Review by Laurel Hightower
LatinX Screams is the latest offering from Burial Day Press, a dream team up with the multi-talented and driven Violet Castro, who edited this anthology. A collection of horror stories from an all-star Latinx lineup, with the dual purpose of illustrating how effective horror through different lenses is, and serving as an example to aspiring voices from marginalized communities. Yes, this genre is for you, and yes, we want your stories.
Castro has done a stellar job of curating a group of stories that cover the gamut of tone, subject matter, brutality and aesthetic. The anthology leads off with “Sangre Derramada” by Hector Acosta, which swung the pendulum between humor, the horror of the plight of immigrant workers in unsafe conditions, and deep down gritty body horror. The culmination is as effective as it is unexpected. Following Acosta’s act is Sarah Davis with “Black Sheep”, an intriguing premise written with the urgency of present tense. The reader is pulled along in Anessa’s wake as she investigates a bizarre string of assaults, and the pacing is pitch perfect.
“Morning of the Teeth” by Rio de la Luz, is written in a frantic, fever dream style that brings the unreality of the supernatural elements to the forefront. There’s a particularly haunting scene of mourning that stuck with me long after I finished. “Frijoles” by Laura Diaz de Arce was one of my standout favorites, covering the ties and burdens of family, curses, and looming death in a way that beautifully built dread. “Come, Play” by Sergio Gomez handled a child’s point of view in an authentic and compelling fashion, the simple thrill of sneaking out at night, tying in horrific folklore elements that made my skin crawl. “The Organometallic God” by Arisabo Campeche starts off with one of the most viscerally disturbing opening lines I’ve ever read, and keeps the atmosphere up from there. Themes of dark magic and betrayal are rife within, and Campeche blends them to perfection.
Richie Narvaez brings the tech horror with “Galan”, a story about the bond that forms between a robot and the family’s matriarch, to the downfall of some of the other family members. “The Devil With Me” by Baillie Puckett is a quick slice look at the other side of possession with a surprising outcome, meshed with believable and effective coming of age body horror and some lines that made me laugh out loud.
Monique Quintana’s ethereal and beautiful tale of mythic women in captivity, “The Throats of Neptune”, is a haunting look at confinement, expectations and underestimation that stuck with me well after the story ended. “Behind the Mountain” by E. Reyes was one of the longer pieces of the bunch, woven with folklore, grief, and family, and bearing excellent comparisons with the best parts of Pet Semetary, though it is completely it’s own story. With “Imperial Slaughterhouse”, A.E. Santana thrusts the reader into scene setting so effectively done I felt like I was the one driving in the desert heat. Santana deftly defies our expectations about the nature of this homecoming trip, and at one point gives us dual storytelling as a character recalls an eerie ghost story on her way through a haunted slaughterhouse, a particularly effective and skin crawling device.
The final entry to this powerhouse anthology is V. Castro’s “Pancho Claus v. Krampus”. I think I would have pegged this as V.’s story even without the byline, as it serves up her signature mix of modernized folklore, compelling characters and kickass fight scenes. I’d love to see this expanded into novella format, because the scope and the story is right there ready and waiting.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable anthology from start to finish, a quick read, and a hell of an introduction to some voices that were new to me. Grab it and enjoy!