Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers is an anthology featuring some of today's biggest and brightest writers in the horror genre. Published by Matt Shaw Publications, this is a huge collection – coming in at around 100,000 words. Some of the featured authors include Luke Smitherd, Chantal Noordeloos, Rich Hawkins, Kit Power and so many more that when I read the lineup, I might have squealed...just a bit. Or maybe a lot. Anyway, one of the best parts of this book isthe introduction written by none other than the Don of Horror himself and the original Ginger Nutter, Jim Mcleod.
Usually, when I review an anthology, I write an overall summary for the book as a whole and point out the stories that I really liked, hated, or ones I feel horror fans will enjoy, but this one – this one is so special, I will recap each story located within its pages. So, brace yourselves, this will be a long one.
First up, we have the Introduction. Jim doesn't pull any punches when it comes to talking about why Easter is the most disturbing of all the holidays, and he tries to make us feel sorry for him when he reminds us that Jesus hates gingers. To show his true talent, he even worked in the phrase, “Christ on a bike,” which I thought was pretty damned special.
The second entry to Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers is a few words from The Matt Shaw. As a warning, he lets us know what to expect from his story – the first in the collection. He's easing us into the madness and warns that each subsequent story is darker than the last. When The Shaw warns you of the darkness and depravity on the pages of a book, it's wise to take notice. That said, let's move on and see what we've got.
Desserts – Matt Shaw
10-year-old Justin lives with his mum and dad who constantly argue about the fact that there's never enough to eat. The fighting saddens Justin who just wants everyone to be happy. It's the day before Easter and although Justin says it's okay if he doesn't receive a chocolate egg, we know he really wants one.
After a particularly nasty argument on the night before Easter, Justin tries to drown out his mother's cries and his father's rants, but as he's willing himself to go to sleep, he hears a scratching outside his bedroom door. When he opens it, he's found that the Easter Bunny has been and left him a chocolate egg. He tries easing the tension in the household by sharing the egg with his parents. As with all Shaw books, this one doesn't end in the way you think it will.
As you all know, I'm a huge Matt Shaw fan, and I am well aware of how versatile his writing is. I love his extreme horror more than anything, but this was a welcome change from the usual carnage he provides his readers. Desserts is touching and heartbreaking, and I think really sets this anthology off in the right direction.
Bastard Bunny – David Owain Hughes
Each year, Henry's wife makes him dress as the Easter Bunny and this year, Henry is fed up. He's remembering how mean the older children are to him as he parades around in his giant floppy ears and bunny tail, and he doesn't want to do it anymore. To make things more interesting, this year, Henry had a plan. Henry seeks revenge on those who laced his costume with itching powder, put ants in his bunny head, and otherwise made him the butt of their jokes.
Anyone familiar with Hughes' work knows that he's a little “out there,” so don't expect this to be a fluffy, happy story. There's poison, gunshots, and murder galore, complete with plenty of blood and guts for extreme horror fans, but not so disgusting that it won't appeal to those who like the more tame side of horror. I liked this story because it's a whole lot of fun, and the fun the author had writing it comes through on every page.
He Is Risen – Duncan Ralston
Ginger Nutter and author Duncan Ralston tackles our next story which is called He Is Risen. Colin is a Canadian professor who takes his TA, Madison, to England for the Easter holiday. The two come upon a small English town and decide to check out a local church's Easter service. The church celebrates Easter by talking about how Jesus rose from the dead, but this congregation has other ideas about the power of resurrection.
Duncan never ceases to amaze me when it comes to his wickedly good imagination. I've been a huge fan of this author since I read his short story collection, Gristle and Bone and just when I thought he couldn't surprise me anymore, he pulls out this story. Duncan, you are one sick puppy, and I love it.
The Chickens and the Three Gods – Kit Power
Kit Power tells us a very weird story of people and chickens in his contribution to the Easter anthology. Four baby chicks go to their new home on a farm and live with a mum, dad and toddler. The chickens see the mum and dad as gods, but don't look at the kid in the same way. The chickens hate it when the toddler chases them and pulls on their feathers and in a weird ritual type thing, get their revenge.
