The Horror Zine Review
Hell Comes to Hollywood II
Edited by Eric Miller
Print Length: 376 pages
Hell Comes to Hollywood II
Edited by Eric Miller
Review by Scott Urban
Red carpet premieres, multi-million dollar deals, ethereal attractiveness, world-wide notoriety (and its flipside, infamy) – all of these are staples of Hollywood legend, and they serve to perpetuate the notion that motion picture celebrities are somehow fundamentally different from you and me. Indeed, it would not take very much to convince Mr. and Ms. Average Joe and Jill that those chisel-jawed heroes and bosomy beauties sold their very souls to achieve the success they enjoy both on- and off-screen.
In Eric Miller’s new anthology Hell Comes to Hollywood II: Twenty-Two More Tales of Tinseltown Terror, some of the stories’ characters do just that in order to, like Mary Richards, “make it after all.” If, like me, you missed the initial installment, here’s the premise: anthologist Miller, himself a scriptwriter and producer (Ice Spiders), invited other screenwriters to send him a scary story centered on movie-making in general and Hollywood in particular.
This presents an interesting challenge: Can screenwriters shape their ideas to prose format? Can an essentially visual medium be cast as a manuscript? As you can probably imagine, the answer is a mixed bag. Some contributors are quite adept at crafting a well-rounded story, while others need to go back to the clapboard. Fortunately for readers, the Oscar nominees outnumber the box-office bombs.
Anyone at this point who hasn’t at least heard of Sharknado and Sharknado 2: The Second One has to have been living beneath the proverbial rock. No matter what you think of these modern cultural memes, director Anthony C. Ferrante has penned a solid entry, “The Crimson Marquee,” as his first published short story. A once-glorious movie palace has fallen on hard times and, in order to make ends meet, the owner is reduced to screening The Rocky Horror Picture Show and grindhouse double-features in order to pay the bills. The regular employees know not to bother the resident ghosts, but a new hire isn’t as wise. She descends to the basement dressing rooms alone and discovers things much worse than skeletons lurking in the closets.
Kelly Kurtzhals’ “Buried!” enters the world of television to feature a reality show so audacious (and so simple to produce) that I’m somewhat surprised no one’s thought of it before. During a televised competition, ten contestants allow themselves to be buried in modified coffins. They are fed through IV tubes and eliminate through a disposal hatch. Each contestant can utilize a ‘panic button’ in order to be exhumed – but if he does so, he forfeits his claim to a million dollars. Our down-on-his-luck protagonist enters the competition, determined to parlay the exposure into bigger roles – but he didn’t think through the price he’d have to pay in order to emerge the victor.
Miller’s own “Culling the Herd” presents one of the most original twists in the collection. He imagines a California with actual Monster Ranches, which rent out grotesques like vampires and werewolves to film companies. Just as in our world, there are those individuals who think they have all the answers and should be allowed to impose their views on everyone else – including the people who handle zombies (or the Life Interrupted Persons). When a protester attempts to forcibly bring undead social change to the Ranch, she gets more impact from the lesson than anyone else.
The collection’s most unsettling story, “Method,” is written by Heather Ash. Mark and Susan are the parents of seven year old Sam, living in Arizona. Believing that Sam has what to takes to break into commercials and possibly film roles, Susan decides to invest three months in southern California toting her son to auditions for roles which have to be ‘age appropriate.’ Once they arrive, however, both mother and son learn just how subtly and how insidiously ‘the business’ can erode even the best intentions. The characters are deftly developed, the tension is palpable, and the terror is understated while still packing an emotional wallop. I’d recommend this one for year-end honors.
Readers should go in knowing that the selections by Richard Christian Matheson and Doug Molitor are excerpts from those authors’ full-length novels.
In keeping with the theme of awards-worthy aggrandizement, I’ll bestow some additional accolades:
Most Provocative Title: “She-Devil A-Go-Go” by Lisa Morton
Best Use of an Actual Movie: “Dreams of a Little Suicide” by Eric J. Guignard, which uses the filming of The Wizard of Oz as a setting for a tale of despair and redemption
Most Inventive First Person Narrator: “Hot Tub” by Hal Bodner, in which the eponymous fixture, possessed by a blood-thirsty demon, somehow relates his own tale
Best Classical Reference: “The Scottish Play” by Brad C. Hodson, which utilizes the legendary curse centered on Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Along with Nathanael West’s Day of the Locust, Miller’s Hell Comes to Hollywood II ought to be required reading for anyone who has even an inkling of trying to make it in the City of Dreams. It might dissuade a large number of unrealistic dreamers, and it might save the rest of us from being subjected to the likes of Blended and Dumb and Dumber To.
You can buy the book HERE
About the editor
Eric Miller edited the Bram Stoker Award nominated anthology HELL COMES TO HOLLYWOOD, its imaginatively titled sequel HELL COMES TO HOLLYWOOD II, and the upcoming anthology 18 WHEELS OF HORROR. He has worked in Hollywood as a Screenwriter, Head of Production, Producer, Production Manager, and other fun filled, low stress jobs. His screenplay credits include NIGHT SKIES, THE SHADOW MEN, MASK MAKER, SWAMP SHARK, and as the SyFy Channel epic ICE SPIDERS, which was said by the Hollywood Reporter to be "…first rate Entertainment.” He also wrote the as-yet-unproduced screenplay for DOG SOLDIERS II and has done uncredited rewrites on other produced films. Miller recently wrote, produced, shot and directed the comedy horror short film THE WAFFLE HOUSE INCIDENT which premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, cats, and dog, and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.
About the Reviewer
Scott Urban lives amid southeastern Ohio’s mist-shrouded forests and occasionally writes things down. His most recent collections are Bloody Show: Dark Tales of Decay and Dissolution (Pallid Mask Publishing), available through the Kindle store at Amazon.com, and God’s Will (Mad Rush Books), available through the bookstore at Lulu.com. By day he works with troubled youth and by night he sleeps in an Amish farmhouse, which isn’t haunted—yet.