By PASHA NIELSEN
Picture the scene: It’s below freezing outside, you haven’t left the house for any reason except groceries in months, and there’s no end in sight. You’re also snuggled up with a hot toddy – socks are most definitely on your feet. You’ve got all the time in the world to read all the goriest, splatteriest horror you could ever dream of. And if you’re still stuck in quarantine (as you absolutely should be) you’ve even got time to order them online and wait for them in the post! Beware: those with weak stomachs need not apply.
Bleed (2011) by Ed Kurtz
When soft spoken Walt Blackmore moves into a charming cottage on the outskirts of town, he’s sure things are starting to look up for him. His career is promising, and he plans to propose to his loving girlfriend. Shortly after moving in, he notices a dark spot on the ceiling. It begins to grow and drip, developing a hunger and demanding to be fed human flesh. Once Walt crosses the line into murder, things quickly devolve into an all-out, no-act-too-depraved nightmare with a gooey, sexy drive-in monster at the centre of it.
Inspired by the works of Clive Barker, Kurtz creates a tension-filled piece of work reminiscent of ’80’s horror literature that will keep you guessing till the bitter end.
Off Season (1980) by Jack Ketchum
Off Season was deemed so violent after its controversial 1980 release it was taken out of circulation by the publisher until being picked up again in 1999 – with original gore included.
Ketchum plays with the well-known trope of the deformed cannibal family, who terrorize a group of city folk on a trip to an isolated holiday home in Maine. Exploring the human condition at its most primitive, Off Season will burn you with hot oil, bite off your penis, and keep you alive while Ketchum removes your limbs and makes human jerky from your flesh.
A God in the Shed (2017) by J- F. Dubeau
Based in Dubeau’s native Quebec, this novel follows multiple storylines surrounding the discovery of dozens of bodies stored in fridges in the woods, the strange disappearances of a small, rural town and of course, a teen heroine finding the God of Hate and Death in her backyard shed.
A coming-of-age meld of True Detective and Lovecraftian terror, Dubeau teaches readers about all the ways a god can tear flesh from bones as well as the dangers of power born from destruction.
Urban Gothic (2009) by Brian Keene
Bringing the haunted house to the mean streets of Philly, Keene follows a group of teens car having trouble in the worst neighbourhood they’ve ever been in. Fleeing from a pack of what they perceive to be gangbangers, they shelter in an abandoned row house that has been double bricked from the inside, and they have no way out. Little do they know, this is exactly what the basement dwelling occupants were waiting for…
Filled to the gills with mutants, guts and pus, Urban Gothic is probably not one to read while you eat.
Kin (2011) by Kealan Patrick Burke
A dazed woman, naked and covered in blood is found on the side of a country road, telling tales of an unimaginable nightmare. Her friends have been tortured, killed and eaten. She vows to return and seek revenge for what is dubbed, the Elkwood Massacre.
Kin stands tall next to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance, introducing readers to a backwoods family so depraved, Leatherface himself would blush.
Haunter (2003) by Charlee Jacob
The sequel to 1997’s This Symbiotic Fascination, Jacobs uses her novel to explore war atrocities in a post-Vietnam Cambodian jungle. Melting sex, gender, violence and religion into a sticky, dripping pot, readers are introduced to Harry, an American solider with no limits to his depravity. After committing an unspeakable act against a mutated, non-human creature, Harry finds himself transforming to Shiva – the Hindu god of destruction.
Following a number of characters as they navigate an increasingly hostile world, Jacob draws from the real-life crimes of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge: combining war’s brutalities and Hindu mythology to examine the base instincts of man without consequence.
Survivor (2004) by J.F Gonzales
When the pregnant Lisa plans a romantic getaway with her husband, she’s less than thrilled when she finds herself arrested for reckless driving before they leave. Shortly after, she’s kidnapped by a gang of sadists to star in a snuff film. After a litany of horrendous acts that will make sure you appreciate your own appendages and their attachment to your body, Lisa escapes. You best believe she abandons any moral fibres she may possess and does absolutely everything she can to get out alive.
The Devil Next Door (2009) by Tim Curran
Curran’s apocalypse doesn’t end with a mushroom cloud or failed vaccine. It collapses in Greenlawn, Indiana when an entire town submits to man’s dormant atavism.
Curran’s monsters are not quite zombies. They’re just our neighbours and co-workers – pissing on territory, mating with reckless abandon and of course, engaging in more graphic cannibalism than you can poke a stick at. Fair warning – blood and pus are just the tip of the bodily fluid iceberg.
Haunter of the Threshold (2010) by Edward Lee
Designed as a sequel to H.P Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark, Lee’s novel follows a pregnant university professor, her best friend, and her fiancée as they trek to a cabin in the woods for a cheeky getaway. Here, they indulge in a litany of fetishistic sexual acts before unleashing Lovecraftian terrors.
Lee’s novel swings wildly between pornographic sex and torture-porn-esque body horror, with tongue firmly in cheek. Expect tentacles, ancient monsters, insides on the outsides and lots, and lots, of kinky sex.
The Bighead (1997) by Edward Lee
Arguably the premiere extreme horror author, Edward Lee makes a second entry on this list. Described as “splatterspunk” by Jack Ketchum, The Bighead follows a homicidal mutant pervert’s trail of destruction through small town Virginia.
There is most definitely a story somewhere in here, you just need to pop on a pair of elbow length rubber gloves to find it. A showcase in all the ways you can pull apart a human body (and everything inside of it), The Bighead is a must read for horror fans – purely because it will absolutely never be made into a movie. Believe me when I say it: spines being removed via the anus is just the beginning.