Last month, I made a list of the goriest scenes in horror fiction for Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs. It not difficult to come up with memorable gag-inducing moments, but have you ever thought about the most heartwarming moments in the genre? This Christmas, to keep in the spirit of giving, good will toward men, twinkling lights, sugar cookies shaped like fir trees and all the joy the holiday brings, I want to focus on the softer side of horror lit. How hard could that be? I mean, it’s the author’s ability to touch our heart and soul that render the nasty bits so effective, right? Turns out this was more difficult than I originally anticipated. When I solicited other horror fiction fans for their picks via Facebook, Twitter, and my favorite message board, the Rue Morgue Mortuary, all that came back was the sound of crickets chirping. While the thread in the Mortuary for “Goriest Book Ever” went on for 3 pages, “Most Heartwarming Moments in Horror Fiction” got one response, and that was to say “Gonna have to think on this…” Still, bound and determined to prove that where there is blood there is heart, I managed a few choice moments from horror fiction that really tug on the heartstrings and get readers grabbing for tissues. Bust out your Kleenex, folks, these are my most heartwarming moments in horror fiction!
We enjoy all the diversity horror fiction has to offer here at Dreadful Tales, from a deliberately paced, atmospheric tale to a balls-to-the-wall action piece. While our bookshelves boast eclectic taste, we do love a nasty bit of fiction. The type of reading that not only pushes you out of your comfort zone, but refuses to acknowledge that such a thing exists. This is why we’ve decided to dedicate a monthly column to the nastiest, most brutally extreme gore in the genre in a new feature called Nasty Little Things. Each month could bring something different, but it will always offer examples of the most transgressive, sick, and twisted shit in horror fiction lit. For the inaugural post, I’m flying solo to bring you a list of the sickest gross-out scenes in horror fiction to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. For me, this day is all about food and that euphoric tryptophan-induced coma that sweeps over you right after the first meal. A holiday that celebrates eating ’til a near bursting point is the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be terribly uncomfortable and full of regret. Once I’m past the third or fourth helping I just stand at the fridge nibbling right out of the Tupperware. But this year, not to worry because I’ve got a full-proof plan, and full-proof list, to kill even the strongest appetite. For the first edition of Nasty Little Things, I present “Meli’s Thanksgiving Day Gross-Outs,” my picks for the nastiest gross-out scenes in horror fiction that are sure to keep you away from the leftovers with your dignity in tact. Declaring what’s the sickest, grossest, and most depraved in horror lit can be problematic. A lot depends on the reader’s interpretation of the writer’s words or the reader’s own personal phobias etc., so keep in mind these are the scenes that I found to be the nastiest. You can play along at home by leaving your sickest scene in the comments section. Bon appétit!
Book / Author: Pressure by Jeff Strand
The Scene: Cactus Neck Tumor
Why it’s gross: Among the top picks for worst ways to die, I think choking on your own blood (say, from a stab wound to the throat) is pretty high up there. Not only is gagging on your own blood really gross, but you get just enough oxygen to keep you alive and struggling to breathe for hours. OK, that last part may not be scientifically accurate, but it’s definitely a slow, agonizing, and disgusting death. Worse than that? How ‘bout impalement by cactus in the freakin’ neck! The death of one of Strand’s fated characters in Pressure isn’t directly caused by cactus impalement, but it makes their last moments especially horrific. The thought of feeling thousands of little pinpricks in my neck is enough to make the bile rise in my throat because sometimes pain can be so excruciating it’s vomit-inducing. That’s why Strand’s Cactus Neck Tumor scene had to make my Thanksgiving Day Gross-Out list. Because “a large piece of bloody cactus…embedded in her neck” just makes my stomach turn. Big ole nasty, bloody piece of cactus hanging from her neck like a barnacle from another world. Yuck!
Best Served With: Gazpacho
Book / Author: Endless Night by Richard Laymon
The Scene: Pan-fried Finger Foods
Why it’s gross: Laymon has all kinds of nasty bits to choose from, but I have a particular aversion to cannibals. People eating people, people wearing people, it all gives me the creeps and seriously kills my appetite. To this day, I can’t forget what I was eating and drinking the first time I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Doritos with water! In this particular scene from Endless Night, we find one very disturbed character frying up faces and fingers in the skillet like a macabre breakfast only a sicko can appreciate! He even compares the fingers and thumbs to “stubby little sausages.” As if that wasn’t bad enough he continues to muse, “They were browning up nicely except for the nails, which had curled oddly.” Finally, without any regard for the weak-stomached readers, Laymon has this psycho eat a finger tip! Taken out of context, it may not sound so bad, but it was enough to keep me away from the franks for a while. That little detail about the fingernails helps make this scene particularly cringe-worthy.
Best Served With: Fried bologna sandwiches
Book / Author: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan
The Scene: An Intimate Moment with Worms
Why it’s gross: There’s plenty in The Strain to challenge the reader’s gag reflex. These vampires are not the romantic and mysterious figures that daintily nibble your neck, sipping your blood while caressing your bosom. They’re nasty, violent, and ugly. Their curse spreads like a virus, literally. When you try to damage these vile creatures, their wounds secrete a milky white substance writhing with infectious worms. In one of the most unsettling scenes a woman finds herself being invaded by these creatures through every orifice of her body, and I mean every orifice. “There was then a most unnerving wriggling sensation around her crotch – and then a sudden, twisting discomfort in her rectum.” Being violated by capillary worms is a top tier kind of nastiness. Waves of nausea run through my body just thinking of it.
Best Served With: Rice Vermicelli
Book / Author: The Midnight Meat Train by Clive Barker
The Scene: Out with his tongue!
Why it’s gross: Barker is a master of brilliantly twisted worlds and boundary-pushing prose. The Midnight Meat Train is an apt example of his complex storytelling, but also his proclivity for pushing the limits of perversion. Blood flows freely and the innocent are slain with impunity in this story, but it’s the cannibals that come back to haunt me. At the climax of this gruesome tale, one man finds himself up against a great evil, an evil that wants to silence him forever. “Suddenly his tongue was seized tight and twisted on the root… Blood was in his throat, he heard his flesh tearing, and agonies convulsed him.” Tongues being cut, ripped out, or violated in any manner gets my stomach in tumbles, but what happens next tops that. This malevolent force “stuffed the tongue into his own mouth, chewing on it with evident satisfaction.” The texture of a tongue, all slimy and rough, is more repulsive to me than any other body part. Cooked well it might be an appetizing little dish, but raw and right out of a living man’s mouth!? No way.
Best Served With: Blood sausage
Book / Author: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Scene: The Unstoppable Libido of A Monster
Why it’s gross: Lindqvist is unabashed at representing a truly violent and brutal world full of human monsters. This is a beautiful, sometimes whimsical, tale of a charming friendship amidst a cruel and terrible world with plenty of scenes to make you gasp, wince, and gag. But probably the most disturbing and gut-wrenching is the self-inflicted acid bath one character takes in an effort to obscure his identity. His face is completely disfigured. Melted pieces of flesh hang from bone “as if the head had been replaced by a mass of freshly killed and butchered eels.” His mouth is melted shut, and one eye is melted down onto his cheek. It’s not just his horribly disfigured form that is so grotesque. Driven by a healthy dose of vampire venom and a sexual obsession, we’re treated to this mutilated man enjoying a rather enthusiastic five-knuckle shuffle! His “hand pulled the foreskin aggressively up and back, up and back, and the head of his penis appeared and disappeared, appeared and disappeared like a jack-in-the-box while he uttered a sound of pleasure or suffering.” That ain’t like no jack-in-the-box I ever had as a kid! That’s just plain sick!
Best Served With: Open-faced tuna melt sandwich
Book / Author: Slither by Edward Lee
The Scene: Parasitic Semen
Why it’s gross: No gross-out list could be complete without the maestro of morbid, Edward Lee. He knows how to warp minds and upset stomachs. When I think of gross, Slither is one of the first books that comes to mind. Plenty of nastiness in this book to chose from, but one scene stands out – the parasitic semen! First, a brief explanation, the island in which this sci-fi horror mash-up is set is overrun by worms. There are large ones, chitin-penetrating ones (that means they can penetrate shells), and even small parasitic ones, like those that star in this grossest of gross scenes. A nice gentlemen ejaculates in an equally nice lady’s mouth upon which she immediately spits it out due to the disgusting taste. But this isn’t because it’s her first time and the taste of splooge is foreign to her. It’s because it really tastes awful. And there’s no wonder why because “roiling amid his spat-out semen were hundreds of tiny yellow beads, smaller versions of the ones he’d plucked off his body the other night.” Now that is seriously sick!
Best Served With: Egg drop soup
So, those are my favorite gross-outs, what’s yours?