Darkest Hours

Darkest Hours: Expanded Edition by Mike Thorn

Between the covers of Darkest Hours, you will find academics in distress; humans abusing monsters; demons terrorizing people; ghostly reminiscences; resurrected trauma; and occult filmmaking. Ranging from satirical to dreadful, these sixteen stories share a distinct voice: urgent, sardonic, and brutal.

This expanded edition includes a new foreword by Sadie Hartmann (Mother Horror) and author notes for every story describing Thorn’s process, influences, and more. This updated release also features seventeen of Thorn’s essays on horror cinema, which cover films by Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, Rob Zombie, M. Night Shyamalan, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento, among others.

The IndieMuse Review

This new and expanded version of his debut 2017 collection features a brand-new introduction by Mother Horror (Sadie Hartmann) as well as detailed story notes for each of the previous collections’ fiction offerings, with an additional seventeen non-fiction articles to round things out. There is a lot of diversity on offer here, with stories that include:

  • A macabre childhood haunting that does not wish to be forgotten
  • A booze-fuelled camping trip into nature, where nature does not wish to be disturbed
  • A bold new artist whose creations have an especially unpleasant origin
  • A down on his luck young man is given a lucrative opportunity at an innovative new firm, but with great pay comes greater personal suffering
  • An infamous local serial killer and a satanic ritual result in a particularly bad night for one group of teens
  • The ultimate transgressive horror movie. Viewer discretion is most certainly advised!

There truly is a story to suit every taste in Darkest Hours. There are overtly comedic tales (“Mired”, “Speaking of Ghosts”) alongside tales of body horror (“Hair”), cosmic dread (“A New Kind of Drug”) and good old fashioned scary stories (“Choo Choo”). Thorn demonstrates an eclectic array of strengths, excelling at both shocking, entertaining and amusing in equal measures.

In the short story notes, Thorn cites a lot of influences (both literary, musical and cinematic) that inform his work, but Thomas Ligotti seems to be a name that crops up throughout. While Darkest Hours covers a lot of the same themes (nihilism, anxiety, and the human condition) but Thorn’s work approaches them in a far more mainstream and accessible way. Still, I think this says a lot about the prevailing tone of his work, and there are stories here that scared (“Long Man”, “Sabbatical”) disturbed (“The Auteur”, “Fear and Grace”) and disgusted (“Fusion”) like few other collections have managed for me.

As a fan whose horror tastes also run to the movies as well as literature, I thoroughly enjoyed the various film-related articles that close out the collection. Focusing on the works of directors such as Tobe Hooper, Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Dario Argento, these various pieces offer a deep, often academic, dive into the themes and parallels present in some of your favorites horror movies and they make for interesting reading across the board.

Fans of Thorn, or people who read and enjoyed Darkest Hours previously have more than enough additional material here to justify upgrading to this expanded edition, whether that be via the new addition of a wealth of insightful non-fiction articles, or the story notes that enhance the enjoyment of the stories that exist from the initial 2017 release. The stories themselves are worth the price of admission, and this plethora of extras is just a welcome bonus.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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