I watched this movie, courtesy of Redbox for $1.23. THE DEVIL INSIDE is a film directed and co-written by William Brent Bell (2006′s STAY ALIVE). The narrative style of this film is a cross between “found footage” and documentary. A 2012 January release, the story begins in 1989 as a 911 call and a blotchy videotaped police investigation of a triple murder. A woman with a deep, weary and rather sexy voice calls into 911 saying, “I killed them all.” “Them” means two priests and a nun, casualties, we discover, of a botched exorcism. In this case, the devil is in the details–details the script fails to share because the story jumps forward to 2009 and the woman, an American wife and mother, Maria Rossi (Suzan Crowley) is now an inmate in an Italian hospital for the criminally insane.
Naturally, Maria’s daughter, Isabella, an attractive young woman in her twenties wants to know what happened to land her mother in the funny farm in a different country. Isabella, whose father died shortly after the murders, hasn’t seen or spoken to her mother in over ten years. So Isabella, camera crew in tow-of course she’s an attractive twenty-something so she’s going to have a camera crew, decides to visit Mommie Weirdest in the old country. Maria now spends her life in a white room and she draws odd pictures, including upside-down crosses etched into her skin. Suzan Crowley, the actress playing Maria strikes me as one of those very good actresses, toiling for years in forgettable projects, and never getting a chance to show her acting chops. That’s unfortunate for the film. What little we see of her stands in stark contrast to the rest of the principal cast. Maria growls and purrs; the coiled menace within her is the only real scare this film has to offer. Her voice brings to mind Mercedes McCambridge‘s demon voice emanating from Regan, the besieged eleven-year old in THE EXORCIST. It’s insinuating and truly creepy. The young actors playing Isabella (Fernanda Andrade), the “documentary guy” (Ionut Grama), Father David, the doctor-priest (Evan Helmuth), and Father Ben, the exorcist-priest (Simon Quarterman) can’t conjure up enough scare for a campfire ghost story. When you’re dealing with “The Devil,” or devils, you want to see him fight in the right weight category. Pitting these four against a really big baddie supernatural is like watching the Smurfs take on Godzilla. It’s hardly a fair fight. The rather bland unfocused Isabella seems confused more than desperate. Father David likes to help out on exorcisms but only if they don’t get him in trouble. Father Ben pouts and whines about how the Church won’t condone exorcisms unless there’s super duper proof of possession–but he’s gonna do them anyway–so there, Monsignor Meanies! To your self-respecting demon, these four are as challenging as drowning a bag full of kittens.
The plot spins its wheels, going nowhere, until it just stops abruptly. You get the feeling the production either ran out of money or film. Whatever. Regardless, the appetite for devil movies being what it is, the film’s earned over 50 million. Maybe someone made a deal with the devil after all. By the way–the weird nun on the cover is an extra–not a character in the story.
My sister is a gamer and has been for years. I stopped after Mario 2; I killed Toad and retired on my laurels.
For many years I worked in casting—mostly atmosphere and low budget films and one of the things that fascinated me was the different worlds–cultures and sub-cultures, each with its own lingo, go-to people, unwritten rules, who was cool and who was lame and so on. For example, I had to find a nine to twelve year old girl who was middle-eastern and an accomplished rider for the movie, THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION. Of course I went the usual routes of agents but my search also took me into the various worlds of horseback riding–camps, schools, competitions, etc. I developed contacts in the Arab American community and placed ads in Arab newspapers and television stations. When you do this type of work, you realize, as I suppose sociologists do how each culture and sub-culture is a world unto itself.
Many times, my sister has attempted to explain the complexity of the games she plays and why she finds them so engrossing. She knows it’s a lost cause. It looks way too complicated to understand without playing. After reading my blog, she recommended I check out THE GUILD. Besides being a YOUTUBE offering, currently, the first five episodes are on Netflix. So last night I spent a couple of hours with THE GUILD, specifically, two of the segments from 2007. As far as I can tell, THE GUILD is still going strong.
