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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Mouth by Joshua Hull 
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Sometimes, we're born monsters.

Sometimes, well, something happens in life that takes us down that path to becoming monsters.

Is this just the way it is? Is it the way it has to be?

With the novella "Mouth," Indiana author/filmmaker Joshua Hull shoots a more mature horror into our literary veins to tell a story simultaneously dark and delicious yet also strangely nostalgic and uncomfortably comforting.

Rusty is an aimless drifter. We meet him as a relative stranger has left him a secluded property that's more than a little weird even before Rusty finds himself the caretaker of a massive, tooth-filled mouth in the ground.

And it's hungry.

His complicated situation becomes more complicated by Abigail, a wannabe filmmaker who stumbles upon his new secret.

Together, they work to discover the origins of this thing called Mouth and the hidden history of its former owner. The mystery sets in motion an outlandish scheme that may very well endanger them all.

Hull, who was recipient of the Indiana Film Journalists Association's Edward Johnson-Ott Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to filmmaking in Indiana, has branched out into the literary world as of late with "Underexposed: The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made" and the children's horror book "Bedtime for Bobby." He was also the co-screenwriter for 2022's Ryan Kwanten/J.K. Simmons starrer "Glorious."

"Mouth" is familiar territory for Hull, neon-tinged horror with rich humanity and vibrantly developed characters you can't help but adore no matter how extreme their behaviors become.

Their behaviors become extreme.

As is nearly always true of Hull's writing, there's light amidst the darkness and a kaleidoscope for the senses throughout. Hull's long-standing love of cinema is evident throughout "Mouth" and most abundantly personified by the wounded soul of Abigail, whose shards of light are looking for a way to let the hope in. Both she and Rusty have their monsters, we all do really, yet they're dancing on that line of wondering who they are and what they're destined to become.

The same is true for Mouth, a perfectly realized character who may make you think of Audrey 2 but who is so much more.

There are other characters here who come and go, mostly go, and it's how Hull frames it all that makes "Mouth" such an entertaining delight even amidst the violence, gore, and macabre humanity.

For those of us, myself included, who can identify with the struggle to not become that which created us, "Mouth" is an emotional masterpiece of tone and expression. I was reminded constantly of my early days of healing from childhood sexual violence and the many times I turned to independent horror to find ways to express the darkness within me and the light I wanted to become.

Recently released by Tenebrous Press, "Mouth" is available in print and e-book formats and is guaranteed to please fans of indie horror with a story that matters.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic