Wednesday 26 June 2024

Bludgeon Tools: Splatterpunk Anthology edited by K. Trap Jones (The Evil Cookie Publishing) | review by Douglas J. Ogurek

Tool-themed visceral horror anthology hits the nail on the head in some parts, strikes a thumb in others.

This splatterpunk anthology features stories of extreme violence enacted by tools. It’s mostly the usual suspects like hammers and saws, but there are also a few surprises. Characters range from cavemen wielding primitive weapons (“Sticks and Stones” by Christine Morgan) to students learning about torture techniques through remote instruction (“Online Learning” by Vic Kerry). Several stories involve women using phallus-like tools to exact revenge on men. 

Some entries by lesser-known authors enticed me to purchase more of their work. Conversely, I researched other authors in this anthology to avoid ever attempting to read something by them again. Their stories, limited in conflict and conversation, come across as amateur. The book also suffers from spelling mistakes and typos – at times, it’s enough to pull the reader out of a story. 

Well-known splatterpunk authors Kristopher Triana and Matt Shaw bookend the anthology with equally gruesome stories. In Triana’s “Hammer Time”, call girl Cassie visits a wealthy artist with piercings and tattoos covering his body. A tool aficionado (and a masochist), he has an idea for his ultimate work of art. It’s hard to write a story like this with the intent of being serious, but Triana pulls it off concisely and brutally.

Despite its problems with typos and tense, Matt Shaw’s “Smash It” offers a highly original, graphic depiction of violence that makes the reader cringe and laugh. After a bad experience with acid, the protagonist thinks his penis is encouraging him to violate and kill women. He decides he needs to take care of the problem. 

Stephen Kozeniewski’s “Tool Story”, the anthology’s most original entry, is written from the perspective of three tools used by a man who tortures people for information. Typically, anthropomorphic stories are intended for children, but Kozeniewski’s ultraviolent take results in humour and cleverness. 

In Vic Kerry’s “Online Learning”, an instructor delivers a remote course on torture as if he’s delivering a biology lesson about root systems. His clinical presentation of the subject matter combined with the students’ enthusiasm about using their “volunteers” to do heinous things makes for an amusing read. 

Ola, the protagonist of Jonathan Butcher’s “Drilldo”, decides to take her fetishes into her own hands after she has a bad experience with a dominant who calls himself Dr Surly. She does so after inserting a power drill (handle first) into a tight place. The story appears to be headed down the typical extreme horror path of abusing women, but it twists like a drill bit. 

The concept of a musician killing people on stage has been done before, but maybe not as funnily as in Antoine Cancer’s “Jesus of Jim Beam”. The story reflects the punk rock mentality by saying “f-- you” to the whole tool theme. There really aren’t any tools... or maybe the musician is the tool. Notable is the audience members’ response to the killing spree – they’re not overly impressed. It’s a commentary on being desensitised. 

Bludgeon Tools reinforces a theory about splatterpunk stories: although humour is not a requirement for such fiction, considering the over-the-top nature of the stories, humour often proves to be the best route. Douglas J. Ogurek ***

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