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The Visible Filth

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  798 ratings  ·  146 reviews
When Will discovers a cell phone after a violent brawl his life descends into a nightmare.

Affable, charismatic and a little shallow, he’s been skating across the surface of life in a state of carefully maintained contentment. He decides to keep the cell phone just until the owner returns and everything changes. Then the messages begin.

Will’s discovered something unspeakabl
Paperback, 68 pages
Published March 31st 2015 by This Is Horror (first published 2015)
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Jeff Raymond Not the kind you would seek out. Unless it's the kind you seek out, which, in that case...

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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  798 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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Janie C.
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is what horror is made of. Incomplete, disturbing images on a cell phone. Text messages pleading for help. Strange sounds that might be talking, or perhaps something else. A computer image of a dark, dank tunnel, from which something is emerging. Foul odors, scuttling roaches, and creeping, indeterminate dread. This novella took me to a different frequency, and I relished every moment. Nathan Ballingrud, I want more.
Sadie Hartmann Mother Horror
So I have the collection WOUNDS: Six Stories from the Border of Hell as an ARC but being the impish little horror fan that I am, I saw that one of the stories, THE VISIBLE FILTH is getting the silver screen treatment. The movie should be out this summer, 2019 and I wanted to get a jump on it (cuz spoilers). However, after reading the story--I doubt I'd be able to watch a movie version! Too scary!
*rolls up sleeves*
Let's discuss (spoiler free as per usual)
This short story, about 70 pages, was my f
T.E. Grau
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very little of what is classified as horror fiction or contemporary Weird fiction scares me, and that's okay, because I don't read this style of literature to be frightened. I don't like to be frightened. Truly terrified. Who does, really, if we are being totally honest with ourselves? There are plenty of undertakings one can pursue if genuine fear (not thrills, or shock) is the end result, and I don't see me or anyone else I know heading down those paths, either in a literal or metaphorical sen ...more
May 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella, scares
For this review, I am referring to this as The In-Visible Filth. Throughout most of this novella the entity remained under the surface, just out of reach. That can make for good tension in a book, and more often than not I like that slow building of intensity. It makes me think something lies just around that next corner, before popping out with a pee-in-your-pants scare. Honestly, The Visible Filth did have some of that (minus the pee-in-my-pants), but those “almost scares” were muddled up by t ...more
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Having greatly enjoyed Nathan Ballingrud's fantastic story collection "North American Lake Monsters" it was with perhaps too high a hope that I purchased this chapbook novella.

The story leaves too many questions unanswered, not that there is anything wrong with that, however, the reason some things occur within the guidelines of the story itself are totally withheld from the reader.

The main character is naive bordering on dumb making foolish decisions which can be ok, however within the context
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A genuinely disturbing novella about a New Orleans bartender with crumbling relationships with two women (one he lives with, one he childishly pines for) and a crumbling life, really. After a nasty bar fight a cell phone with odd/disturbing photos and a video is found and things spiral into madness from there. Haunting, creepy, and uncomfortable (in the best way), and filled with images that will stick with you in even in sunlight.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is an undefinable creepy factor at work in this one with much more going on than gets translated to the written page. You’re going to need to read between the lines a little bit. You won’t be finding any answers either.

Well written with finely drawn characters and an increasingly eerie vibe as the tale progressed. I dug it, but thought it could have been a lot more. 3+ Stars and probably more than that. I need to let it gel for a while and reserve the right to adjust my stars at a later ti
Adam Nevill
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
An insightful character study, commanding an effective build of dread and the inexplicable. It’s also as fresh and surprising as everything else that I’ve read by the author. One of the best final pages I can remember reading in horror too. I think I may have actually shuddered.
Richard Derus
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

My #review of THE VISIBLE FILTH The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud is live today at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, better known as "my blog."

Keep the lights on.
Richard  Thomas
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
By witnessing, we become complicit. In Nathan Ballingrud’s unsettling and captivating novella, The Visible Filth, a simple act, a bit of curiosity, turns into something much darker—a poison that seeps into our flesh, unable to look away, a plague brought forth, the page becoming our undoing.
Susan Gallagher
Aug 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Ummmm.... I didn't get it. Written well, yes, with the smooth turn of a phrase and a few seriously disturbing bits tossed in.
But what happened? I mean, what the hell happened?? I don't understand the rave reviews. Where was the story??
Edward Lorn
Feb 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Video Review:

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Jul 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yikes, ah-deadly
Well HELL! That was the scariest thing I've read in quite a while. So sensible of me to read it at 10:00 last night, too. Bartender Will idly pockets a cell phone while cleaning up after a brawl in his bar. He forgets all about it until it receives a few text messages once he's gone home for the night.

"The messages were from somebody named Garrett: I think something is in here with me. And then, sent two minutes later: I'm scared."

Whoa, Garrett, me too! I got this from ILL after Ballingrud cau
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating novella. Nothing is wasted in the story. This is my favorite kind of horror--subtle, gathering momentum through each perfectly drawn scene, and taking shape from the worries, fears, and disappointments of every day existence. Without any sensationalism or implausible leaps, Nathan Ballingrud conveys a pervasive dread, a sense of evil creeping inexorably into every crevice of the protagonist’s world.

The story begins with an apparently idle observation. Will notices an abundance
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Might be in love with this author.
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
This was a very well written novella.

The story was very enticing, and I flew through it only to hit a finish line that made me stop, look back and wonder: wha?

