Review: “The Blood Kiss” by Dennis Etchison

2 of 5 stars.

Included in Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran, this tale is not about zombies, it doesn’t include zombies–zombies do not exist in the world of this story. Christine Cross is a Story Editor trying to pass off a stolen script as her own to finally get a writing credit to her name. The script is for a television show which depicts the unsure young starlet being used and manipulated by the show director as they set about making a zombie movie. The starlet ends up playing the titular “Queen of the Zombies.” Three stories in one: zombie movie plot, television show script on the drama in making of the movie, Chrissie passing the television script off as her own. [Four layers if you picture Etchison telling this story, but I digress.]

The tale alternates between telling Christine’s actions with the script as she finds out she may still not get credit for the script and the script itself which includes both the show and the movie within the show. The horror of the movie takes a Twilight Zone-like twist in corrupting the players in the television show. The horror spreads. Meanwhile, the parallelism of what’s happening in Chrissie’s life with the actions of the script are thrust upon the reader of this not-very-short short story by the alternating lay-out of the story. The horror spreads outward.

Unfortunately, the promising premise falls flat. Chrissie is rife with internal dialogue at the beginning effectively showing her mix of motivations and guilt in her own deceit. The bulk of this story however is given to the climax which lasts longer than most of the tales included in this Guran anthology. The climax unfortunately has far too much of the script left to tell and little action on Chrissie’s part. Rather than not continue with the back-and-forth, the story gives equal time to a conversation she’s having in which nothing gets said or communicated:

“Excuse me,” she said.
“Excuse me,” said the person with the pillow. “Are you the one?”
“I hope so,” she said . . . [half a page later]. “Come with me,” she said. “We have to talk.”
[Four pages later]
“It’s been such a long, long time,” he said at last. “I’d almost given up hope. But you are the one, aren’t you? Yes. You are.”
“I’m the one,” she said.
[Three pages later.]
“Are you the one?” he repeated more forcefully.
“Yes. I mean no.” . . .
“But you said you’re the one.”

This vague Who’s-On-First, Waiting-For-Godot conversation takes up a full six pages not including the interspersed horror script. It’s more frustrating and infuriating than suspenseful as Chrissie suddenly offers zero internal thoughts to balance out this lack of action.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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