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Final Cuts edited by Ellen Datlow #BookReview

Legendary genre editor Ellen Datlow brings together eighteen dark and terrifying original stories inspired by cinema and television. A BLUMHOUSE BOOKS HORROR ORIGINAL.

From the secret reels of a notoriously cursed cinematic masterpiece to the debauched livestreams of modern movie junkies who will do anything for clicks, Final Cuts brings together new and terrifying stories inspired by the many screens we can’t peel our eyes away from. Inspired by the rich golden age of the film and television industries as well as the new media present, this new anthology reveals what evils hide behind the scenes and between the frames of our favorite medium. With original stories from a diverse list of some of the best-known names in horror, Final Cuts will haunt you long after the credits roll.

NEW STORIES FROM: Josh Malerman, Chris Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, Garth Nix, Laird Barron, Kelley Armstrong, John Langan, Richard Kadrey, Paul Cornell, Lisa Morton, AC Wise, Dale Bailey, Jeffrey Ford, Cassandra Khaw, Nathan Ballingrud, Gemma Files, Usman T. Malik, and Brian Hodge

Final Cuts

Title: Final Cuts – New Tales of Hollywood Horror and other Spectacles | Edited By: Ellen Datlow | Publisher: Anchor Books | Pub. Date: 06/02/2020 | Pages: 480 | ISBN13: 9780525565758 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Received from the publisher for review consideration | Starred Review

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Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and other Spectacles Review

I love horror stories. I love horror movies. So when you give me an anthology of horror stories themed around movies my brain goes “Hot damn, gimme!”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I really love anthologies that revolve around a theme. It’s fascinating to me to see how different authors can interpret that theme through their own writing, ideas, and influences. So when I had the opportunity to review Final Cuts of course I was going to say yes immediately. Especially because Ellen Datlow in particular seems to have a knack for choosing what stories flow well together.

But I know you’re not here to hear me (minorly) fangirl a bit. You want the meat. You want to know about the stories. So, the stories.

Das Gesicht by Dale Bailey:
A great attention-grabbing start to the anthology. Stories about films so vile they were destroyed, banned, burned – intrigue me whether real or fictional. And this was a great one.

Drunk Physics by Kelley Armstrong:
In a story about possible ghosts or possibly time travel the most unrealistic thing shouldn’t be a Youtube competitor that’s willing to sink thousands of dollars into a channel that’s been going for six months but here we are. Luckily, the story is interesting enough to look past that. The main character is engaging (although I don’t think I could handle working with someone so high maintenance).

Exhalation #10 by A.C. Wise:
This was a very dark story but also had some very interesting things to say about friendship, love, and sharing the darkness you carry.

Scream Queen by Nathan Balingrud:
I liked this story a lot. It had an interesting turn at the end and did not go where I expected it to.

Family by Lisa Morton:
I liked the idea of the host appearing only to certain people who watched the film. I also found it terrifying that it could turn a bittersweet memory into something horrible and frightening.

Night of the Living by Paul Cornell:
I wasn’t crazy about this story but it was more the story. I liked the writing and the characters felt real. I just didn’t find it too scary.

The One We Tell Bad Children by Laird Barron:
This has a very post-apocalyptic (personal or otherwise) fairy tale feel to it with magic lanterns, pacts and children. I have a hard time connecting with Laird Barron’s writing. It’s good writing but it always feels aloof to me and never quite draws me in.

Snuff in Six Scenes by Richard Kadrey:
This was an absolutely awesome story. I loved the way it twisted. And the ending.

Insanity Among Penguins by Brian Hodge:
Again, I love lost film stories. I have read more than my fair share of lost film and game creepypastas. The chance to see something almost no one else has would be phenomenal. I liked the theme of the cost of such an obsession and it evoked the nostalgia of brick and mortar rental stores. It took me back to a small one that we had in the next town over and it was always such a treat to go there. And they had best slushies.

From the Balcony of the Idawolf Arms by Jeffrey Ford:
This was a great, weird story. However, I didn’t quite get the ending and it’s puzzling me. But it has to be a good story if I’m thinking about it still and not just writing it off as a bad ending.

Lords of the Matinee by Stephen Graham Jones:
I liked the slow reveal of the creeping horror as you realize what happened (as does our protagonist). And I liked his ‘solution’ of fair play.

A Ben Evans Film by Josh Malerman:
This one was probably my least favorite. It wasn’t bad but it just didn’t grab me. I was happy to see a female character not be willfully oblivious when confronted with red flags the size of football field.

The Face is a Mask by Christopher Golden:
Another story about an urban legend in film that turns out to be far too real.

Folie a Deux, or the Ticking Hourglass by Usman T. Malik:
An excellent story. The ending was a huge surprise, as well. The setting is described so well that it feels like you’re in the story and the food sounds fantastic. I got hungry reading this one which, given the subject matter, should have put me off food for a bit.
I will also happily give the author credit for not being extremely graphic for shock value.

Hungry Girls by Cassandra Khaw:
An enigmatic actress might be more than she seems. I liked the story but the actress seemed very well, enigmatic, rather than scary. I did like the story though. It was really good with an ambiguous ending.

Cut Frame by Gemma Files:
A horror story centered around another mysterious actress who, again, is more than they seem.

Many Mouths to Make a Meal by Garth Nix:
It’s a little weird to say that I enjoyed the main character but I did. He’s a B-List Hollywood ‘fixer’ but he was a great character and I hope he and Ms. Hope ring some rather unique wedding bells in the future.

Altered Beast, Altered Me by John Langan:
I had a hard time getting into this story but I liked the e-mail format and the stories within the story.

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There’s something that I’ve found interesting, not just in this anthology but in other horror stories focused on the movie industry in general. If it’s an enigmatic actor it’s always a female. If it’s a reclusive genius director it’s always a man. Hopefully when Hollywood catches up to equality there will be more of a mix in genders.

This was a great anthology. While there were a few stories that didn’t exactly grab me they were not shoddy stories by any means. Others will most likely like them just fine and some won’t like the ones I did. That’s just how it goes.

Final Cuts is an amazing anthology that perfectly captures the mystery and horror of the movie industry. This is highly recommended.

You can purchase Final Cuts via its Goodreads link or if you’d like to help support literacy programs, Better World Books

Published inAnthologies & CollectionsHorror Book ReviewsStarred Reviews

One Comment

  1. Are there any books about real life movie mysteries? I bet there are all sorts of spooky stories based on true events.

    It is not film, but one story I know of takes place before Orson Welles went to Hollywood. He produced an all black cast version of ‘Macbeth’, that takes place on a voodoo island. Welles brought in real witch doctors from Africa. After a critic wrote a bad review of the play, one of the voodoo priests asked Orson if he wanted the critic taken care of. Welles said yes. The witches placed a curse on the critic and he was dead within hours.

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