THE GUILD was created by Felicia Day who has written most of the episodes and stars as “Codex” the Priestess (aka Cyd). Day is supported by a great cast including Sandeep Parikh as Zaboo the Warlock gnome, Jeff Lewis as Vork, Robin Thorsen as Clara,Vincent Caso as Bladezz and Amy Okuda as Tinkerballa. The Guild consists of a handful of gamers who team together as The Knights of Good to play a game we never see in action. The first thing we notice is how addictive the game is. Day conveys this with sly humor and a self parody of this social culture. As I watched these characters play their roles, their solitude becomes secondary to the identity they assume for the game. Day mines this commitment for humor by highlighting the chaos around them. Codex’s psychiatrist is dropping her because she devotes too much time to playing and as she argues this decision, Codex puts the shrink on hold to make a play. Clara, the mother of three small children, ignores their cries as she pumps breast milk with one hand and works the keyboard with the other. Vork lives alone, subsisting illegally on his dead grandfather’s social security. Convinced that Codex and he are a couple (she flirted using several semi-colons) Zaboo, (whose mother breastfed him until he was eleven) shows up on Codex’ doorstep.
The Knights of Good decide to meet in person and it’s interesting to watch them try to continue the roles that they play on line. You get the feeling that as much as the game takes in terms of time and relationships, it also gives these characters a sense of self and purpose and although they may appear isolated they are anything but. There’s a community that they know and unless you are a gamer, you’ll never understand.
I plan to watch more episodes. All the actors, especially Day are appealing and I think that as we spend more and more time online, it’s good to know to have friends in high places like my sister, resident of SWTOR (Star Wars the Old Republic).
BIG SPOILER ALERT
CHRONICLE is a 2011 movie that I rented from Blockbuster. Sorry Netflix. I love sci fi and the trailer looked interesting, so I ditched you. CHRONICLE uses the “found footage” device and in the case of CHRONICLE, it detracted more than added. Horror films like BLAIR WITCH and the PARANORMAL series have used this device very effectively. Ghosts and the unseen are even scarier when they pop up on a home movie.
The first “found footage” sci fi movie I saw was 2008′s CLOVERFIELD, a film that used the device very well. What I really found effective in CLOVERFIELD was the “you are there” bewilderment and disorientation of the characters. This was a pure third person narrative–we knew only what the characters did. We’re in the middle of New York City at a millennial generation going away party. There’s a lovers quarrel brewing when suddenly, all that angst comes to an abrupt stop. The city is being attacked by aliens that range from Godzilla-like tall as sky-scraper monsters to three foot icky skittery spider things. Because we already know something about the characters, we identify and as they find out bits and pieces of what threatens to turn them into bits and pieces, so do we.
CHRONICLE was directed by first time director, Joshua Crank. The story involves three teenaged boys, all high school seniors. They discover and explore a deep hole in the ground–the result of a large meteor. Everything about this crater screams Invaders from Mars–lots of glowy rocks and strange beeps. Andrew (Dane DeHaan of HBO’s In Treatment) is the geek of the group. Andrew’s mother is dying and his “on disability” ex-fireman dad takes it out on Andrew. Not surprisingly, Andrew is a virgin. Andrew’s good-looking cousin, Rick (Michael Kelly) is the popular kid and our surrogate. And then there’s Rick’s friend Steve (Red Tails‘ Michael B. Jordan) the wealthy, charismatic high school jock, who tolerates Andrew because he’s Rick’s cousin. Exposure to the crash site results in some interesting and disturbing side affects. All three develop telekinetic (they can move things using their minds) powers, as well as the ability to fly. They also have nose-bleeds and can communicate somewhat, telepathically. Being teenagers, it never occurs to them that they should let someone know about the truly weird changes and so they play around, cracking each other up, using their new-found powers to play super-catch and to pull pranks. Of course, nothing this cool is free. Andrew’s rapidly collapsing world includes a dying mother, an abusive father and total humiliation when he barfs on a girl just as he’s transitioning from virgin to man of the world. When his bedridden mother writhes in pain and there is no money for pain medicine, Andrew whigs out big-time.
The presence of a camera, in Andrew’s hands, Rick’s would-be girlfriend’s hands and various security videos rarely adds anything. It’s a device and we are aware of it. The only time it worked for me was during the flying sequences which put you up there with the giddy boys, who soar a mile or so off the ground as they toss the football to each other. That was exhilarating–and for me, also frightening; I have issues with heights. Predictably, Andrew’s powers, I assume, because they are enhanced by all that anger and libido, mushroom and at last, express themselves Carrie style. No prom? No problem! Along with all those high school meanies and his nasty dad, Andrew decides to take out the whole town. Poor Rick (Steve dies trying to do an intervention as Andrew floats in a swirl of storm clouds) has to put Andrew down. After neutralizing his cousin, a sorrowful Rick flies away, ala Superman, until the sequel.
