The root of all horror is fear, but people frequently mistake fear as an easy experience; it's that obvious crescendo in the scoring during a movie when you know some weird shit it about to go down. Horror then is reduced to mere jump scares and cheap thrills to shock and repulse people, but that ultimately is a disservice. Granted, said genre in film had often catered to audiences that are simply looking for mindless gore and lifeless dialogue being spoken by flat characters whose only purpose are to be brutally murdered and disposed.
But with recent entries like The Babadook, It Follows and even The VVitch, horror movies can possibly become more exploratory and symbolic; just as it had been decades ago in its prime before all these franchises about serial killers, ghosts and demon possessions have turned the genre into something rather repetitive and sublimely stupid.
Such stories after all lack the human element which is exactly what horror is supposed to be all about regardless if it deals with the paranormal or the macabre. Horror stories must deliver a harrowing tale of the human condition in which madness, grief and vulnerability are fully realized and exposed for the pickings of vultures. Anyone who has ever read Edgar Allan Poe would understand that there is more to horror than just surprising you with a well-timed jump scare or a literal rendition of blood and guts spilled for your viewing pleasure.
In this modest Filipino anthology written in the English language, thirteen writers exhibit their own harrowing narratives. Enclosed in a compact collection that is truly impressive as the sum of all its parts, All that Darkness Allows is a worthwhile read with a few stories layered with unforgettable symbolism while others explore myths as the rest were cautionary tales that delivered some punches. Right off the bat, it opens with its titular story about a lunar event that threatens the peaceful quiet living of Earth's residents. The first-person story was hypnotic, prone to melancholic contemplation as readers feel the utter loss of hope.
Afterwards, readers would sample The Skip which presents a post-apocalyptic landscape with almost Lovecraftian monsters thriving in the tunnels of a subway system. We also get a surprising ghost story entitled Going Down whose twist at the end was rather commendable.
A staple of the horror genre often deals with female protagonists discovering something terrible and inescapable about their lives and this trope is very much present in a lot of the anthology's stories such as Dalaw, Mama's Here, The Invite, Sunshine, All the Birds, Fire Tree and Inked. From this bunch, the ones that stood out for me are All the Birds and Sunshine whose symbolisms have open interpretations that at first exposure would only feel slightly uncomfortable until they really settle in and leave impressions that can chill the bones. Mama's Here and Fire Tree both deal with any mother's truest fear coming to life while Dalaw and Inked have their female protagonists succumb to inner darknesses during one fateful moment. The only difference is that Inked's protagonist truly caved in and offered herself to forces beyond her comprehension. Meanwhile, The Invite explored the nuances of grief and guilt, a rather unpleasant and oppressive combination.
Certain other stories have very perplexing premises and these are Analemma and Phantoma, Towards the Pharmacology which I feel I can't even spoil and readers themselves have to get into. They are respectively written by Eliza Victoria and Karl De Mesa whose works I am more than familiar with in the past. One story of this collection stood out the most because it's probably the only one that really sickened me in a lot of levels and that's the body horror masterpiece entitled Stigmata. The descriptions of debauchery performed by two men of cloth, as well as those concerning a certain illness that inflicts the body, did get my stomach churning for a bit--and when the connotations of religious fanaticism came into play, I really can't stop myself from cringing even as I finished the story itself.
In a nutshell, All that Darkness Allows is something you don't want to miss out on. If you're looking for horror stories that are more than just passing tales about ghost hauntings and garden-variety gore, then you may want to purchase this from your local bookstore soon.