Last week we brought readers an exclusive interview with “THE DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” author Vince Churchill, whose newest book “THE BUTCHER BRIDE” looks to fill the void for anyone looking for some 70s nostalgia. Now today we have my review of the horror shock-writer’s newest offering that promises to test the tolerance level of even the most disenchanted of readers. Read on for the full review.
Its very rare that you come across a writer who isn’t afraid to buck the trend of his peers and write the type of story that he or she wants to write. Many times writers hands are tied by what the publishers will allow or by what they think their readers will deem “enough” for their own personal late night dose of macabre before they lay down their books and turn the lights out for the night. And in many ways this sort of cookie-cutter approach to the genre has been widely embraced by readers. So if you’re looking for a good piece of safe horror fare then Vince Churchill is definitely not for you. But if you want to read a real piece of horror fiction that isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty, then read on for the full review of 70s sexploitation inspired “The Butcher Bride”.
Churchill’s follow up to his widely successful “THE DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” is a pretty big departure from his space/zombie hybrid novel that won him much of his acclaim. The story itself is one part sexploitation meets revenge plot ala “I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE” and 2 parts supernatural teen slasher. 30 years ago a young maid named Marlie was brutally sexually assaulted at a Halloween party by her lover Michael, and various party-goers at the behest of Michaels’ fiance Janine. Marlie’s life is spared (unlike any shred of her dignity or her sanity) and from there the scorned lover tale takes a more macabre turn as the blood starts spraying and Marlie, dressed in Janine’s wedding gown and wielding a pair of sewing scissors, goes on a murderous rampage that even Jason Voorheese would applaud.
The first thing readers are going to notice is the blatant sexuality that is placed throughout the story. There is no way around it, and if you find issue in it then this isn’t the book for you. I myself even had to take a step back at times, but for all intents and purposes it works well for the story being told. Think your mother erotic-romance novels save for any of the idiotic romantic plot-points, because with any slasher worth its weight, when there is any of the old bump & grind going on you can bank on something horrible around the corner. The horrible things done to Marlie at the hands of her attackers makes her actions completely believable and understandable given the malicious and humiliating way in which they were carried out. This isn’t your ma-an-pa’s hidden gang-bang porno with the label reading ‘nature special’ that is for sure.
It’s obvious that Churchill watched a lot of late 70s grindhouse cinema in his time, and obviously the right ones. The book itself has two very different distinct feels going to it. The first part of the story, as we are introduced to the tragedy at the party, and the second half (which is in fact the bulk of the book as the first act closes after about 50 pages) that is the legacy the mansion leaves behind. As is the case with most stories like it we find ourselves in a time around modern day where the town has mostly moved on from the tragedy, but in this towns case moving on means that instead of mourning the loss of so many of their neighbors they are going to have a yearly festival to commemorate the event.
This is where we meet the group of characters we will be following throughout the rest of the story as they make the perilous decision to spend a weekend at the infamous home of ‘The Butcher Bride’. To keep this as spoiler free a review as possible I’ll simply say that it doesn’t end well. The characters themselves are likable enough, although it is a bit obvious what the eventual outcome will be for most of them. The eventually bloodbath that ensues is actually more entertaining than frightening though as the ghost of Marlie Downing possesses a sarcastic, quick witted personality that is reminiscent of Freddy Krueger, and there seems to be witty little one-liner in there for each gruesome kill. This aspect takes away from the actual emotional weight of the story at times however as it can tend to be funny at points where a little bit more of a dramatic touch would be appreciated. But then all the other characters seem to take a back seat to Marlie, and even when she isn’t on page or in a scene you somehow find your mind wandering to the books protagonist. I would even go as far as to say that the character of ‘The Butcher Bride’ could find herself becoming a cult icon given time and the right exposure, a character that truly leaves the reader begging for a sequel.
The book itself is a quick read at well under 300 pages, and you can probably get through it in a full evening. The over all presentation of the book is actually quite good as it goes against genre norms of using dark colors for the cover, instead going with a bright white and red design that is slick and eye-catching. The long and the short of it: you wouldn’t overlook this one on the shelf of your local book store.
All in all Churchill’s “The Butcher Bride” is a fantastic book with a lot going for it. Purposely going out of its way to be perverse and blunt, the book reads like a piano falling on your head and the scribe pulls no punches. And even though the perverse nature of the story could end up being its biggest flaw for some, for others it is a refreshing throwback that harkens back to the hay day of grindhouse and the truest days of freedom of expression within the genre. Serving as a follow up to “THE DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” the story may not be a true contemporary horror ‘classic’ like its predecessor, but it has cult classic written all over it. And for a book like this that might just be the biggest compliment ‘The Butcher Bride’ could ever ask for.
4 Out of 5 Skulls