Monday, May 29, 2017

The problem with stains


Ed Kurtz


Publisher: Journalstone

Pub. Date: March 24, 2017 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If you are looking for a gruesome supernatural thriller that goes for the jugular and doesn't let up on the creep and slaughter factor, you will be hard pressed to find anything more suitable than Bleed by Ed Kurtz. It starts mundanely enough. Walt Blackmore, a teacher, has moved into an isolated cottage and is renovating it on his own. Walt tends to be a solitary person despite his luck in scoring a girlfriend and that is important to the plot as it develops. . He comes across a stain on the ceiling that eludes removal and actually start to grow with some alarming side effects. His girlfriend Amanda is first annoyed by the appearance and the stench of the stain and then becomes terrifyingly alarmed when it takes on some animal like effects including tentacles and a yearning for meat and blood. Walt is also repulsed but his repulsion soon turns into curiosity and then a nurturing for the still evolving creature. Of course this means nothing but bad things for everyone involved and especially for whoever crosses the path of Walt and his new companion

The “Ewww!” factor lies heavily in what the stain becomes but also in Walt’s insanely obsessive attraction and reaction to what the stain is becoming. There is at first a “Little Shop of Horror” aspect as the creature becomes increasingly demanding with its screams for blood substituting for the former’s cries of “Feed me!”. Yet my amusement with the comparison soon evaporates as Bleed continues into very dark and serious areas. The horror of Bleed is as dark, serious and gore filled as a novel can get. The horror is not so much in what the creature does as with Walt’s obsession and willingness to do the most sadistic and gruesome things to please his new friend. Several people, including his girlfriend, intrude into his madness and the results are never pretty. The violence and gore never lets up.

Walt’s own mental breakdown becomes an important point. He has already been portrayed as a bit of a loner and recluse despite his love for his girlfriend. In fact Amanda is kind of the weak point in the story. It is not quite certain what she sees in him and even more unclear why she has not introduced him to her friends, especially her business partner and close friend Nora. It is one of those odd things that challenges the belief suspension factor. Yet Walt’s own odd quirks feed, if you pardon the pun, right into his reaction to the growing and hungry stain. As the stain evolves it opens up a few other strange avenues including a very gross erotic attraction between man and monster. In this every relentless novel, the hits just speak coming.

Bleed is the kind of straightforward and never resting bundle of horror writing I love. Whatever development of the character exists ties directly to the plot. You can forgive those few inconsistencies because you are reading for the horrific thrills to come. It doesn’t try to be anything but terrifying and pummels you with that terror. The two characters that matter is Walt and that ever growing stain and it is in their disturbing and repulsive relationship where the success of this novel comes from. It is equal parts supernatural thriller, monster book and body horror. This just may be the book this year that friends give other friends just to see how much it will gross them out. But there is no question that, past the blood, violence and gore, there is a deeply disturbing and very entertaining horror novel. “Read it for the “Ewww!” but stay for the terror

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