This is so different that anything I've read by this author before that I couldn't stop smiling at its weirdness. It was dark, slightly gory, and completely fucked up. I have learned a valuable lesson, though: keep your little ones away from groups of chickens. Don't say you haven't been warned.
Wicker Baskets – Kindra Sowder
Jesse is a seven-year-old boy and every year, his parents use a white wicker basket to deliver treats to their only child at Easter. Since last year, Jesse had been asking for a real rabbit, but his parent's didn't think he was old enough to care for one. This year, however, now that he's a big boy, they got him his rabbit. After Jesse goes to bed on the night before Easter, his parents are outside playing with the large white rabbit, when there's a knock on the front door. Dad answers the door and the bunny finds its way to Jesse's room.
Wicker Baskets is my least favourite of this anthology so far. Not only is it poorly written, the story makes absolutely no sense. I'd like to demonstrate this in my review, but to do so would require spoilers and I won't ruin a story, even one as bad as this one. Does the bunny have something to do with the end of the book? Is the boy supposed to think that him receiving the rabbit caused what happens at the end? I just don't get it.
My Last Easter – Jack Rollins
The next entry in Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers comes to us from Jack Rollins, who I am convinced couldn't write a bad story if he tried. My Last Easter is a sci-fi/horror story about a couple of kids, Charlotte and Tommy, who go to their grandmother's with their mum. As the older women leave the kids alone in the living room, Tommy becomes bored and curious and removes an ornamental egg from the china cabinet. The kids drop the egg and all hell breaks loose.
Jack Rollins has a writing style that I always enjoy and this story is no exception. From the first page, you learn to love the kids and you care what happens to them, especially little Tommy. If you want a unique story with a sci-fi twist, I think you'll really enjoy this.
Lepus – Stuart Keane
Stuart Keane is another one of those authors who always surprises his readers with some fantastically disturbing tales. In Lepus, Lee is thrown out of the house by a woman we assume is his wife. After a few months, he dresses up as the Easter Bunny and tracks down his family, with the hope that he can rekindle their relationship.
This story is all kinds of messed up and I loved every minute of it – from learning where the bunny costume came from to finding out what drove the couple apart. This is the certainly the most disturbing story in this anthology so far.
Little Bunny – Glenn Rolfe
Glenn Rolfe's Little Bunny is a weird and creepy story about a little girl named Marlow who follows a bunny into the woods – the woods that are off limits because they're haunted. Once they get there, she finds her sister who was long since dead, and Marlow tries to make sense of what's happening and tries to find her way out.
I became a fan of Glenn Rolfe after reading his ghost story Abram's Bridge early last year and Blood and Rain in December. In Little Bunny, he brings back some of the creepy goodness he's known for and the last few lines gave me chills. If you like ghosts and haunted places, I think you'll love Little Bunny.
Run Rabbit, Run – Michael Bray
Gerald Rose is a reverend who wants to give Easter candy to sick children in the hospital. Seems like a nice guy, right? He isn't. He gets off on little kids and every time he thinks of them, his bunny suit becomes a little tighter in the groin area, if you catch my meaning. Anyway, he goes to the shop, buys 12 eggs and delivers them himself.
This one is disturbing, kiddies. Don't say I didn't warn you. I liked this story and the fact that the author didn't shy away from this controversial subject made it a lot of fun. And the ending? I promise, you won't see it coming.
When a Bunny Snaps – Jim Goforth
Bunny works at Fantasy Dress, a nightclub filled with beautiful women serving a bunch of horny men, and of course, with a name like Bunny, she always gets great tips on Easter. Dressed in her bunny ears and with a tail attached to her thong, Bunny gets away from the busy scene when it's time for her break and heads out to the back alley for a smoke. As she relaxes and enjoys the peace and quiet, she is approached by one of her customers who has less than honourable intentions. After she is attacked by the man, she basically loses her mind and fights back.
