Let There Be Dark by Tim McWhorter
Publisher: Hydra Publications | Release Date: Aug. 21, 2018 | Pages: 170
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There’s something to be said for a straightforward horror story. It’s not weighed down with flashy literary stuff, it’s not trying to deliver a message, and it’s not expecting you to search for a meaning. The only focus of a pure horror story is to burrow deep into your brain and make you afraid. Let There Be Dark by Tim McWhorter is a collection of eight stories that strips out all the fluff and leaves you alone with the monster under your bed and no escape.
McWhorter is like a sage wizard you meet on the side of the road that wants nothing more than to pass on his curse. Each story of his lures you in with its innocence, putting you at ease and unsuspecting that something terribly wrong is about to happen. He might tell you about a couple going into a blacked-out house, a photographer trying to rent a shack, or a few friends searching out an urban legend. There might be some hints of creepiness, but nothing out of the normal. Then McWhorter says the magic word and the next thing you know you are stuck in a bathroom with a ghost, being hunted by a beast, tied to a chair facing the business end of a gun. You are so mesmerized by his wizardry that you forget how horrified you were with the last story that you happily continue the next tale, only to curse yourself for falling victim to him yet again.
The entire collection goes down so smooth that you’ll be surprised when Let There Be Dark is over. I tried to pace myself and let each story settle before going to the next one, but I had so much fun being terrified I couldn’t help but jump to the next one. McWhorter never dragged a story out, he got me in and out without feeling like I needed to see how many more pages in a story I had left. And that’s not to say the stories felt rushed or was missing something, he was just so exact in the story he wanted to tell he didn’t need to bog it down with extra stuff. He also added in little commentaries for a couple of the stories, giving us a hint as to what inspired the story. McWhorter’s simple and effective storytelling kept the horror front and center in each story.
As I was reading these eight stories, I was reminded of listening to ghost stories told around a campfire. They weren’t as formulaic as those stories, in fact a number of them went in directions I didn’t see coming, but they had the essence of what makes a frightening tale. Hints are sprinkled throughout, the sense of dread slowly builds, and then we get an extremely satisfying ending that leaves your skin crawling. For instance, in “Rope Burns,” a young couple finds that Walgreens has been built on the sight of a great witch burning in Salem. McWhorter plays with the banality of the store while also hinting that something isn’t quite right. Yet, he focuses us on the relationship of the couple and what this trip means for them. This false sense of security sets us up for the big scare, all the more powerful because of who it happens to. It was all right there in the story, but when frightening things happen we are truly freaked out. Each of these stories plays out like this, the scary thing coming out just as the campfire starts to burn low, and you know it’s coming but you can’t help but be scared when it appears.
This collection is the perfect distillation of a good horror story. Everything here will make your skin crawl and keep you up late at night. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to read with a group of friends or when you feel like being scared. Let There Be Dark is exactly what the title says it is, dark. But, if you are a little twisted, you might not mind and in fact find it to be an absolute blast to read.