This is another first for me here at anythinghorror.com. A few weeks ago I received an unmarked package in the mail containing a five CD box set of audio programs called TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE. That’s right, you read that correctly; five CD’s of audio horror stories. But this isn’t a bunch of amateur horror writers sitting around reading their unpublished horror short stories. Oh hell no!! Created and produced by indie horror powerhouse Larry Fessenden (WENDIGO, THE LAST WINTER) and Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD), TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE is a top-notch produced series of audio stories by some very familiar names both behind and in front of the microphone. This is a hugely entertaining series of stories that I had a really fun time with.
I’ll admit when I first received TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE in the mail and realized they were audio CD’s, my first reaction was, “When the hell am I ever gonna listen to these?” Then I saw that each story was around 30-33 minutes long, and since it takes me 15-20 minutes (depending on traffic) to get to and from work, I decided to pop the first disc in the old CD player and give it a shot. Besides, my car’s CD player was getting pretty rusty from non-use!! I was friggin’ hooked from the first minute of the first story, “Man on the Ledge,” written and directed by Joe Maggio, the whack job behind the creepy BITTER FEAST (my review here). “Man on the Ledge” had the voice talent of Vincent D’Onofrio as a man, John Alba, sitting out on his ledge overlooking Manhattan. What starts out as a speech about how lonely and alienated he feels turns very dark by the end and becomes the ramblings of a psychotic. D’Onofrio does a fantastic job and puts a very convincing and passionate performance in. I in fact sat in my car outside work, unable to get myself to turn it off. I had to listen to the entire story (yes, I was late to work).
All ten stories (there’s two stories on each disc in the box set) are fun as hell and contain either some kind of twist or very dark ending that you don’t always see coming. Some of the more disturbing stories are “The Conformation,” by Paul Solet, the warped mind behind the 2008 GRACE. This one’s about plastic surgery and what would happen when a doctor obsessed with creating the perfect form finds a patient obsessed with becoming the perfect form. Sure this entry, like all the rest, is only an audio story, but wow this one is friggin’ creepy. The sound effects and the actors involved do a phenomenal job. The final surgery scene is a perfect example of a director giving the audience just enough material to create their own mental pictures of what’s occurring. The result is chilling, gory, and disturbing!!
“This Oracle Moon” is another great story, although it stumbles a bit in the end. Written and directed by Jeff Buhler, who worked closely with Clive Barker in writing the screenplay for MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and had his directorial debut with INSANITARIUM in 2008. Here he takes us deep into space to a distant moon as we follow a team on a search and recover mission to find out what happened to a group of settlers who disappeared without a trace. This one features the voices of Ron Perlman and Doug Jones and is a great, action-packed story.
“Trawler” (by Glenn McQuaid) and “Johnny Boy” (by JT Petty) are also two very effective stories. “Trawler” can be seen as an updated version on “Moby Dick,” but if you thought that novel ends bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet!! “Johnny Boy” explores one young couples anxieties of dealing with being new parents and a mother who starts hearing strange voices over the baby monitor late at night. Is it postpartum depression on her part, or is there something else more sinister and evil going on with her baby? The ending is terrifically disturbing and just solidifies JT Petty as an amazing storyteller.
There’s so much to love here, people!! Larry Fessenden is the narrator who introduces each story. He has a great voice and reminded me a lot of, perhaps, the most classic horror voice ever, Vincent Price. All the stories have a kind of TALES FROM THE CRYPT-TWILIGHT ZONE-OUTER LIMITS kinda feel to them and as I said above, all the stories are hugely entertaining.
TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE is produced by Glass Eye Pix (Larry Fessenden’s independent film company) and will be available as individual CDs, a five CD box set, and as digital downloads on Amazon and iTunes starting on October 11, 2011. I can tell you that this has already become a new yearly tradition for me; I’ll be listening to these stories (and hopefully future seasons) every year at Halloween time!! Don’t miss this collection; TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE is an old-school way to enjoy some really kick ass new stories. Here’s how the stories are paired up:
VOL 1: MAN ON THE LEDGE & THE HOLE DIGGER
VOL 2: BRITISH AND PROUD & THE CONFORMATION
VOL 3: IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? & THE GRANDFATHER
VOL 4: THIS ORACLE MOON & TRAWLER
VOL 5: JOHNNY BOY & THE DEMON HUNTSMAN
Director: various directors for each story, but all hosted by Larry Fessenden
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars (for overall collection of 10 stories)
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls (for overall collection of 10 stories)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer