Review: “Collected Easter Horror Shorts,” ed. Kevin J. Kennedy

Rating: 4 out of 5

Kevin J. Kennedy edited Collected Easter Horror Shorts (Collected Horror Shorts Book 2). As the title says, it’s a collection of short stories connected to Easter in one way or another. Some are about mysterious eggs. Others are about resurrection. Still others are about bunnies, and some just happen to take place on Easter. I have to say that my favorite sub-theme is that of mysterious eggs that hatch into something unexpected. Like most anthologies, you’re likely to find some stories you like better than others; I think it’s a solid 4/5 overall, which is what I end up giving most anthologies.

Lex H. Jones’s “Sonnes Hall” introduces a mixed-race gay couple who move out into the countryside and are surprised at how tolerant their neighbors are. When one of them develops a serious illness, they discover that there are some unusual happenings in the area. Latashia Figueroa wrote a story about a child named Brian, his mother Angela, his mother’s abusive boyfriend Pete, and the neighbor Mr. Eldridge. Brian goes to Mr. Eldridge for a sense of safety, only to result in Pete’s attention focusing on Mr. Eldridge. This is a mysterious egg story, and it’s dark and excellent. Mark Lukens’s “Mia’s Easter Basket” introduces us to Mia, who gets mysterious packages from an old man on each Easter–packages she can’t let her daughter see.

C.S. Anderson’s “He Has Risen” is a great tale of the zombie apocalypse in which one man who got drunk and fell asleep on sentry duty has to pay for his sins. Jeff Strand’s “Rotten Eggs” is a story of a prank involving hidden Easter eggs that someone carries much too far. Jeff Menapace’s “Paying It Forward” shows us what can happen when you don’t do some research before obeying your fortune cookie’s instruction to “Be kind to strangers.” Veronica Smith’s “It’s Not All About Bunnies and Chocolate” sees six-year-old Lilymairose’s mother Jean trying to get her daughter one of the wildly popular “Hatch-A-Pets” for Easter. Still loving those mysterious egg stories!

The stories I’ve listed so far are my favorites, but there are others that are still quite good. Amy Cross’s “Lamb to Slaughter” introduces us to a rather different idea of what should happen on Easter, involving sacrifice. In Mark Cassell’s “The Rebirth,” teacher Kelly brings to school a beautiful wooden egg she found outside of her door. (Another mysterious egg story!) Briana Robertson’s “Baby Blues” is a really difficult (and potentially traumatizing) glimpse into what can happen when a mother falls deep into the grip of depression. It’s really tough to read about that. There’s a poem called “Killer Jelly Beans from Outer Space” that’s pretty funny. Kevin J. Kennedy’s “A Town Called Easter” is a monsters-run-amuck story about giant bunnies. This one is not humor.

J.C. Michael’s “Lord of the Dance” was really amazing right up until the confusing end. A man who witnessed Jesus’s death on the cross has been killing one person every year at Easter at the behest of the voice of God in his head–for two thousand years. Peter Oliver Wonder’s “Easter Gunny” is told from the perspective of a mini Australian Shepherd who tries to figure out how he’s supposed to fit in with the family’s Easter celebration. My only problem with this one is that sometimes he seems to think like a dog, and at other times he seems to think like a human, and it’s jarring. Suzanne Fox’s “Last Supper” is a fascinating revenge story with multiple layers to it. Lisa Vasquez’s “Bunny and Clyde” was a bit confusing at first, but turned into an interesting story about grief and loss. Christopher Motz’s “Magic Awaits” has a man’s boss invite all of his employees’ kids to an Easter scavenger hunt. Some of the details in the ending are what really made this story for me.

Christina Bergling’s “Hatch” is another excellent mystery-egg story, featuring a young man who finds a rather unusual and homely egg and becomes obsessed with it. (I did find some of the description odd, though, like “her pupils bounced against her irises,” which, what?!) Mark Fleming’s “Sulfur” seemed unreasonably confusing until the end, but that end was worth it. It involves a very hungover man and a little girl hurling eggs.

Of the stories I wasn’t as fond of, one was a revenge story that seemed disproportionate and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the role the gay man was cast in. Another is a tale of toys in a festival claw machine that break out and start attacking; the beginning could have been skipped entirely and only served to completely confuse what was going on. Another story, about a writer, got a bit too cutesy. It tries to be meta-meta; the nod to Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes doesn’t solve the fact that this feels too much like “Misery”; and one character’s actions come entirely out of left field and needed at least a little foreshadowing.

Overall this is an excellent collection of horror stories, and definitely worth reading.

Content note for domestic abuse; child death, neglect, and abuse; suicide; animal cruelty and death; standard horror warning for bits of gore and death.

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