Experimental Film: Gemma Files (Guest Review by Theresa Braun)

Theresa Braun has a Master’s degree in English and lives in South Florida where she has taught literature and writing for almost 20 years. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her short stories have appeared in several horror and speculative fiction publications. Later this year her novel Fountain Dead, based on her experiences living in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota, will be released by Unnerving Magazine.

Kendall Reviews was lucky enough to chat to Theresa early March 2018, you can read the interview here I’m delighted to be able to welcome her back, this time with a review for Gemma Files, Experimental Film.

Fired at almost the same time as her son Clark’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, former film critic turned teacher Lois Cairns is caught in a depressive downward spiral, convinced she’s a failure who’s spent half her adult life writing about other people’s dreams without ever seeing any of her own come true. One night Lois attends a program of experimental film and emerges convinced she’s seen something no one else has―a sampled piece of silver nitrate silent film footage whose existence might prove that an eccentric early 20th-century socialite who disappeared under mysterious circumstances was also one of Canada’s first female movie-makers. Though it raises her spirits and revitalizes her creatively, Lois’s headlong quest to discover the truth about Mrs. A. Macalla Whitcomb almost immediately begins to send her much further than she ever wanted to go, revealing increasingly troubling links between her subject’s life and her own. Slowly but surely, the malign influence of Mrs. Whitcomb’s muse begins to creep into every aspect of Lois’s life, even placing her son in danger. But how can one increasingly ill and unstable woman possibly hope to defeat a threat that’s half long-lost folklore, half cinematically framed hallucination―an existential nightmare made physical, projected off the screen and into real life?

Theresa Braun Review.

Let me start by saying that I’m so glad I finished this book. I listened to it on audio, but had I been reading it, I might’ve given up. Mostly, the issue is the long-winded background on Canadian film. Although interesting in parts, I could see most readers losing patience. Clearly, Files has quite a bit of first-hand knowledge and it shows. But, I think the book would’ve been better served had she reigned it back. I felt similarly about the extent of which the narrator went on about her challenges with Clark’s Autism. It’s important for characterization and it provides a parallel to Mrs. Whitcomb’s experience with her child. However, that aspect could’ve been trimmed for the sake of moving the story along.

That aside, the novel is a slow burn (the only reason for a lower rating here), but is definitely worth the payout. I’ll try to do justice to explaining the wonderful elements.

At the second half, I found myself getting excited about the story. When Files finally hooks us, it’s for good. You won’t want to put the book down. One of the aspects I appreciated was the believability. There’s enough reality-based explanation in the plot, mixed with the appropriate amount of supernatural. I can’t really elaborate on this without giving away the best parts, but being grounded in reality definitely helps balance the inexplicable parts. We wonder how much influence some mythological (and maybe even a Christian) deity has over human beings. Or whether or not film can record thought. And what does this all mean for the lives of the characters? For us as readers? Files indirectly asks us to evaluate what we believe to be true about higher powers and the meaning of life. What is the point of our measly existence? The question that had me in tears: would any of us take the easy way out if we had the chance to have all our dreams realized? For me, that was the most ‘wow’ moment in the book.

To recap: what do you get if you stick with this read? The author manages to offer us a profound kind of blow-your-mind ride. Also in part because the story is quite original. Furthermore, all the pieces come together in the end and somehow reach out and touch you. That’s not easy to do. Hats off to Files for that.

Rating: B+

KR: Thank you very much Theresa, looks like Experimental Film is a book well worth persevering with.

You can buy Experimental Files from Amazon UK & Amazon US

To find out more about Theresa please visit her official site www.theresabraun.com

You can follow Theresa on Twitter

Theresa’s Amazon author page is here

Theresa’s Goodreads page is here

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You can buy Hardened Hearts from Amazon US & Amazon UK

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