Fourth Estate, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-00-729914-0
Horror, 2015 (Reissue)
I don’t even want to try to imagine how Consumed came to be. Horror maestro David Cronenberg has some good scare flicks in his name, along with some duds naturally, but he can always be counted on to present some twisted, gory horror with a touch of sly humor. This one, his first published effort, however, reads like a laundry list of art school hipster dipstick clichés.
Do people still find characters who spend all their time traveling and generally posing around, apparently being able to sustain their lifestyle despite not really having any semblance of a stable income? Noami and Nathan are two freelance photojournalists who are lovers but, at the same time, not really in a committed relationship. These two like launching into eye-rolling long soliloquies passed off as conversations – heck, every character does this – and these two can go on and on about camera equipment, the marvels and limitations of social media, and whatever else that the author can pick out from his navel. The plot is basically Naomi running off to look into a case of a philosopher dismembering and then eating part of his wife, while Nathan runs off to look into the case of a surgeon – who does not have a proper degree – willing to perform surgeries on patients that normally would not be done by surgeons that value their license to practice and reputation. But despite the potentially gruesome premise, much of the story is bogged down by scenes of people thinking and monologuing about things that seem so contrived and fake. The whole thing is like what happens when someone tries too hard to convince everyone that he or she is actually European rather than, say, a bumpkin from Backwards, Oklahoma.
It’s a shame because Consumed does have a well drawn, subtle but chilling undercurrent of paranoia and mounting terror, reminiscent of the horror flicks during the golden age of Italian exploitation flicks. But too much of the story is bogged down by by-the-numbers portrayal of stereotypical avant-garde European-wannabe poseurs, pretentious overlong navel-gazing diatribes, and worse – to such a point that when the author’s bizarre take of North Korea’s great plot is introduced into the story, it just happens so abruptly that I can only wonder whether the author switched recreational pharmaceuticals just as abruptly while writing this story.
Consumed is a potentially good chiller that eventually just meanders on and on until everything gets sucked into the great abyss that is the author’s navel. It tries very hard to be all about symbols, metaphors, and what not when in truth, I don’t give a damn about the two main characters, who are more talking heads than anything else, and I have zero care to give about what happens to those two dolts. Or everything else that happens in this story. The author couldn’t even keep his babbling pseudo-intellectual nonsense out of the twisted sex scenes, so really, the reader really has to be in love with the author’s pretentious twattery to appreciate the full so-called genius of this story.