Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is a short and horrific punch in the guts, and I loved it. Set in a haunted mansion, the story centers around a group of twenty-somethings who have obviously been friends for quite a while, and who fit the standard horror movie tropes: the golden rich boy, the depressive girl (in this case suffering from “clinical ennui”), the bride and groom, and the troublemaker.
Khaw’s weaving of the characters’ past interrelationships, hurts, guilt, and attempts to move forward satisfy both the expected horror genre tensions and knock some of them right in the teeth. Told from Cat’s point of view, we are never sure as the story unfolds whether the fantastically described hauntings in the house are happening or imagined. The tensions between characters rises as secrets start to come out and the house’s resident ghost, a bride buried alive waiting for her never-arriving groom, shows herself, leading to a chaotic and gory final showdown.
I’d love to see this book as a movie. Khaw writes scenes that flow like a dark, atmospheric Japanese horror film playing in your head as you read. The tale itself is short: the whole novel is only about 130 pages, but she packs in some excellent chills. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a fast and creepy read, definitely perfect for spooky season and horror enthusiasts.