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These Evil Things We Do The Mick Garris Collection Main

"These Evil Things We Do: The Mick Garris Collection" Book Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Published by Fangoria

these evil things we do the mick garris collection poster large

Written by Mick Garris
2020, 185 pages, Fiction
Released on May 28th, 2020

Review:

Did you know that Mick Garris wrote fiction? I did. However, I’d never taken the time to read any of his work despite my love for everything he’s done for the world of horror. He’s Stephen King’s go-to guy for miniseries. He gave the world two seasons of the iconic Masters of Horror series on Showtime from 2005-2007. He wrote and directed the sheer awesomeness that is Critters 2: The Main Course (which, as we all know, is the greatest installment in that franchise). He’s in literally every horror documentary ever made; it’s like a right of classification as a horror doc that you simply must have Mick Garris in your movie. In short, the man is a legit icon of the genre.

So, I must take full responsibility for the sin of not having read his work sooner. I mean that without a trace of hyperbole. Yeah, that’s a bit of a spoiler regarding whether I got off on it. Stick around, though – I’ll tell you what makes it a revelation. Afterwards, check out my interview with the man himself right here.

These Evil Things We Do: The Mick Garris Collection takes three novellas and a novel (“Ugly”, “Tyler’s Third Act”, “Snow Shadows”, and “Salome”, respectively) that were previously published through small presses as limited editions and adds a shattering new novella, “Free”. Together, they weave a tale that highlights the ugliness of even the best people, the importance of communication and understanding, and the contradiction of the glamour and shallow awfulness of Hollywood. These themes are then turned up a thousand times as Garris (widely acclaimed as one of the “nicest guys in Hollywood”) shows you just how unrepentantly vicious he can be with his playful wordplay and punch-in-the-balls twists.

In “Free”, a wife and mother dreams of release from a life that she’s grown to hate and kids she feels no affection for, only stress and anger. This chick really hates her life in a way that’s uncomfortably honest about the darker side of parenting. There’s a moment, after she’s fled her family life with the hidey-hole money and a slinky silk dress to party in, that she realizes that the situation is life or death for her kids if she doesn’t leave because she’s on the verge of snapping. It’s both touching and horrifying…and it happens in real life regularly. This newest story sees Mick Garris writing from the perspective of not only a woman but a mother; both are things that he knows nothing about. Writing outside of your own perspective/comfort zone is challenging, and Garris utterly destroys it here with an ending that had me literally saying, “No. No. That’s just…what the fuck?!”, as I was reading it. I’m still recovering, honestly.

“Ugly” tells the tale of the world’s most repellant human being, a man who judges everyone else around him until he runs across a nightmare scenario that ensures he’ll never be the same. Warren is an elite Hollywood plastic surgeon whose skill with a scalpel is equaled only by the emptiness of his heart and soul. I hated him from the opening paragraph, and the result is the most fun I’ve had with a story in decades! There’s a first-person lovefest that lasts for almost two pages, a description of himself that ends in the declaration, “I’m proud of what I do, and the world is a better place for it.” He’s Donald Trump with a license to operate. You’ll not find an ending that makes you laugh this hard anywhere else. Equal parts hilarious, enraging, educational, and sublime, “Ugly” shows that beauty may only be skin deep but vanity and physical desire is the driving force that puts humans at the top of the food chain.

With “Tyler’s Third Act”, Mick Garris gives us a screenwriter who’s become a parody of himself and the city he inhabits. Tyler Sparrow is entering the third act of his own life story, so he decides to start a website where people can pay to watch him mutilate himself a piece at a time. He’s beyond cynical. He’s whiny and disenfranchised. The idea to slowly carve himself up for the amusement of the public is the ultimate middle finger to the culture he both needs and despises, and it works masterfully until he meets a woman online who captivates him with her story and similar desires. Maybe he’s met his final soulmate, or maybe he’s just submitted himself to something so horrific that no one would believe it if he wrote it. “Tyler’s Third Act” is satire so effective that it’s almost dangerous, a cultural skewing that’s well deserved with a character that’s born out of the insecurity and struggles of the Hollywood screenwriter. Despite the nastiness of the finish, it’s a personal tale with the volume turned up to one thousand.

“Snow Shadows” is the oddball of this family, and I mean that in the best way possible. Gone are the Hollywood setting and cynicism in favor of an enclosed English private school and an abundance of love (albeit of very different kinds). Nicholas is an American teacher spreading his wings in a new environment with his wife, Rose. They have issues. He compounds these issues by sleeping with the mousy and misunderstood theatre teacher, Ms. Gemma Featherstone. It’s a bad idea not to be repeated, but the damage to Gemma has already been done. She’s fallen in love with Nicholas, but it’s not to be. She throws herself from school’s clock tower in a very public suicide while proclaiming her love for Nicholas. This not only shatters his fragile marriage but draws the ire of David, a nine-year-old genius who’s madly in love with Ms. Featherstone himself. David is unlike any child Nicholas has ever seen, and their collision begins a game of cat and mouse that can only end one way. David is a character you’ll not soon forget. The classic English school setting makes for a classic ghostly romance that’s frankly beautiful. Mick Garris lays out the story in a very cinematic way that blows by; you’re done before you know it. You won’t be able to shake the story, though.

Finally, the collection’s novel is unleashed upon you. “Salome” is the story of James Turrentine, a steadily working but unremarkable screenwriter who’s married to one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, Chase Willoughby. Chase was a child star prized for her underage beauty until she was used and cast aside by a pervert director and the always-unsympathetic world of stardom. Their marriage is in bad shape as it is. When Chase is found brutally murdered at an Arizona fleabag motel in a fashion that would make Jack the Ripper blush, James sets out to find out who killed the love of his life and why. “Salome” is the definition of Hollywood Noir / Hollywood Horror, and it’s signature Mick Garris. You will be in Hollywood as you read it, smelling the exhaust on the freeway and marveling at Chase’s eclectically designed home in the hills. The true power of the story comes not from the murder or even the eventual reveal, but in the shifting perspective of Chase and James at different times in the story. It’s apparent they are both wanting the same thing from life and each other, but the communication is gone and it will end badly because of this. Chase is one of the strongest protagonists I’ve read in some time and the real star of the show; James is precisely the garden-variety selfish asshole he beats himself up as. The pacing is intense and keeps you sure you know who killed Chase until the moment you discover that you didn’t know jack shit. She’s an archetype for every used and abused kid that Hollywood chewed up and spit out, and you feel for her deeply. I can’t spoil the surprise, but let me say that the actual killer is the perfect metaphor for misplaced societal rage in 2020. Chase’s actual death scene is tough to read. Her confusion and fear is palpable and real in a way that echoes Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

Mick Garris loves to operate in the first person (the exception being “Snow Shadows”), but he’s equally adept in the third-person narrator role as well. He shows you how vicious and uncaring show biz really is and pulls no punches about the ugly side of Hollywood and California as a whole. Having started as a receptionist for Steven Spielberg in 1977 and being a lifelong California native, Garris knows the scene better than anyone. With These Evil Things We Do, Mick Garris takes all that knowledge and experience and counterpoints it with a variety of horrors from the supernatural to those that dwell in the human psyche. That combination, combined with his playful verbiage and refined prose, makes this a must read and places Garris on the throne as the King of Hollywood Horror.

Hey, Mick – I’m deeply sorry I hadn’t read your work sooner.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US
Cover
Buy from Amazon UK

About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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