Review by Ardy Hart
The horror genre has shaped our culture dramatically over the past thirty years with some movies, like Saw, being the frontrunners for just how creepy and torturous we can get, while other, more recent ones, like Get Out, illustrate a deeper, more political side of the fears that have come to appear in today’s society. The cool thing about furry is that we can explore all of the horror genre in a completely different way--by turning all the would-be humans into anthropomorphic animals. With this fantastical flip, the limits to our imagination have exceeded that of human-centric horror stories. With a group of passionate furry authors there is no telling what to expect, leaving SLASHERS filled with terrifying possibilities and a story for every horror fan out there.
SLASHERS is a collection of horror stories written by eleven different furry authors. Each story is bordered by an overarching narrative that places the authors as victims you would find in a typical slasher narrative. A friendly retreat into the woods to talk about the horror stories they have been working on turns deadly when a murderous wolf begins his hunt. While the characters may escape the fear from each other’s stories, the real fear is lurking in the shadows. And if you’re curious about the writers involved in the making of SLASHERS, you can find a short biography for each one in the back of the anthology. I promise their biographies are not scary.
The first story of SLASHERS reminds me of a typical young adult horror movie, if typical young adult movies involved anthropomorphic animals, that is. Ritual Fallacy, by Nathaniel “LeCount” Edwards, is about three young adults who attempt to summon a demon at a friend’s uncle’s cabin. When things don’t quite work, his canine friends Allison and Francis quickly find that their previous beliefs about the occult were not as fantastical as they thought. One thing bothered me with this story: why did Tony want to do the ritual in the first place? Edwards doesn’t give us any hint as to why, which was unsatisfying to me. But maybe you just want to read a good story without thinking too much about what the characters want (because let’s face it, in an erotic horror anthology they might all die anyway). In that case, LeCount does a good job at getting the reader immersed in the story. With his terrifying descriptions of the creature and the fear of being followed, Ritual Fallacy is a great thriller.
House of Hares
If you like “whodunit” stories, you’ll like House of Hares. Madison Keller does a great job setting the atmosphere for this chiller, and the unpredictability of what was going to happen drew me in close to its pages. The story takes place in the Winchester House, known for being confusing and haunting due to its WWII origins. A group of hares--not bunnies--takes a tour of this maze of a house, and after a scream is heard echoing through the walls Sam, an off-duty beaver cop, takes it upon herself to keep everyone safe. There were two things that really stuck out to me about this story: the human tour guide, and the chemistry between Sam and her bull boyfriend Oscar. Having a human in a furry story is a wild concept that may distract some readers, but Keller does a fantastic job at keeping the story focused on the furry aspect using animals’ heightened smell and sight to give them an advantage. Not only that, but Keller writes that having a human tour guide, “adds to the authenticity of the experience,” and I agree. As for Sam and Oscar, it was nice to see their trust for each other grow during the events of the story. Not every horror story has the capacity to keep both the compassion and the fear together, but this one did, and it was very enjoyable.
A Killer Among Others
Usually, I imagine the prison scenes to happen after the events of a horror story, but A Killer Among Others shows us that prisons like Harmony Correctional can be just as scary as a cabin in the woods. MikasiWolf writes about a few prisoners, each with their own faults and backgrounds, who experience two deaths in this mystery thriller. After some talk about their histories, Georgie, an ex-cop wolf, is recruited to help figure out who the killer is. With some help from his cell-mates, the wolf risks both a longer sentence and his life to help get the prison under control. Once I got used to the prison lingo I felt part of the story. It was immersive, and the characters felt real. The horror was in the tension, knowing that at any moment everything could turn chaotic and deadly. I highly recommend this one, especially for its attention to detail, memorable characters, and a satisfying ending.
