As should be evident by literally everything I’ve ever written, I love horror. Sometimes I’m a harsh judge, I know. Because I love it, I want it to be the best it could be. Truthfully, though, when I’m just relaxing at home, I’ll take it any way I can get it. Low-budget, high-concept, I don’t care. But I do have a soft spot for vintage horror. Apparently, so do the folks behind It Came from the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers, which I just had to read and review.
It Came from the Multiplex in Anthology Form
image via Hex Publishers
A collaboration between Hex Publishers and the Colorado Festival of Horror, the book is a collection of short stories. Featuring authors like Stephen Graham Jones, Orrin Grey, Angie Hodapp, and several others, the book’s stories pay tribute to classic horror movies. Although the clear inspiration is horror from the 1980s, there are sprinklings of and allusions to horror from various time periods.
The characters in these stories live different lives and live in different parts of the country. However, they’re all connected by one thing: their relationship to movies and movie theaters. Sometimes it’s the movies themselves that are important and sometimes, it’s just the feeling of being in a theater or being in the audience.
So while the stories are meant to be scary, there’s also a kind of sadness to them. It’s the pain of nostalgia. For one thing, they don’t really make movies like these anymore, at least not in wide release. And for another, a lot of these theaters don’t exist anymore, either. As Steve Rasnic Tem writes in “Late Sleepers,” “Did you know in the 30s they called movie theaters dream palaces? They understood back then. We’ve just forgotten.”
Some of the stories revolve around scenes at drive-ins, for instance. Although they’re still around, they obviously don’t number as many as they once did. In reading these stories, I was reminded of something Emily VanDerWerff wrote about my favorite X-Files episode, “Home”:
…it’s both a sterling example of a certain kind of horror tale and a last gasp effort within the subgenre, a sort of sad farewell to a weird America that was rapidly smoothing itself out.
It Came from the Multiplex Review
The collection begins with Warren Hammond’s “Alien Parasites from Outer Space,” a story that continues in the second tale, Angie Hodapp’s “Return of the Alien Parasites from Outer Space.” Both stories follow an awkward teenage boy, as he suspects the alien parasite movie at the drive-in may be a true story. The sequel device could come off as clunky, but both Hammond and Hodapp work well together, and it’s a fun story.
Other stories invoke theater ghosts, real-life serial killers, and that good ol’ 80s staple, demons and the specter of hell.
image via NBC
As this is a collection of stories, from over a dozen authors, the quality within varies. However, I didn’t hate or even really dislike any of the stories. I just connected more with some of them than I did with others.
For personal, spoilery reasons, I think my favorite was K. Nicole Davis’s “On the Rocks,” in which a group of friends goes to Red Rocks to see a showing of The Howling. (In case you’re unfamiliar, The Howling is a horror movie about a human terrorist who moves to a peaceful werewolf community and destroys it.) I also enjoyed the cosmic horror of Gary Jonas’s “Creature Feature,” as well as the atmospheric eeriness of Orrin Grey’s “Screen Haunt.” Coping with anxiety, the latter story’s protagonist tells her therapist, “Movies don’t scare me. They’re, like, the only things that don’t scare me. So, of course, I want them to.” Girl, same. And I’d love to see Werewolf in Casablanca, the movie in Kevin J. Anderson’s “Special Makeup.”
Each of the stories can be read in a moment, gobbled down like a large popcorn. That’s both a positive and a negative for the book. It’s positive because if you don’t like a story, just wait. Another’s on the way. However, it’s also a negative, because it lends each story–and the book as a whole–a slight feeling. As with inhaling that popcorn, it doesn’t really stick to your ribs.
Still, though, it’s entertaining, and it’s a good introduction to several horror authors you might not know.
It Came from the Multiplex: 80s Midnight Chillers is available now.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Share what you think in these comments or on our social media.
featured image via Hex Publishers
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.