Monday 2 November 2015

REVIEW: Adam Cesare - The First One You Expect

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Broken River Books
Publication Date: 31st Jan 2015
Pages: 77


So earlier in the year I read Mercy House by Adam Cesare. You can read my review of it here. I think it was around that time that The First One You Expect dropped to 99p for a while. After reading, and loving, Mercy House, I thought I would risk a quid and pick this little one up as well.

This is a short story and you will have it read in about an hour and a half. Probably take me longer to write my review. So was it worth the one Great British Pound I spent on it?

Tony Anastos hasn’t got a lot. He works part time at his local Stop and Shop and lives in his parent’s basement. Apart from this, he makes ultra-low budget horror movies with his friend, Burt. These normally involve hiring ultra-low budget, ageing strippers to play the roles of the victims with Burt being the killer.

His new co-worker, Anna seems to be very interested in his films. She is young and sexy and eager to appear in his movies. She wants to be famous. Tony sees this as a way out of having to hire the old girls and brings her on board.

When they start a Kickstarter for the next movie, Anna’s methods for the introduction video seem a bit extreme, but they work. From here on in, Tony is just a passenger as everything kicks off around him with devastating effect.

I knew nothing about this story before I picked it up. I only knew I had previously liked Mr Cesare’s writing and it was going cheap so I grabbed it. It is so different from Mercy House you wouldn’t think it was written by the same person. Mercy House was all out blood and guts and one hundred miles an hour. This was a lot slower and concentrated much more on the intrigue than the out and out horror.

Characters wise we really only have Tony and Anna to concentrate on. Burt plays a little part like he does in the movies in the story. He is a bit of a loner and this is exactly what Tony and Anna played on. Tony is a bit of a mixture for me. He is both likeable and loathsome at the same time. He wants to make it big in the movie world and will basically do anything to get there, but I don’t think he was expecting what Anna had in mind. Anna is a bit of an enigma. The Anna everyone sees in work and in general life is quiet and seems to be the all-round good girl. What Tony sees in her is a cold blooded killer who wants fame and fortune and will stop at nothing to get there.

The plot is a good one. You know what both Tony and Anna want in life. It seems pretty simple for them to get if the Kickstarter goes well. What you don’t expect is the twist the story takes as Anna’s persona starts to change and her dark side comes to the fore. She is literally like two different people. You soon learn that she couldn’t have a heart or one ounce of emotion in her body. Tony’s being dragged into something he has no way of getting out of. This is plain to see for the reader from the outset but you also keep thinking to yourself is it possible they can get away with what they are doing?

This story for me wasn’t just about horror or murder or someone seeking fame and fortune. It was about control and how one person can lose it and another gain it without the other realising it has happened. It’s about manipulation and how it can affect two different people searching for the same thing. It is extremely effective at getting this point across. Lives can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes when they do, there is simply no going back. Sometimes, even though it isn’t, it just might be The First One You Expect.

To summarise: a short horror story about manipulation. It is full of intrigue and tension and twists that you will never see coming. A very effective story that gets its point across with no pomp and circumstance. Just good old plain storytelling.

General rating:

★★★★★ how a short story should be.

Horror rating:

★★★★ a couple more scares needed for full marks.

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Book Synopsis:

When he's not holding down a dead-end job or lurking in his mother's basement, Tony Anastos spends his time shooting ultra-low-budget horror flicks. After meeting his sexy fame-hungry co-worker Anna, he sees an opportunity to launch his career into cult stardom. But when Tony's plan to jolt their next film's Kickstarter into overdrive calls for real blood, he will sacrifice the last bit of his humanity for a shot at recognition. But it makes sense. Look at him. The stuff he makes, I mean, he's the first one you expect.

Adam Cesare is a New Yorker who lives in Philadelphia. He studied English and Film at Boston University.

His stories have been featured in numerous publications, including Shroud Magazine, while his nonfiction has appeared in Paracinema, Fangoria and other venues.

And for more about Adam, visit his site or find him on social media:

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