Anyone who is familiar with Jim Goforth's work will know exactly what to expect from When a Bunny Snaps. If you're new to him, this is a great place to start because it demonstrates just how crazy his stories are, and with lines like, “I've got some real swollen creme eggs,” how can this story not be a lot of fun?
Help Me – Neil Buchanan
Jo is a down-on-his-luck drug addict who, after a two-day bender, finds himself in big trouble when Len and his cronies come after him, seeking the money he owes them. As Jo awakens from his dream, he begins to hear a voice saying, “Help me.” He tries to find the source of the voice, but chalks it up to coming off the drugs.
This is my first Neil Buchanan read and I have to say, I was impressed. This story is beautifully written and does a fantastic job of keeping the reader in suspense until the author is ready to let you in on his secret. You have to give Buchanan kudos for turning a story about a drug addict into a heart-pounding Easter tale.
Educating Horace – Matt Hickman
Horace is a fat 14-year-old kid who doesn't have any friends and is constantly the butt of other childrens' jokes at school. He may not be popular there, but his mum worships him and gives him everything he could ever want. When Easter Sunday arrives, he finds his Easter surprise to be more than anything he could have asked for.
Matt Hickman has come so far in his writing over the last year or so, and this story perfectly demonstrates his ability to shock and awe his readers. If you've ever been tempted to pick up one of his stories, Educating Horace is a fantastic place to start and you won't be disappointed with its conclusion.
Deb Loves Robbie – Mark West
Deb and Robbie comes from families that don't really like each other. One night, as the couple is out on the town, Deb's brothers attack Robbie, leaving him with a brain injury. Robbie spends time in hospital and continues his recovery at home, but he's never the same again. Not long after that, Deb falls down a flight of stairs and Robbie cares for her in their home.
I would love to tell you how this story ties in with Easter, but without giving away plot points, I can't. Just know that Mark West has hit another one out of the park with this exciting and emotional tale of love, and yes, it has a lot to do with Easter.
Tradition – Kyle M. Scott
Billy and Kevin are two boys who live on the edge of the woods – woods they were never supposed to go in alone. One night, Kevin came home from school, obviously unhappy and even a little afraid. The boys' parents had gone out and Billy wanted to explore the woods, but Kevin had to paint Easter eggs first. When Kevin shows Billy the egg, Billy discovers his brother is painting a self-portrait on the egg's surface, and when he demands an explanation for his brother's odd behaviour, he wishes he'd never asked.
Kyle M. Scott is known for his weird, gory tales that stay with you long after you've read them, and Tradition is no exception. This tale starts off slowly, building dread with the story of why the woods are so feared and comes to a creepy and sad conclusion that you won't want to miss.
Hey-Zeus – Duncan Bradshaw
Ed and his friends have a night of partying ahead of them and need a fake IDs to buy their lager. The name on Ed's ID reads “Jesus” (because of his beard) but he prefers to pronounce it “Hey Zeus.” The friends head off to the park and as Ed heads to the bar, he's told the bartender has something special for him. He follows a lovely woman into the back room behind the bar where he loses consciousness. He awakens to find it's Good Friday and the people in the bar have plans for “Jesus.”
Many of the tales in Easter Eggs and Bunny Boilers are dark and foreboding from beginning to end, but Hey-Zeus is a lighter tale, at least in the beginning. Duncan Bradshaw is a master when it comes to making you laugh whilst at the same time making you cringe. That's not to say that Hey-Zeus is any less shocking and disturbing as the rest of the stories in this book, but it is a little different and refreshing to what I've read up to this point.
Feldman's Rabbit – Rich Hawkins
Feldman's car gets stranded during a brutal snowstorm and rather than freeze to death, he sets out on foot to find help. Eventually he comes to an old, abandoned house and goes inside to find the occupants of the house long gone. He explores the house and comes to a door under the stairs, a door that's locked and after exploring, eventually falls asleep on the sofa where he has unsettling dreams. He awakens in the morning to the little door hanging open, a faint smell of chocolate in the air, and a creepy stuffed rabbit sitting by the opening.
