Short Horror Review: Skye Hegyes’s Chiller
Posted by Anneque D. Machelle
Did you know that horror is speculative fiction? According to Wikipedia it is. The more you know. And that brings us to Skye Hegyes short horror story, Chiller.
Skye runs an insightful and author-centric blog, which you can find here. She’s wonderfully inspirational and imaginative. Skye has said that most of her story ideas come from dreams. By her own admission, this is a technique with pros and cons. Recently Skye has been focusing on world building, developing the ideas in her dreams, and that will only make her writing stronger.
Chiller, I believe, is her first published story. It’s a short, self-published horror title. How can you go wrong with that combination? The answer is: you can’t. Let’s get into this review.
Chiller is a snapshot of a house, and that house is a pretty shitty place to live. It’s owned by the Kazal family, who are widely rumoured to be vampires cursed to remain in the house. But despite the house arrest, the Kazals must be up to something, because the rumours follow that the house is also full of ghosts.
Curious, teenagers Lindsey and Jess go a door-knocking. They’re invited in by the younger of the Kazals, 12 year old Milo, who looks a bit like Samara from the Ring. We join in the story when Lindsey, frantic and probably suffering shock, returns to the house with an off-duty policeman in tow.
Lindsey is adamant that the house is full of ghosts and that her friend is now one of them. Officer Harrison is largely unconcerned by this, by the carcass on the front lawn, or by the generally sinister demeanour of head of the household, Alexander Kazal. Monsieur Kazal leads Harrison and Lindsey on a short tour of the house, finishing in an elevator – where Harrison is promptly and brutally murdered.
Snap forward several days. Lindsey, Jess and Harrison have been reported missing. A local cop/ vampire, Sorca, is the only cop on the beat with a lead to follow. She heads into the Kazal house, for act 2 of this bloody, chilling nightmare.
Chiller is that particular brand of horror which relies on violence to create a sense of tension and repulsion. It’s less Silence of the Lambs and more Human Centipede. I give it credit for being exceptionally violent, and the tension arrives in terse little bursts that had my skin crawling and my eyes rolling back in my head to avoid looking at whatever horrible thing was about to happen next. It’s short, so we don’t really get a strong sense of empathy for the two characters it follows, Lindsey and Sorca.
And Lindsey, well. Lindsey is obviously in shock. She’s just seen her friend violently murdered. She goes and finds a cop she knows and drags him back to the house, not to help poor Jess but just as validation for the grotesqueness she’s witnessed. Silly, silly Lindsey.
Sorca I liked more, mainly because she wasn’t in a pants-shitting state of terror from the offset. She gets to it soon enough, but to begin with she’s a solid character who understands she has something unpleasant to do and knows she can’t avoid it. She enters the Kazal house with a sort of grim determination as to what she might find, and she’s not disappointed. Her fear of the Kazals is only heightened by the presence of her cop friend, Raba, a mere human who will be snuffed out as readily as an ant in a fireplace.
So we have this palpable sense of shitty things happening to undeserving people. The Kazals are mysterious, haunting, pretty two-dimensional. Young Milo Kazal is interesting and household head Alexander Kazal is standard villain stuff.
My issue with the story was that it’s over-written. It’s not a bad story – certainly interesting enough to be thrown into this nightmarish house in the thick of these gruesome murders, and the tension really does drill into your head and run electric fingers down your spine – but it is a good example of the author wanting to include too much information. Even on the first page:
“An overgrown and tangled labyrinth of weeds and vines from years of neglect served as a garden parallel to the driveway where buzzards circle down on a rotting carcass.”
This could be far more eloquently written as: “An overgrown labyrinth of weeds and vines served as a garden [comma] parallel to the driveway where buzzards circled above a rotting carcass.”
“Their apprehension matched as they surveyed the scene before them, brows knitted with worry and mouth corners turned down.”
Would be more eloquent as: “They surveyed the scene before them with matching apprehension.”
Sometimes too the cause and effect of things was a little off. A misjudged reaction, the cop taking Lindsey so seriously that the house was haunted, the carcass in the driveway that is never mentioned again – is it human or what? In fact, while I adored the setting of this trapped old house, I couldn’t help but feel it may be a house built on thin ice. I think Skye’s work with world-building will really help in this aspect, and I expect far solider premises from her in future.
The story does have a very good take on vampires, and the ending was unexpectedly fresh. Chiller has its good and its bad. If you like horror and especially that visceral, in-your-face, all-over-your-shoes, thick-on-the-walls kind of horror, then give Chiller a look.
I’m giving it 2 stars.