Nightmares Unhinged is a collection of twenty horror tales, written by a variety of established writers. Among them they share numerous awards, nominations and achievements for their work in the horror genre. The collection was also edited by an award winning editor, Joshua Viola, and it features a very inspiring foreword by New York bestseller, Steve Alten. Due to the collective talent between the writers it’s no surprise that the quality of the collection is very high in addition to having great variety of entertainment.
The collection opens with a story called The Brollachan by Steve Rasnic Tem. It’s a personal favorite and a very good choice to kick things off. It tells of a teen girl called Lillie who barely remembers her father, seeing as he died when she was six, and her mother who couldn’t find closure after his death. Her Scottish grandmother and her horrendous tales of the Brollachan come to live with them, but it doesn’t deter Lillie’s fate from coming full circle.
From there the collection spreads to a variety of different focus points, such as vampires, freaks and even undertakers. While some are more focused towards the psychological aspects of horror, such as The Man Who Killed Texas and Be Seated, others place more emphasis on the physical, such as Deep Woods. There are even some tales that are out right strange, for example The Projectionist. Basically, there is a story for every type of horror fan out there.
Starting with the great elements of this collection, there is a consistent level of quality writing from beginning to end. The stories complement each other and all the different voices weave in perfectly. But there is one thing in particular that really makes the collection stand out and this is the sometimes blunt endings. Just like nightmares, the words are meant to linger long after they’ve been read. The reader is set up to finish the mental picture and the consequences of the characters.
True to the synopsis, the stories take on all forms of darkness and speak to all kinds of fear people might have. Nobody is spared in the name of entertainment, whether it’s children or old women, and creativity is at the forefront of the minds for all the contributors. One might even say that they took this opportunity to experiment with a more artistic approach towards horror.
On a more critical note, there is a hint of disappointment. The title of the collection and the established writers create a certain kind of expectation, but the actual experience is something different. Once you get to the third story it gets harder to make the connection between the title and the actual collection. This isn’t to say that the stories aren’t entertaining, but as mentioned before, this seems more like an experiment than an all-out horror anthology targeted in the direction of nightmares. This, of course, is just a personal observation.
Regardless of the disconnect it is definitely a collection worth reading. It’s filled with fresh ideas and horrific sentiment. They may not all be graphic and verbally disturbing, but they do contribute to the movement of modern horror literature.
Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.