The writer-director behind the cult favorite THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA gets serious with this creepy collection of western horror stories. Atmospheric, suspenseful, grotesque and occasionally amusing, these thirteen trips to the unknown Old West range from pulp mystery-thriller to ghost story to scifi-horror, all set around a mysterious mountain range where folks just seem to have trouble settling.
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By Douglas Kennedy
Sep 21, 2010
I finished Tales From The Callamo Mountains last night and I honest to god loved this book. Well done, Larry Blamire! As I enjoyed this anthology of spooky western short stories, I kept thinking to myself, "Self, why am I enjoyin...g this so much? What is it about these spine tingling, off beat, scary, twisted, sometimes-humorous, sometimes-moving tales that's striking a chord with me?". Then it dawned on me, Larry must like many of the same things I do. 50's science fiction, westerns, The Outer Limits, and The Twilight Zone to name a few. They were all in here, but there was something else. A fresh, twisted way of mixing all of these (and I'm sure many other) influences and ingredients together to form these very uniquely bizarre and engaging stories. Oh, and they were scary and haunting too, which is always good when your trying to scare and haunt somebody. Although many of them are quite different in mood and tone, there is a thread (other than the common setting of the... More > Callamo Mountains) that runs through the stories. A dreamlike feeling of dread, of being off balance, of being spooked. I think my favorite two stories (as long as calling 'em that doesn't insinuate that I didn't love 'em all) were the two least traditionally "scary" ones. These being "The Girl On The Hill" and "On Tuesday I'll Be In China". "The Girl On The Hill" is the second story in the book and follows what I considered a very scary and creepy tale, "The Line Shack". I think the reason "Girl" struck me is that it was so different in tone from "Shack", which immediately told me that this book was not going to be predictable. There was a soft, haunting, ethereal tone to "The Girl On The Hill" that just felt like I was dreaming it as I read it. Abstract yet so very descriptive. A contradiction in itself. Equally enigmatic and so totally dreamlike was "On Tuesday I'll Be In China", a fairytale that, while not being overtly scary (i.e. no monsters or murders), left me feeling strangely creeped out, confused, and frightened. Without giving anything away, the ending of this one has stayed with me ever since reading it and crawls back into my thoughts at night. Again, very enigmatic and hauntingly weird. Maybe the most outright frightening and nightmarish one for me was the last one, "The Last Things One Sees In The Woods", mainly because it left me wondering what it all meant while at the same time contained one of the most gripping and terrifying night time stalking scenes I've ever read. "You Made Me Open It!" - ya gotta read the story.... I'm sure I'll have more comments, but I just wanted to get these thoughts out in a stream of typing while it was all still fresh on my mind. I highly recommend this book. Just let me suggest that you have a night light ready after you put it down each night. You won't want to be in the dark...< Less
"Tales of the Callamo Mountains" Full disclosure: I’ve known Larry Blamire for a long time, I’ve acted in four of his movies, and I like his work, whether it’s as a visual artist, writer or director. So, if you think I might be biased in favor of his new collection of short stories, you may be right. But, the fact is, the guy is pretty darn good at the creative endeavors he sets his hand to. I had the opportunity to read many of these stories in manuscript, and while some are stronger than others, as a whole they build an evocative and original portrait of a fictional location that is – well, “haunted” is too feeble a word – let’s just say that if I owned real estate in the Callamo Mountains, I would be an absentee landlord in self defense. Several of these stories literally sent chills down the back of my neck, despite the 72-degree heat coming through my open window as I read. I’ll give you one example in detail, trying not to give anything away. In “The Line Shack”,... More > two cowboys settle in for a long stay at a remote cabin. Sidrow wants to be left alone to read his books, while the rambunctious Hauley enjoys a good conversation. Tension builds between them until one day, after Hauley returns from a mysterious wooded spot called The Tangle, he clams up. His entire personality has changed; something happened to him out there. Something bad... All of Larry Blamire’s ”Tales of the Callamo Mountains” stories have strong atmosphere and sense of place, and “The Line Shack” is no exception. What’s unique about this two-handed piece is the way in which the dynamics of the two characters are essential to the story: Sidrow, the man who just wants to read in peace versus Hauley, the man who can't shut up, and the neat way that dynamic is used once Hauley is taken over by the thing in The Tangle, with Sidrow now too distracted and nervous to read, missing his partner’s chatter. The tenderness with which Sidrow cares for the possessed Hauley is unexpected, and a nice character touch, just as much as what later happens to Hauley's blue eyes is a chilling revelation. Such nicely evocative phrases as "Many a boudoir door had been propped open by a well-placed tome," and "If he'd only gotten cabin fever on the drive, he'd probably have more friends by now" delineate the two cowboys’ inner thoughts with humorous succinctness, and the quietly frustrated Sidrow’s list of Hauley's chatter, in which he endlessly describes "meals he'd eaten, kettles he'd heated," and on and on, is funny and accurately observed. People like Hauley really do talk about exactly this kind of minutiae. The sequence describing The Tangle -- "It sounded like a beehive..." is chilling, using imagistic variants on words from nature: beehive, crackle, embers, orange, dawn, flame, dust, parchment, watery blue, predawn light. Not only are these stories captivating yarns, they’re also humorous, evocatively written, sometimes surprising and often downright scary. I enjoyed them a lot, and recommend them to anyone who wants to read something that, like Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo”, for example, chills you with atmosphere and detail, rather than violence and gore. -- Bob Deveau< Less
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