I Can’t Stop It
I Can’t Stop It by Kirisis takes a more primal look at horror, focusing on the predator/prey aspect of furry. Ryleigh, a bunny, is being hunted by something they call The Serpent. After getting together with Buckley, a funny farming rabbit, he trains her in case she and The Serpent ever clash. Destiny calls, but there is another danger lurking elsewhere. This story caught me off-guard with its perspective switches. Sometimes it’s focused on Ryleigh’s thoughts and actions; sometimes it’s focused on The Serpent’s. I think it works for the story, but I also think it would be a good idea to put in events that are felt across both perspectives to help anchor the reader in time. The ending fell short, too. I was left with more questions than answers and wanted to know more about Ryleigh’s part in all of it. However, Kirisis does an amazing job with the gross descriptions of The Serpent, and getting into his mind had my face twisting inside out, just like a good horror story should.
What was supposed to be a nice reunion with a friend was anything but in Patrick D. Lambert’s Homecoming. Terrence, a cheetah, finds this out the hard way when he visits his old home in hopes of reuniting with his otter friend Eduard. Eduard seems to be missing, so Terrence fights his way through the cold and his memories to try to understand what is happening in this small town. He’ll get his answer, or he’ll freeze to death trying. This story had me shivering all the way through, and not just from the snowy environment Lambert describes. From the first line to the last, I was freaked out and worried. Lambert’s use of repetition and denial in Terrence’s mind is absolutely incredible. I couldn’t tell the fake from the real, but the danger was always there. As Terrence traveled further and further away from what he thought he knew, I traveled further and further into the realm of the unknown, gripping to any flame of hope that I saw. Lambert didn’t give much. In fact, Lambert gave the perfect amount to keep me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Homecoming is an incredible short story, and I highly recommend it.
Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop
Now, it’s important to remember that SLASHERS is an erotic horror anthology. Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop really puts the “erotic” in that title. Imagine a blue panda who loves nothing but sex, cars, and violence. That is the main character in Hell on a Two-Lane Blacktop written by Weasel. The panda’s name is Rick, and in his escapades to find a new person to drive his hot-rod into he gets a bit more than he bargained for. The story is, at first, rather tame, but it immediately jumps the gun when Rick spots Kurt, a drunk fox who’s looking for a ride home. Rick sees his chance and takes it, giving Kurt a hell of a time. From there, Rick’s activities escalate, sending him way over the edge. I wasn’t particularly fond of this story--there wasn’t much of a plot or any significant character development--but if you have a taste for torture, and a need for speed, you probably will.
A Question of Loyalty
A Question of Loyalty by Arcane Reno is as wild as the sea herself. It’s a small cast of characters, including Captain Robert, Martin, Sandy, Louis, and the main character Ivan. After the group spends some time out at sea exploring old shipwrecks, Ivan notices the captain acting a bit strange. His concerns are met with reassurance from the captain and compassion from his crewmates, but Ivan isn’t so easily convinced. His suspicions lead him to a truth he wasn’t prepared for, but when it comes down to it, it’s all just a question of loyalty. It was fun to read a story that takes place on a boat. The plot is short, sweet, and solid. Reno did a great job at raising and lowering the tension, like the sea, and in the final moments it had me on edge. When the story was finished I wanted more. I’d even suggest expanding this into a bigger story, or making some kind of series about it.
Komakino is your typical slasher story, so much so that it constantly references it throughout the story. Written by Cedric G! Bacon, this story is about Audrey, a fox who’s a victim of a slasher narrative. Ten years ago, all of her friends died by the paws of a murderer. Now, the killer’s parole is up, and he makes himself known by kidnapping Audrey and her therapist/friend Evelyn. As the killer pushes her through the old cabin where everything happened, Audrey remembers things differently. The fog in her mind is lifted, and she realizes the events of the past are not as clear-cut as she thought. Personally, I felt this story was lacking, and the motif about Audrey being the “Final Girl” was way too prevalent. There is a good story here, but I feel like making it about the sequel to the main story just isn’t strong enough. While reading, I wanted to know more about what happened all those years ago. Sure, Audrey retells it, but I feel like that’s where the real story is. Maybe a time-shift would help so the reader is put into that scene for a longer amount of time. That way, when this sequel story comes to an end, the reader feels like there’s a lot more pressure or a bigger need for things to be resolved. I enjoy Audrey’s thoughts, and the way she comes to a conclusion is interesting. I want to see more of that and the internal horror she has to deal with on a constant basis.
