With The Venus Complex, author/actress Barbie Wilde proved in no uncertain terms that she could write horror that actually horrified. Voices of the Damned seeks to continue the trend. In large part, it succeeds, with Wilde taking full advantage of the opportunity to showcase her versatility. In terms of keeping the shocks coming with a variety of bizarre, monstrous short pieces, Voices of the Damned is impressive. It deals in psychological horror, creature horror, pure nightmare fuel, and just about anything else you could ever want from a series of scary stories.
Wilde’s background in horror is well-know, particularly in terms of her connections to Clive Barker, as well as the world of Hellraiser (you may recall she was the female Cenobite in the second movie). In working to establish herself as a major name in horror fiction (which she did with The Venus Complex), Wilde draws on this background. Yet she also displays again and again the simple fact that she is a phenomenal writer, and that she has a sincere passion for the genre as a whole. She returns to the Cenobite world Barker created with the absolutely brutal story “Sister Cilice” (which I had the pleasure of hearing on Kleft Jaw’s Kleftikos Radio last Halloween). Sister Cilice shows up in a couple more stories. It allows Wilde to make it clear that she is capable of creating vibrant, unforgettable characters in her stories. The Sister Cilice stories also provide Wilde with the opportunity to leave her own unique signature on the Hellraiser universe. In other words, she draws from the past, the grand, terrifying history of horror. Then she moves brilliantly and confidently into the future, and into genre territory that is completely of her own design.
She also just writes stories that are fun to read.
Stories like “Botophobia”, “Zulu Zombies”, and “The Alpdrücke” are soaked in gore, psychological devastation, and a fair amount of eroticism. While the stories very occasionally suffer from not having space to build themselves up properly, the rule more often than not is that these stories leave an impression. Wilde is one of the best voices in horror fiction today for one significant reason. This reason appears frequently throughout her stories. She has the imagination to take her characters, monsters, and apocalyptic landscapes to places so extreme, they pollute our DNA with horrendous thoughts. She also has the restraint to build her characters up properly, while also giving our own imaginations room to consider the varying arguments for despair and atrocity that she proposes.
Voices of the Damned deserves major placement amongst the best horror books of 2015. Barbie Wilde’s natural, compulsory enthusiasm for actualizing the many faces of hell allows her to tell a number of tales. “Writer’s Block” in particular makes it clear that the psychological can be just as destructive to our souls as the chains that scratch madhouse ravings on our bones. Furthermore, artwork from visionaries like Clive Barker, Eric Gross, Ben Baldwin, Vincent Sammy, and Daniele Serra makes these incredible stories even better. Short stories are as vital a medium as ever. From the perspective of someone as exceptional as Barbie Wilde, they can be a weapon that doesn’t leave us hysterical, but at least makes us feel as though our skin has started to gently bubble. People who know horror will tell you that’s much worse than actually making someone scream.