Readers can always count on Rich Hawkins to deliver a dark and disturbing tale with realistic characters and unique plot lines, and this story once again shows the depths of his talents. I became a fan of Hawkins' work after reading The Last Plague and this story solidifies his position as a one of the best horror writers in the UK, in my opinion.
On the Third Day – Graeme Reynolds
Barrabus and Simon are two guys who set out to dig up the body of a prophet from a graveyard. The prophet comes to life as it's released, bites Barrabas on the neck and as Simon looks on in terror, he tries running away and hits his head on a rock, causing him to pass out. He eventually wakes up to more pain and horror than he ever thought possible. The prophet is now on the loose killing everyone it its wake.
Anyone who regularly visits this website knows what a huge Graeme Reynolds fan I am, and when I found out he was appearing in this anthology, I couldn't contain my excitement. Reynolds brings us an incredibly brutal Easter story that reminds us of how good he is at creating characters you either love or hate after only a few sentences. On the Third Day is definitely one of my favourites in this collection and one I will read again in the near future.
Easter Eggs – Chantal Noordeloos
Lukas and Polly had been together for four months before Polly found out she was pregnant so Lukas proposed. Now the couple was on their way to visit Lukas' family to tell them the good news in person over Easter weekend.. During the first months of pregnancy, Polly had extreme morning sickness and horrific nightmares and Lukas, in a vain attempt to help, made her a special tea. Polly and Lukas take part in the family's pagan Easter ritual, and not long after, Polly realises she and her baby are in grave danger.
Reading Chantal's writing, you quickly discover that she has a flair many writers lack. She has a way of writing fantastic characters and I found myself caring about Polly within a page or two. Things take a terrifying turn and Chantal pulls out all the stops to make this a creepy tale that will stick with you long after you've finished reading.
Easter Hunt – JR Park
Old Pat delivers chocolate eggs to the villagers and has done since before his wife died. Every Easter, he walks out into the field and finds new hiding places for the eggs and this year, as he's walking around a shadow passes over him and soon Old Pat is dead. Eventually, kids start arriving at the field looking for sweets when they encounter the shadowy rabbit-shaped figure, and they find themselves running for their lives.
JR Park is another author most of you are probably familiar with and if you're a fan, you'll love this story. Park does an excellent job of building dread throughout the story as it comes to an exciting conclusion. Easter Hunt is a great example of Park's storytelling and whether you're a long-time fan or new to his work, I think you'll enjoy this one.
The Jesus Loophole – Luke Smitherd
Last, but certainly not least, is Luke Smitherd's The Jesus Loophole. Harry awakens to find he's bound and tied to a chair in his office, with his mouth is taped shut. As the events in Harry's past come to light thanks to his kidnapper, Harry begins to realise that the man he thought was long dead was actually alive, and he's come to seek his revenge.
Of all the stories in this anthology, I was most curious about this one. Smitherd is and has been one of my favourite authors for a while, but he's far different from most of the others listed here. His horror usually doesn't include the brutality others use in their stories so I was worried that he may not fit in. I worried for nothing. Smitherd demonstrates that he can write a wide variety of stories and although the Easter theme in this one was a little weaker than in some of the others, this story blew me away.
Few horror fans can look at the lineup in this collection and not be excited to see their favourite author listed in the table of contents. Matt Shaw took the care necessary to provide readers with a strong anthology centered around a difficult theme, and each author shined in their offerings. With the exception of one story, this collection was absolutely brilliant, and I can only hope that these guys and gals get together for something else in the future.
Look for Easter Eggs & Bunny Boilers to come out on March 27 and if you do nothing else today, do yourselves a favour and pre-order it here.
If you would like to check out any of the authors other books please click on their names, the embedded links will take you their Amazon UK page, as will the link on Dawn Cano's name
This is a book of extreme horror. Please do not purchase if you are easily shocked or offended.
After ten years of marriage, Mike and Emilia's relationship falls apart after Emilia admits to having an affair - an affair with a man who gave her HIV. Once Mike finds out what she's done, he will go to any length to ensure she dies a slow, painful death, just like the one he's sure his wife has sentenced him to.