The Butcher Bride
Black Bed Sheets Books
Trade Paper, 296 pages, $18.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
Vince Churchill contributed the excellent story “Late Check-In” to the outstanding anthology Midnight Walk. His novel, The Butcher Bride, is impressive in its visceral shocks and thrills. Churchill’s ability to keep the violence laden haunted house yarn consistently compelling is striking; the book is intrinsically visual. While not as tight and insidious in its terror as “Late Check-In,” The Butcher Bride proves that the author can move smoothly from one format to another.
Three decades after committing multiple murders, and subsequently being gunned down by the police, the vengeful spirit of Marlie Downing stalks the Silas residence. The massacre at the mansion occurred on Halloween, which is said to be when Marlie’s ghost is most hostile. Several occult researchers have died while looking into purported manifestations.
On the thirtieth anniversary of the slaughter, a couple of aspiring film-makers move into the dwelling. One is Evie Wellington, who has an obsession about serial killers in general, and the legend of The Butcher Bride, in particular.
Greedy and vain Michael Silas, owner of the premises and survivor of the slayings, agrees to the movie project. He has reaped revenue rewards from exploiting the macabre local lore. An annual town festival commercially commemorates the event; turning the tale into a tourist infested, carnage oriented cottage industry. The spectre as spectacle includes women costumed as bloody brides; many garbed as if returning from the dead.
Author Churchill has a good time playing with sanguinary sensationalism; how our culture and the media thrive on mania. Events escalate to a frenzied pitch when a newswoman succumbs to the seduction of the Silas abode. The deceased orgy participants who victimized Marlie also roam the habitat, and their appetites haven’t abated from beyond the grave. Most of the characters (alive or otherwise) in the novel are considerably carnal. There is a lot of sexual activity; the amorous ante has been upped substantially from Richard Matheson’s Hell House.
The Butcher Bride contains staggeringly sinister images, such as: “Then maggots rained from beneath the bride veil, sounding like spilled rice when they stuck [sic] the cold concrete.” Vince Churchill ushers the reader down the aisle, and vows to honor and obey the rules of horror fans’ expectations. “Till death do us part,” is a mere formality to be overcome in his union of undying anger and unrelenting passion.