Toys in the Attic – Anthology Book Review

Toys in the Attic 

Anthology – JWK Fiction
Edited by Mary Gwenivieve Fortier

toys-in-the-attic“Into the Attic” is a short poem that suitably opens the wonderfully themed anthology, Toys in the Attic. It’s followed by an introduction for the theme, tempting the reader to journey up the steps into that dark and dusty place at the peak of the home where forgotten playthings wait in the shadows. Both are written by the talented Mary Gwenivieve Fortier and they set the mood for what lies ahead; toys that are monsters and monstrous toys, sinister fun for the horror fan. The horror comes in poetry, prose, limericks and short tales. The poems are not the poems of days gone by but modern tales, easier to read and more blatant than a Frost or Whitman. The first striking poem is “Aiding Evil” by Lemmy Rushmore, where a dollhouse removed from the attic portends the fates of the family in the real house. It was followed by a short story concerning a dollhouse titled “Light in the Attic,” by Essel Pratt where the character starts on the outside looking into the toy windows only to have at some point experienced a paradigm shift and is then looking out of the dollhouse windows and doors. “Magic Macabre” by Sheldon Woodbury was a finely written story and a pleasure to read. The disappearance of an aging magician leads a man back to his childhood home where he discovers a magic kit in a trunk that had been waiting there for him since he was a child.

“Tea Time for the Innocents,” by Nicola Nicoli was a horrifying tale concerning a child’s tea set carefully laid out in the attic of a man’s new home and a creepy ghost girl host that needs living children to attend her little tea party. “The Pig in the House” by Alex S. Johnson was unnerving, as a young girl finds a dollhouse with figures that represent everyone in her family plus one extra, of a Pig. Josh Brown had a haunting tale about a view-master toy in which he saw his wife’s death among the images. This one reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode. John Palisano had an interesting story about the early video game system, the Atticus 2000 titled, “The Waiting.” This mystery story and was a good deviation from the horror tales. Right away you sense a difference in the writing style. “Gronk the Gruesome” by Thomas M Malafarina was another of my favorites for its nostalgic sense of old toys, 50s sci-fi and childhood wishes, when a man finds an old robotic monster toy in the attic of a former grade school bully.

Tim Wellman‘s, “The Last Turn” displayed shades of Jumanji but had its own feel. I was impressed with Chad Lutzke’s story, “Calm Before the Storm.” It had the restraint and class of a veteran writer of an earlier time, reminiscent of Ambrose Bierce or Robert Bloch. “Etched in Blood” was a chilling tale of an evil child trapped in an etch-a-sketch by Lori R. Lopez. “Maggie and the Zeotrope” by Krista Clark Grabowski was a well rounded story that relayed the short life of a child and her wicked step-mother. “Jacks” by Nicholas Day was a great short tale with excellent pacing. Dona Fox had a wonderful tale concerning a toy snake taken from a voodoo priestess grave in New Orleans many years ago in, “Li Gran Toy Zombi.” It’s always a chilling pleasure to read her stories. The anthology ends with an eerie tale by David Shutz II, concerning a toy phone.

There were some great poems and artwork included in the book along with the top notch stories I highlighted here. An enjoyable read over all. See if your favorite childhood toy has taken up residence in “the Attic” and what evil deeds it will unleash upon those who discover them.

kindle or paperback versions
Available at Amazon: Toys in the Attic

teddy bear and toy chest cristinasroom on etsy

 

Asylum (1972) – Movie review – Amicus Films

Asylum dvd coverAsylum (1972) – movie review

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Stars, Robert Powell, Patrick Magee, Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling and Barbara Parkins. A Doctor Martin shows up at an Asylum for a job interview as head doctor. A wheelchair bound Dr. Rutherford (Magee), the Asylum’s administrator, explains that the previous head doctor had suffered a mental breakdown and is now one of the patients at the institute. He then gives Dr. Martin a test to see if he is worthy of the job. If he can interview the patients on the second floor and discover which patient is his predecessor, he would basically have the job. An orderly, Max, escorts him from room to room, to meet each patient. Thusly, each interview takes the viewer into a different story.

While House that Dripped Blood used a minimalist style musical score, Asylum uses bold musical pieces by Modest Mussorgsky. The intro credits are accompanied by the powerful ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ as Dr. Martin drives up to the ominous asylum building. My favorite piece plays as Dr. Martin ascends the asylum stairs while observing disturbing paintings upon the walls showing harsh treatment of mental patients through history. The piece ‘Gnomus’ from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’ accompanies the scene and is quite foreboding and sinister with its dissonant harmonies and broad brass blasts.

Frozen Fear – in the first room we are introduced to a woman named Bonnie. She recounts the tale of how she plotted with her married lover to kill his wife. The husband, Walter, chops his wife to bits and wraps the pieces in brown butcher paper, asylum pic 4placing the pieces neatly in a basement freezer. However, the wife having studied voodoo can not die and the separate pieces crawl out of the freezer looking for revenge.

The Weird Tailor – tells a story of how a suspicious Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) came into the Tailor’s shop with a unique fabric and pattern asking him to make this suit for him. When the tailor finishes, days later, he delivers the suit to Smith. He then learns of the suits magic powers of resurrection and Smith’s intentions for the suit. Trying to stop him he accidentally kills Smith and returns to his shop with the magic suit. However, when he awakens, he discovers his wife has put the suit on a mannequin and the mindless humanoid knows only to kill. This is my favorite segment of the film.

In Lucy Comes To Stay a young lady, Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) relays the story of how she had been watched closely because of a prior mental breakdown. She felt like a prisoner in her own home due to the watchful eyes of her brother George and her nurse. It wasn’t until her good friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) came for a visit that she saw her only chance at freedom.

Mannikins of Horror – In this segment, a Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom) is a scientist that is working on transferring his soul asylum pic 8into a small toy robot by filling its insides with his own biological makings. He can telepathically control the small version of himself through meditation. However, the small toy is an evil incarnation of Dr. Byron that breaks contact with his master and does his own bidding. This segment is unintentionally humorous because watching the miniature toy with Herbert Loms head walking around can only be regarded as comical.

The film wraps up with a reveal to Dr. Martin, a couple of murders and a ‘patients running the asylum’ ending. Aside from The Weird Tailor segment, this is probably my least favorite of the Amicus anthologies. However, I think the wrap-around story is probably one of the most interesting and developed of all the Amicus anthologies. There are some bright spots in the film and it’s definitely worth a watch for completists and those who like movies from this era.

Amicus Films overview