Other authors, including Adam Cesare, Orrin Grey, Cameron Pierce, Ennis Drake, E. Catherine Tobler and John Langan, bring solid stories to the table. There are real highlights in this collection but there are no misfires, which is an impressive achievement by editor Lockhart. Any fan of dark and fantastic fiction will find more than a little something to enjoy here, and the Giallo film buff will be in for epic read with Giallo Fantastique.