My Blasphemous Exorcism

SPOILER ALERT!

My Best Friend’s Exorcism. With a title like that, how could you not want to read it? I thought the book would make an excellent indie movie with weird Tarantino-like special effects. The library classified it as horror, but I wouldn’t quite put it in that category; it was actually fairly difficult to categorize. I would’ve called it chick-lit with some comedy, gross-out moments, and the right amount of suspense. The horror only came through in about the last quarter of the book, but the first part was fast-paced enough to keep readers interested. Like Ready Player One, which I read about a week ago, this book was full of 80s references because it actually took place in the 80s. All of the chapter titles came from lyrics of popular 80s songs.

The author (Grady Hendrix) absolutely nailed the teenage dialogue. He did a far better job of this than many YA authors, and I was disappointed that this book wasn’t categorized as YA. I think I know why: because it was too genuine. YA is normally watered down and offers a mere simulacrum of what the teenage experience is actually like. As far as I know, he captured the essence of Charleston (South Carolina) pretty well, too, but what was really impressive was his successful use of a female main character when he is not a female. I had to keep reminding myself that the author was in fact a man.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book (and this is totally biased and says more about me than it does about the book) was that the exorcism was not performed by a Catholic priest. Some motivational speaker/weight-lifting preacher performed it, but he bailed out halfway through, leaving the main character to perform the exorcism herself, using the “holy symbols” of the friendship rather than the typical holy water and prayers. As a matter of fact, the whole “ritual” was actually pretty blasphemous. That being said, the book also did a great job of portraying the undying love between two best friends, which is not something you read about in most novels or even in real life. Many times, women and girls feel as though they have to compete with each other, so they lie and backstab and generally act like bitches to stay on top. (Some of this bitchery did happen in the novel, but it was all cleared up at the end.)

Highly recommended if you want something that’s purely entertaining. You won’t learn a darn thing from this book, but it’s a ton of fun. There are some disgusting scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend reading it while eating or if you get grossed out easily.

Wanna Play a Game?

SPOILER ALERT if you have not yet seen the movie Gerald’s Game (on Netflix).

Sorry for the Stephen King overload on this blog, but I periodically get re-obsessed with his work, so many admiring posts result. Anyway…

I read Gerald’s Game a long time ago, probably when I was in high school, and all I remember thinking was that I would never let anyone handcuff me anywhere if I could help it. The book didn’t really stand out in my mind as one of my absolute favorites by King, probably because it’s written in a similar vein as Lisey’s Story and Rose Madder, in that it has themes of feminism, spousal abuse, and domestic violence. (Don’t get me wrong; Rose Madder was one of my favorite books by King, but he is somehow less strong when he writes from a female perspective.)

Because it had been a long time since I’d read the book, I couldn’t really compare it to the movie in terms of how accurately the latter followed the former. I would say that the movie was good enough in its own right, and I probably would have seen it if it hadn’t had any relation to Stephen King. Gerald’s Game was classified as horror, but it’s not the kind of horror with over-the-top blood and “jump scare” scenes. It was more of a psychological suspense movie, where the horror is inside the character’s mind. This is more compelling to me because real human beings live with psychological horror every day, and the in-depth exploration of a character’s psychological background is so rarely done in movies. Most of the time, it’s just action sequences right after another with very little exploration of character.

Like It, Gerald’s Game was “aged up” to take place in the 2010s, which didn’t affect the plot at all. In fact, some of the themes in Gerald’s Game were probably more relevant today than when the book was written. When I watched it, I was reminded of many recent news articles about the pornography epidemic and its detrimental effects on men and boys—I could imagine Gerald being addicted to bondage porn and wanting to try out that fantasy on his wife. Also, one of the biggest elements in the movie was a solar eclipse, which reminded me of the solar eclipse this past August. They probably should have released the movie on Netflix a month earlier to make it even more timely.

If you want a horror movie that makes you think, I highly recommend Gerald’s Game, but if you want a lot of action sequences or a more typical horror movie with tons of blood and gore, this is not the movie for you. Yes, it does have its bloody moments, but they’re actually fairly tame compared to a lot of the horror movies that have come out recently.

That’s It, Isn’t It?

SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t already seen It.

I saw the remake of Stephen King’s It a few weeks ago and was impressed. Usually, I can’t stand horror movies because of the useless jump scares and over-the-top blood and gore. But I loved reading It and I enjoy pretty much anything Stephen King writes, so I figured… why not? (I saw only bits and pieces of the 1990 miniseries, so I really can’t compare the 2017 version to the older one.)

At first, I didn’t like that the movie was set in the late 1980s because that was a departure from the book, whose first part (when the main characters are kids) was set in the late 1950s. As the movie went on, it turned out that the different time frame really didn’t make much difference for the plot. The coming-of-age vibe was still there and the characters were still true to themselves.

My other two issues with the movie were the scene where blood starts gushing up from the sink, completely covering the bathroom and soaking poor Beverly. I didn’t care for it because the use of blood seemed like it was overkill, but then again, I had to remind myself that this is a Stephen King movie and that’s what he does best (it reminded me of the blood-dousing scene in Carrie).

There also seemed to be an unresolved plot point toward the end when all the kids were down in the sewer fighting off It. All of It’s previous victims were literally floating, and at one point, they started to float lower once the monster started to weaken. I wondered if that meant that the kids would come back to life eventually, but the “kids floating lower” was never explained. Maybe the next movie will have a better explanation because I don’t remember anything like that happening in the book.

Otherwise, I’d recommend It. Pennywise was a lot creepier than the original, and the camaraderie among the kids seemed realistic (thank God the movie left out that weird sex scene from the book). A very long book (well, half the book, anyway) was boiled down into a 2-hour movie without losing much, which was a great success on the director’s part. I’m looking forward to Chapter 2, when the kids (now adults) come back to destroy It once and for all.