Book Review: Red by D.J. Doyle

Book Review: Red by D.J. Doyle

Review by Chantal Boudreau

I have to start this review by clarifying that I’m a horror fan, but I’m not normally inclined to extreme horror. I have read and written it in the past, but it’s not my preferred sub-genre, tending more towards less graphic, psychological horror. That being said, if you’re a reader who loves stories with intense shock value, you’ll probably love this novella. It has character depth, a multi-layer plotline and does not rely strictly on standard tropes (I appreciate the fact that the narrator’s latest target, Amanda, is not a doormat damsel in distress.) It also offers up plenty of graphic sex and violence.

You also might enjoy the intro to the story. For a hook, it gives the reader a taste of the kind of extreme horror you can expect through the rest of the novella, and a glimpse at Amanda, before leading into the main character’s background. I suspect it’s meant as a teaser, but my personal preference is to have the background information first so I understand a character’s motivation and feel more invested in the story.

I liked the way the character background is quite detailed and while I wouldn’t say I sympathized with the main character, this part of the story really did help me understand why that character was so broken – why he associated violent sex and pain with love, why he acted on primarily a selfish survival level and why he didn’t empathize with others. I also like the way the story was dotted with his thoughts about his prior victims. You get an idea of how he developed as a serial rapist/killer as well as why he prefers certain features in his victims over others (like tanned skin, for example.)

Each exploration of his encounters reveals his observations and impressions of his prior victims and how they impacted him. He shares this with Amanda and they form an unexpected bond.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it was quite refreshing and far from predictable. I’m usually good at picking up on foreshadowing, but this one surprised me.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. Some of the extreme graphic scenes distracted from the story a bit for me, but the characters were interesting and the story was entertaining, I would give it four out of five stars.


Aside from being a long-time fan of the zombie genre via books, movies and now TV, Chantal Boudreau began her existence as a published author with a zombie short story named “Palliative” in an anthology called “Vampires, Zombies and Ghosts – Oh My!” published by Notreebooks.  This was followed by the publication of several other zombie shorts: “Just Another Day”, “Waking the Dead”, “Escarg-0”, “Life and Undeath on the Chain Gang,” and “One Lonely Night” in the May December Publications’ anthologies “First Time Dead, Volume 1”, “Hell Hath No Fury” (all women writers), “Zero”, “Zombie Lockdown” and “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death” as well as “What a Man’s Gotta Do” in the anthology “Undead Tales” from Rymfire Books and “Deadline” in the anthology “Zombie Buffet” from Open Casket Press.  She has done extensive research for her blog series “Chantelly’s Field Guide to Zombies” and a non-fiction article on Zomedy – the dark humour in zombie fiction.  She is currently shopping a full zombie novel, Sleep Escapes Us, set in ancient Thrace and involving the myths surrounding the death god, Zalmoxis.

Episode 63: British & European Horror Events

Film4 Frightfest 2011, full schedule announced:

Alex Chandon and “Inbred”:

Leeds International Film Festival:

Grossmann Fantastic Film and Wine Festival:

Horrorthon Evening With Clive Barker:

Ed’s Extreme Cinema: Frontier(s)

Frontiers opens to give us a vision of France set in the immediate future amidst rioting and chaos in the build up to, and subsequent election of, an extreme right-wing political party. The story begins to focus on a group of young adults who get split up in the turmoil of the urban landscape. Following a gun fight with the police in which one of their number is shot, they decide to reconvene in the countryside. That’s all you need to know about the build up to Frontiers, it provides an atmospheric backdrop, but ultimately the crux of the film is about the group landing themselves as captives to a family of fascist cannibals!

Of course, the group fleeing the city are variously imprisoned on the family’s estate which consist of an abattoir, disused mine and various farm buildings. One by one they meet their demise until the final showdown.

Frontiers gradually introduces a cast of antagonists within a hierarchical family of Nazi’s with a predilection for human flesh. This point is never pushed too far, the family view their victims as nothing more than the swine they also keep –they are not slavering savages, and the understatement and normality of the cannibalism serves to make it all the more deranged.

It would be unduly critical to worry too much about Frontiers being a French New Wave rip-off of Texas Chainsaw Massacre – it doesn’t matter particularly because it is done very well. Perhaps calling it an homage is more appropriate as it’s not a carbon copy, it just has very similar elements to the 70’s classic. It stands alone just fine and lack of innovation does not necessarily make a film poor – indeed this is a good, solid horror film. Frontiers is well acted and plays out within a depressingly bleak farm complex of filthy outhouses and abattoirs. Empathy with the victims is competently achieved and, vitally for a film like this, it is hard not to wish the worst kind of vengeance on the tormentors.

Most importantly however, Frontiers delivers on the gore and violence. Let’s not be coy, anyone wilfully deciding to watch a film about people being held captive by cannibal fascists is going to be let down by timidity on the directors behalf! Xavier Gens does not disappoint, the violence is graphic and visceral but it happens for a reason and to progress the film, rather than being a collection of set-pieces. Despite featuring people being steamed alive and obliterated with circular saws, everything feels very proportionate within the scenario the viewer is immersed in. We have violence to cringe at and violence to cheer – it’s very satisfying and does not become overwhelming.

What elevates Frontiers above other films of this ilk is the pace in which it races to its conclusion. Once the sprint for the finish begins, this film really lets rip and assaults the senses not just visually but in the tension and excitement it generates. Hope, despair, elation, vengeance, anger, fear – the audience is immersed in all of this amidst a setting of mud, blood and violence.

Does the story end well for our main protagonist? The film is not left hanging open, and it does have a sense of completion, but despite reaching safety of a sort – it is not clear if the survivor truly has found salvation. What price security over freedom?