Damned If I Don’t
Damned If I Don’t takes erotic horror to its core. Thurston Howl writes about a group of five friends who take a vacation to a beach house. While the main character, a fox named Darius, sexually explores one friend, another friend is murdered. The group is left wondering what will happen to the rest of them. In that time, Darius seeks comfort in his other friends, sexually exploring them as well. A day or two later, Darius finds out who the real killer is and is asked a final, damning question. This story is not for the faint of heart. Howl does a good job making the horror erotic and the eroticism horrific. It is not a long story, but it feels long because of the time it takes to get from one horrific image to the next. The sexual scenes are pushed to their limit too. The satisfaction I felt finishing a scene was immediately replaced with a horrific realization of what happened next. I felt like the story relied on this to keep it interesting and scary. It worked.
Nightmare at Elmwood College
Halfblood Cheetah writes a parody of the story of Freddy Krueger in his story titled Nightmare at Elmwood College. The story is about a few college students who discover a haunting truth: someone is murdering students in their sleep. With help from Randy’s notes about the murderer, Randy’s friends, Avery, Hank, Percy, and Kelly, hatch a plan to try to get rid of Teddy Rueger once and for all. This story was really fun to read because of the creative ways Teddy killed people. In dreams, anything goes, and it seemed like Cheetah had a great time exploring all the possibilities. The confusion I felt while reading this--specifically, is this real or is it fake--emphasized the horror. The characters didn’t feel safe at any particular moment, and as a result, I was left on edge the whole way through. The concept of pain that lasts between dreams and reality is also an interesting subject that Cheetah had fun with, although it seemed a bit off how the paramedics didn’t question the weird cuts they must have found on some of the bodies. I wasn’t able to focus on this for long though; I was too worried about what was going to happen next. Nightmare at Elmwood College is an exciting read.
What’s Your Name?
In this tale about a group of students who visit an abandoned school, Faolan combines sheer horror with extreme desperation and hopelessness. What’s Your Name? is cold and eerie. It skips all introductions and puts the reader right in the center of the horror. There’s something about the language that throws you into the story, watching these kids explore this school because they just wanted to have a fun time. A few minutes later, one friend is dead and the rest are running for their lives to escape a wraith that roams the place looking for her long-dead husband. Beware her question, for you may be the next one to die. This story does a great job at giving the reader a strong sense of fright. I felt the urge to be quiet because I didn’t want the wraith to know I was there reading along with the kids. At the times where I felt most hopeful, Faolan shut the door to those feelings with creepy sensory details and gruesome scenes that horrified me to my core. The small bits of compassion cut their way through the story and make it that much better. The story isn’t overly disgusting or terrible, and it doesn’t play games. It’s real and you feel it, even at the end.
The overarching narrative of SLASHERS helps pull the whole anthology together. With the typical slasher plot seeping its way between every short story, the reader always has something to come back to. The title font is a nice touch to the horror aspect of the anthology. It’s not overbearing, and the regular text is easy to read. Each story is easily found on the table of contents, and the biographies in the back are great for readers to know more about the writers and even follow them if they so choose. The trigger warning in the front of the book is nice and clear, which is good because it is important for readers to know that there is content that may be hard for them to read.
This book would appeal to those who enjoy horror stories that involve anthropomorphic animals. Young adults in their twenties or thirties would probably enjoy these stories the best since most of the characters are around that age. However, anyone who is a fan of horror movies would probably enjoy these stories.