“Like all great horror authors, Grant can generate terror from monstrous beings but also from human cruelty.”
Taylor Grant is a professional screenwriter and film maker; The Dark at the End of the Tunnel is his first collection of prose fiction. In writing these stories, Grant has not left his cinematic roots behind, for these tales are as effective and fast-moving as a Hollywood screenplay. The powerful yet economical story-telling and crisp, effective dialogue call to mind the great Ira Levin; other influences on certain stories seem to include The Twilight Zone and those old horror comics where the bad guy gets a comeuppance which is wholly deserved.
After a foreword by Gene O’Neill, the collection opens with ‘Masks’, a story which is an effective introduction to Grant’s work. It depicts a man whose marriage and job seem to be slipping away from him, constant sources of stress and anxiety. Jonathan’s own personality seems to be changing under the pressure, so much so that he feels like he is becoming something else… and a moment of sudden, shocking violence seems to confirm this. How much of what is happening is real and how much is Jonathan’s projection onto the external world is up to the reader to decipher, and the story builds effectively to a grisly denouement.
The subsequent stories all have a similar drive and deftness to them. Like all great horror authors, Grant can generate terror from monstrous beings but also from human cruelty, such as in ‘Show and Tell’, a well-written and effective tale of a young child’s disturbing drawings. Perhaps the best and most original monster in the collection inhabits ‘The Vood’. In it Grady lives alone in an apartment full of electric lights, to ward off the light-hating creature that gives the story its name. It’s one of the best pieces in the collection, a tale which shows Grant’s skills both at generating unease and knowing just when to pull the rug from under the reader with a narrative about turn.
Some of the pieces use allusion to other works to drive home their point: ‘The Infected’ is like a modern-day retelling of the tale of Pandora’s Box, in which a grieving son opens his father’s old footlocker, whilst ‘Whispers in the Trees, Screams in the Dark’ takes well-known elements from fairy tales to tell its story of another loner called Blake, whose desperation to belong somewhere makes him vulnerable to evil.
Other stories are science fiction as much as horror. In ‘Gods and Devils’ a spaceship captain is brought out of stasis to try and determine who among his passengers is playing host to an alien parasite that has already infected most of humanity. The title story also starts with a rude awakening, as a man is brought back from a decade long coma to find himself living the life of the filthy-rich… only to find he can’t remember his previous life at all. He resolves to find out about his past, despite the warnings from his doctor not to. Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. The idea that if we wake up to the real world around us (or just look at it a little more closely) the horror beneath will be revealed, and this seems key to Grant’s fiction.
Most impressive of all is ‘The Silent Ones’, a story with no monster or villain. Instead the unnamed narrator is overtaken by an almost metaphysical horror as the people in his life gradually cease to see or hear him; involuntarily he is forced into a life of complete isolation from his fellow man. The effect is gradual and perhaps the real horror comes when the reader ponders just how long it might have been happening for before the narrator even noticed. Ironically, with its nebulous feeling of dread, the least-cinematic story in the book is perhaps this screenwriter’s best.
It all adds up to a collection that is varied in both tone and plot, one where whatever the story Grant invests it with enough twists and nuance that it is lifted out of the ordinary. The Dark at the End of the Tunnel is yet another Crystal Lake release that gives horror fans something to celebrate.
Publisher: Crystal Lake
Release Date: 09 November 2015
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