The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar
Son Of Celluloid
KR: Door 9: New Murders In The Rue Morgue – Dean M. Drinkel
Son Of Celluloid
“The space however, the air itself, had lived a life of its own in that fifty years. Like a reservoir, it had received the electric stares of a thousand eyes, of tens of thousands of eyes. Half a century of movie-goers had lived vicariously through the screen of the movie palace, pressing their sympathies and their passions on to the flickering illusion, the energy of their emotions gathering strength like a neglected cognac in that hidden passage of air.” – Clive Barker
I first read Barker’s Books of Blood when they came out back in the ‘80s. I was a teenager from a deeply religious home and yet or maybe because of that I was always fascinated by fiction that featured the dark, the macabre, the evil…
Son of Celluloid is a grotesque, yet loving homage to the silver screen. The fascination it creates in audiences, the energy of the shared experience that crackles between the viewers – something that streaming just can’t conjure in the same way at home.
As a huge film fan, I was struck by what a cool idea Barker had in splitting up the short story into three parts namely the ‘Trailer’ which serves as prologue detailing the backstory of poor Barberio. Here we have a felon on the run from prison, he shoots a cop but gets wounded himself and needs a place to hole up. He finds an old cinema and manages to crawl into a dead space behind the screen. There he succumbs to his blood loss but the cancerous tumour in Barberio’s belly is bestowed unnatural energy from the charged air of the cinema and takes on a life of its own.
I won’t outline the plot that follows in the ‘Main Feature’ or the final nasty twist in the final ‘Censored Scenes’ section but believe me when I say this is an essential read for cinephiles who have strong stomachs.
Son of Celluloid delivers a bold, highly cinematic hallucinatory head trip – bringing icons of the silver screen to life in suitably horrific ways. Cowboys and Pin-Ups drip menace even as they explode with sexual glamour and star power. As the poor cinema goers and staff suffer at the hands of the shape shifting tumour, what could in lesser hands come across as gaudy, is here an existential, gore-laced cautionary rile against and analogy of, the very real-world horror of cancer itself.
I had cancer back in ’98 – it’s horrific, the moment of diagnosis, the looks from family and friends, the fear (even after being given the ‘all clear’ after ten years) that it will return unprompted… I didn’t know what was in my future when I read this first time around, but I had the first-hand experience when I revisited the tale in Steve Niles’ excellent graphic novel adaptation. It gave the monster of the piece even more tangible threat, and seeing the cancer given art form by Les Edwards hit harder than expected. The graphic novel version is a fantastic companion to the original story, it keeps all the elements and somehow manages to weave images in your head that you won’t soon forget. You will almost certainly never look at Marylin Monroe in the same way ever again!?
Son of Celluloid transcends the pulp of some of some of the other Books of Blood tales. This is such a twisted spin on the monster stalk-em-up genre that I would love to see it make the jump itself to the big screen as part of an anthology… That would be a fitting arc of the creative process and potentially a cinematic experience that might truly upset those not serious inured to the darkness.
So approach with caution but whether you pick your horror in prose or graphic novel form, this is a highly recommended and challenging dose of mind freaking horror.
Matt Adcock has been blogging and reviewing films for more than 20 years. He is also the author of the dark near-future novel ‘Complete Darkness’ which tells the tale of how we map ‘hell’ by mistake. The novel is now being turned into a comic book series. Experience the darkness at: www.completedarknessnovel.com follow Matt on Twitter @Cleric20 and see the comic art and more at completedarknessfan
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