I’ve made no secret of my love for Ramsey Campbell’s work. His are the first stories I read in any anthology in which he’s featured, and I’ve consumed more of his novels than any other writer. His collection of stories, ALONE WITH THE HORRORS, would be my “trapped on a deserted island” book choice for entertainment (in case being alone on an eerie, silent island at night wouldn’t be unnerving enough). HOLES FOR FACES, Ramsey Campbell’s most recent short story collection, came out from Dark regions Press in 2013. It’s a great collection of supernatural horror by a grandmaster of the genre.
1. “Passing Through Peacehaven” (2011) – A man on his way home finds himself in a strange subway station listening to the cryptic, barely audible messages over the intercom. This is a nice atmospheric piece of creeping dread.
2. “Peep” (2007) – A grandfather struggles to watch his unruly twin grandkids when his daughter and son-in-law come to visit. Reminders of the elderly aunt he was afraid of as a child are never far from his mind as he starts seeing signs she may now be stalking him from beyond the grave.
3. Getting It Wrong” (2011) – An unpopular man named Edgeworth employed at a movie theater begins receiving calls from an attractive coworker at night asking him for answers to trivia questions about old movies. The male host of the show sounds vaguely threatening as he interacts with Edgeworth, who thinking it’s a prank, purposely answers the question wrong. The tension mounts as this eerie story advances towards its chilling conclusion.
4. “The Room Beyond” (2011) – Returning to his hometown for a funeral, a man reminisces about his childhood spent with his aunt and uncle. An eerie pall hangs over the hotel where he’s staying, a place he and his beloved relatives used to dine. Murmuring and other ominous sounds begin to be heard from the adjoined room next door. The atmosphere of this story is heavy with eerie ambience and somber loneliness.
5. “Holes For Faces” (2013) – On vacation with his parents, a boy is deeply disturbed upon seeing the headless, skeletal remains in the walls of Italy’s catacombs. He then starts catching glimpses of an obscured face following him as they continue through the tunnels.
6. “The Rounds” (2010) – A man repeatedly sees people attempting to leave a mysterious bag unattended on an underground train.
7. “The Decorations” (2005) – A boy, visiting his grandparent’s house with his parents for the holidays, is disturbed by his grandmother’s obsession with the plastic, lighted Santa on their roof. She believes something malicious she calls “the worms” inhabits it. This is a great tale of Christmas horror with a fantastic ending!
8. “The Address” (2011) – An elderly man, venturing out on his own, can’t seem to find his way out from the forested area he’s traveling through to reach his train. During his search, he happens upon a strange old school.
9. “Recently Used” (2010) – A man receives a phone call from a hospital telling him he should hurry there because his wife is there and has been badly hurt. His trek through the strange hospital is surrealistic and filled with oddities. The final reveal causes you to reassess what you’ve read.
10. “Chucky Comes To Liverpool” (2008) – A boy becomes obsessed with Chucky from the horror movies despite his domineering mother’s activism against such films. He begins to think Chucky is influencing him and his friend for dire purposes.
11. “With The Angels” (2008)– A woman returns to the house where she she grew up, remembering how much her grandmother disliked and mistreated her. She also remembers her grandfather tossing her lovingly into the air while telling her an angel might catch her if she’s good enough. She wonders what would catch her if she wasn’t good enough as she catches glimpses of dark things around her. This is another eerie, atmospheric tale.
12. “Behind the Doors” (2010) – A grandfather becomes concerned after his grandson’s math teacher gives the boy an Advent Calendar in the days leading to Christmas Day. The teacher is the same man who taught and tormented the grandfather forty years previous. Festering with hate spurred by his memories of the teacher, he starts trying to figure out what the teacher’s end goal might be and how to stop it.
13. “Holding the Light” (2011) – Tom’s handicapped cousin Lucas suggests exploring a section of old irrigation tunnels rumored to be haunted at Halloween. He reluctantly agrees rather than watch the “kid movie” Lucas wants to see at the theater, but it seems something else lurks in the darkened underground passageway.
14. “The Long Way” (2008) – This novelette focuses on a boy who walks to his wheelchair-bound uncle’s retirement village every Saturday to help him buy groceries. The route takes him past a section of housing that has been vacated due to its proximity to a wooded area frequented by criminals. Through the doorway of one of those abandoned houses, the boy notices an obscured figure that appears to be leaning on sticks. There’s something unnatural about the way it moves incrementally closer to the open doorway each time he passes. Like with everything Campbell writes, the atmosphere is charged with potential menace. This is another tale of subtly-increasing supernatural menace.
Reviewed by Matt Cowan