Look, I'm cool with ambiguities in storytelling, but I'm not cool with "That's it, now YOU figure out what happened and why, ha ha!!!"
No, I paid money for you to tell me a story, pal. That's a freaking cop out as far as I'm concerned and I don't appreciate it.

What saves this from ultimately suffering a one-star rating is the fact that this
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nathan Ballingrud writes certifiably creepy stories, that is safe to assume from the general reception of his debut collection, the Shirley Jackson Award-winning collection NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MONSTERS. I will defintely concur

While he does write scenes that can make my skin crawl, the thing that really stands out to me is the emotionally devastating treatment of interpersonal relationships. THE VISIBLE FILTH, like many of his stories, features a troubled couple who have thoughts and feelings tha
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Alluring cockroaches, mysterious ailments, New Orleans... this had a lot of filth to love. One of the characters really got into my head and I've been thinking of his music ever since. This book was discussed on Episode 065 of the Reading Envy Podcast.
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Morose and macabre. A brilliantly vivid portrait of painfully pathetic characters, and absolutely squirm-inducing scenes of horror. I dropped the book when I was finished with it. In the best literary way possible, I feel unclean.
Clint Hale
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You will not be prepared for this story. You may think, as I did, that having read North American Lake Monsters, you'll have an inkling about what to expect from Nathan Ballingrud. But, like me, you will be wrong in this assumption. This is an author who strives to challenge us with each new offering, all the while employing a unique blend of visceral imagery and quiet, creeping dread. Perhaps there is no truer testament to that than his latest work, The Visible Filth.

Being deeply impressed with
Tom Breen
Mar 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading Nathan Ballingrud's tremendously wrenching "The Visible Filth" irresistibly calls to mind a line that begins a story by Joyce Carol Oates: "How madness enters our lives."

Ballingrud's tale is an examination of just that, whether in the literal sense of the communication devices we take for granted (a laptop; a cell phone) that open our lives to the world in ways we can't always anticipate, or in the metaphorical sense of the petty vanities and jealousies that chip away at love affairs and
John Smith
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters was a debut collection that put him firmly on the literary horror map. Horror from a different angle. Writing that sings.

The Visible Filth follows Will and his girlfriend by default, Carrie, as well as his actual love interest, Alicia, her new boyfriend, Jeffrey, and Eric, “a plug of muscle and charisma,” who turns into an asshole when he drinks too much. That drinking leads to a bloody fight at the bar Will works at (and where Eric lives upstairs), aft
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed the start of this, it had a real eeriness. As i slowly went on i started to feel dread at what Will was going through. But unfortunately the more it went on the more it just fell away.

We see Wills girlfriend becomes obsessed with the tunnel she is watching at night but nothing is explained as to why she just sits there, even near the end she ends up urinating in her chair she's that transfixed by it. But the following day, Will breaks up with her over coffee and i was thinking "
M Griffin
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nathan Ballingrud's novella The Visible Filth was published as a standalone novella by This is Horror, and was a finalist for the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award. It tells of Will, a likable but somewhat burned-out bartender who, in the aftermath of a brawl in the bar where he works nights, finds a cell phone. The calls he receives on that phone change him, at once repelling him and drawing him in. Frightening, disturbing, and always confidently written, The Visible Filth exerts a visceral, almost ph ...more
Nate Southard
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
With The Visible Filth, Nathan Ballingrud continues his winning streak. A novella that digs in deep and leaves you feeling both grimy and haunted. The tale of a sad sack bartender who finds a mysterious cell phone after a bar fight, this story will stick in your brain long after you've finished it.
H.L. Nelson
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read this in one evening, up until 2am. It was as excellent as I would expect, after reading North American Lake Monsters. Gripping, horrifying, but also poetic. Enough questions left unanswered to keep my brainmeat occupied for days after. Ballingrud is swiftly becoming a favorite of mine.
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unnerving, grotesque, truly suspenseful, brilliant!!!!!!!!!!!! ! This is one of 2015's BEST!
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow...incredible. Ballingrud is a force to be reckoned with. I picked this one up after being enthralled by his collection North American Lake Monsters....I was in no way disappointed! Ballingrud is like Laird Barron's twin brother who moved to New Orleans from Alaska. This is bleak, cosmic horror with its own built in,mysterious mythology. Terrifying!!

I cannot wait to read more of this guys books.
Jen Bernardini
This is a quick little read, visceral and disturbing. It reminded me of The Ring, The Grudge, those types of movies.
William M.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror

What a great introduction to this author. I am constantly searching for adult books that are dark and twisted and this really hit the spot. I've heard Nathan Ballingrud's name mentioned in various podcasts as being one of the premiere writers of the weird and dark fiction genre. Winner of the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award and a finalist of the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards, this relatively new writer has taken the dark fiction world by storm.

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I'm the author of North American Lake Monsters: stories, coming from Small Beer Press in July 2013. I'm currently at work on my first novel and several more short stories. I live with my daughter in Asheville, NC.
“Something big was trapped inside him, some great sadness, and he felt if he could cry, or even articulate it in speech, it would relieve the pressure and provide him some measure of relief. But he couldn't reach it. He couldn't find a way to address it. He wondered if it would become the thing that defined him.” 2 likes
“Life so far seemed like a kind of dance to him, and he was pleased to discover that he was pretty good at it. Lf there was something hollow underneath it all, a well of fear that sometimes seemed to pull everything else into it and leave him clutching the stone rim for fear of falling into himself, well, that was part of being human, he supposed. That's what the booze was for.” 1 likes
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