Short-Sharp-Shocks 2-Stomping-GroundsShort Sharp Shocks #2: Stomping Grounds
Edited by Neil Baker
April Moon Books
December 25th, 2014
Reviewed by Marvin P. Vernon

I am a horror movie loving child of the 50s. In the days of nuclear doom and the cold war, the movie scare of the decade was mutant monsters. From the 50s to the early 60s, I couldn’t get enough of them. Speaking of them, THEM!, the giant ant spectacular, was the Citizen Kane of big monster films. Yet even the bad ones were fun. Ranging from giant tarantulas to 50 foot colossal men, they were a jolting escape from the real scares of nuclear war. Dying from a nuclear blast …no fun. But fighting giant rabbits in Night of the Lepus or killer shrews in Attack of the Killer Shrews? Cool! Who cared if most of the films were terrible? The camp was half the fun.

Stomping Grounds (Short Sharp Shocks #2) goes back to that time of mutant scaries. Its seventeen stories are all about monsters attacking poor humans in one way or another. Even those that are not all about giant mutants (there are a couple Lovecraftian influenced tales wedged in) still harbor a fondness for the big and campy. Most have a tongue-in-cheek quality and could be classified as “monster slapstick.” The best ones are enjoyable and fun.

I just wish there were more that were enjoyable and fun. Overall the quality is uneven, fringing on Four Wheel Drive only territory. Some read like a good idea underdeveloped and others just never take off. The good ones stick to the humorous idea of mutants. One of the exceptions is “Juggernaut” by JC Henderson which comes off as a rowdy parody of Lovecraftian terrors. Christine Morgan’s “The Humming” deserves credit for tackling a hummingbird as a giant monster. It didn’t scare me but I did giggle. From there on, it’s a bit of a drought until you come to Amy Braun’s “Bring Back the Hound,” a creative tale in which Hermes and Charon venture to capture an escaped Cerberus and deliver him back to Hades. It may be the best of the lot.

But my favorites were still the ones that seem to feed off the 50s monster movies and celebrate the silliness. “Avanc” by DJ Tyrer catches the idea of radiated 50s style terror well and adds a nice moral: don’t frack near a nuclear plant. Peter Mesling’s “On the Strangest Sea” has a Captain Ahab leviathan ring to it. But the weirdest, almost bizarro story is “Blood Run” where our nearly suicidal heroes tackle a herd (“tower”?) of 30 foot giraffes. It is a bit of a blood fest that will leave you laughing and gagging at the same time.

I really wish there were more tales that caught my fancy. Overall it was not really that entertaining due to so many misses. It is a cute idea but not one that was fulfilled in the final project. Unfortunately, despite a few cute stories, I would have to give this collection a miss rather than a hit.

About Marvin P. Vernon

Marvin P. Vernon runs The Novel Pursuit, a review blog emphasizing horror, mystery and science fiction.

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