[REVIEW] The Stranger – by Steve Stred

Is it me or is there something about the woods that just creeps you the hell out? The paranoia, The isolation, The bluntness and finality of knowing you’re either getting out or not? 

Steve Stred’s The Stranger takes all of your childhood fears of the forest and manifest them into a story that is dark, violent, and for me, cathartic. 

We follow our main character Malcolm and his family as they take their annual trip to their cabin. 

During the day the family is out on the lake, seeking out undiscovered treasures they’d yet to find on their previous trips. And when the sun goes down, things are immediately spooky and unsettling. The thing in the trees, The Stranger, has all of the creepy elements of being nightmare fuel. I specifically liked the night scenes and the scares that came with them. Each event becoming more threatening leading to ensuing chaos. 

This tale also dives into some of the relevant and pressing issues of our current society, weaving its way into the horrors of the forest as much as it does into your conscience. I respect Steve for tackling these issues and giving them life to breathe. The afterword also had some good personal statements on why Steve chose the topic he did. 

I want to go on record by saying that Steve has written some scenes in this story that had me checking over my shoulder before falling asleep. Making sure nothing was creeping in the corner in the room watching. There is a skin scene I’ll never forgot and some violent death scenes all together, I loved it all. 

Lastly, and a MINOR SPOILER, I really enjoyed the back story of The Stranger and the parallels of the beginning of times. This brought some light to the all encompassing darkness The Stranger was throughout the story. 

I really enjoyed this tale and look forward to more of Steve’s work in the future. ~ Garrett


[REVIEW] Kinfolk – by Matt Kurtz

Cover art for Grindhouse Press, by Neal Auch.

I just want to say there could possibly be a trigger scene in the first chapter for new readers to this story. Rape is a touchy subject and one of the darkest scenes in this book. Matt lets you know how dark this story could get straight out of the gate. So be prepared for some tough scenes. 

Imagine if you took Wrong Turn, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and parts of From Dusk Till Dawn, threw them into a bloody blender and mixed the bones of each story. That is what Kinfolk is to me. And it was one hell of a ride. 

We meet outlaw brothers Eric and Ray, who are on an adrenaline fueled revenge mission until things take a turn for the worse and become a sight for survival. 

I enjoyed the brothers relationship. Neither is really a good person but you still find yourself rooting for them. They are believable, flawed, realistic characters. Not to mention pretty bad ass. That is where the From Dusk Till Dawn comes in. 

And then you have the Wrong Turn and Chainsaw Massacre parts of the story. This is a backwoods, hillbilly cannibal gore fest at it’s finest. I believe it’s really easy to get these stories feeling cheesy and B rated. However, Matt is such a talented writer that I never felt bored or out of place in the story. I could easily picture everything that was happening and felt like I was there with our flawed protagonist up to the violent, bloody end. As if fighting for my life and looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I loved everything about this book and am grateful to have been given the chance to read it. This could easily become a feature film due to Matt’s writing ability. I’m looking forward to reading more of Matt’s work, I hope you are too. ~ Garrett


[REVIEW] The Nightmare Room (The Messy Man No.1) – by Chris Serenson

Haunted house stories will forever hold a place in my horror heart of hearts. There is such a primal fear that comes from not knowing what is in the dark, watching your every move. Waiting for the right time to show it’s true form. This has always been the sub genre of horror that gets under my skin the most. 

Such is the case with Chris Sorensons Haunted House creep fest; The Nightmare Room. We start our story with married couple Peter and Hannah Larson, who have recently experienced a heart breaking disaster and are looking to try and start over. When Peters fathers health decline becomes evermore apparent, they decide to move back home to Peters hometown to help take care of him. 

The house they move into is Peters fathers house and has some old history that’s just ready to boil at the surface. The rest of the story sucks you into quite literally, a nightmare. Strange occurrences begin to happen quickly and rapidly. Slowly taking its toll on the family’s mental health until all hell breaks loose. 

I don’t want to give more away from the story so let’s dive into other aspects. I loved the main characters. Peter and Hannah are extremely thought out and strong personalities. Their marriage feels real, as does their interactions with others and their reactions to events around them. Never did I disagree with a choice they made or think it was silly, they did exactly what I would have done in most of these situations. 

However, as much as I liked Peter, I want to put extra emphasis on his wife, Hannah. Her personality jumps off of the page and she is a treat to read throughout. Major props goes to Sorenson for creating such a thoughtful and strong woman as Peters wife, I believe she was my favorite character of them all. 

I know I’ve been talking a lot of the story and characters but make no mistake, this is a horror novel. You will be face to face with evil, you’ll feel the depths of grief and despair. Paranoia will be an ocean you’ll find your brain swimming in by the time you finish this one. There are great horror moments as well as character moments. 

The ending of this book also stood out, just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the rug was ripped from under me. I really enjoyed the duality of time concept.

I honestly loved everything about this book, Chris is an author that can write with such an easy reading flow, and make you feel all the emotions. The characters feel alive and jump off the page, the horror is there in spades. There’s originality as well as playing on horror tropes. 

The Nightmare Room has been a Top 10 read for me this year, if not too 5. I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Hungry Ones. In layman’s terms it’s pretty simple, you need to read this book. You can thank me later. Happy Haunting! ~ Garrett

5/5 💀