I RECOMMEND CHRONICLE
There is some nice work in this film. Despite the Carrie-esque formula and the awkwardness of the “found footage,” the actors, especially DeHaan, are appealing and first time director Crank shows a real flair for working with them. The playfulness of the scenes where the boys explore their new powers is fun and has a freshness to it. If there is a sequel, I hope the footage isn’t “found,” unless it’s floating up there somewhere in the clouds.
This movie is not science fiction, nor is it horror, though it is horrific. Regardless, because it is currently one of the better movies offered on Netflix, I have decided to include it.
TRUST, a 2011 film, directed by David Schwimmer, and starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener and talented fifteen year-old newcomer Liana Liberato, is a movie that totally unnerved me. Critics who don’t like the film criticize the melodramatic nature of Owens’ performance. Those who like the film say it’s Owens’ best work. I tend to agree with the excellence of Owens’ performance, though I didn’t totally buy the way his role was written.
Either way, for me they miss why this film is so powerful. It’s the detailed step-by-step seduction of a child by an online predator that will stay with me for quite a while. The story begins with fourteen-year-old high school freshman, Annie, who, as most teens do, spends a lot of time online, especially now that she has her new Mac laptop–a birthday gift from her loving and together parents (Owens and Keener). Annie knows about predators, blocking “Big Mike” when he intrudes in the chat room with a salacious comment. Then “Charlie” approaches Annie (Liberato), joining the other “friends” who offer encouragement to Annie before a big volleyball team tryout. “Charlie” is fifteen and his friendly puppy icon pops up periodically with cheery hello’s. Soon, his insightful pep talks and compliments result in Charlie becoming Annie’s confidante and best friend.
The scary part of this process is how easy it is to gain the trust of a child online. As Annie reads his lies, we do too. Charlie asks for pictures of Annie and sends his pictures. Annie is thrilled to see Charlie is a cute fifteen-year old who tells her all about his folks and his big brother. Annie is alarmed when Charlie sends new photos–he’s older in them and confesses to being 18 and in college. Then he sends pictures of a handsome young athlete, revising his age to 25. Annie is hesitant but smitten. After weeks of late night chats and phone calls, she agrees to meet him at the mall and is startled to see Charlie is middle-aged. Charlie is smooth and it’s oh so easy for Annie to feel comfortable. He’s someone who understands and thinks she’s special. He takes her to a motel. All the time I’m cringing. That’s what unnerved me–just how easy it is–even when a child is aware of predators–even when a child is loved. The rest of the film of course is what happens to Annie and her parents after this devastating event. The psychiatrist (Oscar nominee Viola Davis) helps Annie and her parents cope with what cannot be changed.
The film has no easy answers and it’s difficult to watch. If you are a parent, or someone who loves a child, I recommend you check it out. We do discover why Charlie the predator knows just what to say. It might help to know more about how a “Charlie” plays the game. Then we can make sure that he does not pass “go”, but instead, goes directly to jail.
TRUST is currently available on Netflix.
Here are two movies. Up to this point, I hadn’t seen one that I could recommend. To my dismay, I saw that I couldn’t recommend the first one, so I looked for another.
I don’t recommend Dylan Dog: Dead of Night
Last night, I watched Demon Knight: Tales From the Crypt. My next movie post was going to be solely on another comic-based movie–Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Dylan Dog…was based on a 1986 Italian comic book series by Tiziano Sclavi. So I watched this Netflix offering, a 2011 film, which was a mess from start to finish. Dylan’s director is Kevin Monroe, who directed the animated 2007 TMNT 4 (Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles). And therein lies the one of the problems–live actors are a lot harder to direct than animated characters. Animated films, (unless you’re Pixar) are by nature, two dimensional. With live actors, you need a little more “directing”. Monroe was blessed with two excellent actors in Taye Diggs and Sam Huntington. Brandon Routh in the title role needed a little more help. The only other film I had seen Routh in was Superman The Return. He is an extremely good looking actor and this is a mixed blessing. Mr. Routh needs some miles on his face–some character that draws us (ala Harrison Ford) in so that we project our own back story as to how they got there. Right now, Routh’s face is a blank sheet. His droning voice-over, meant to help us follow a confusing, muddled story, loses us in the first ten minutes. If Monroe, the director, knew how to work with actors, perhaps there would be a little more shading–something of interest to support the noir feel this movie attempted to create. As Dylan, Routh was as flat as a cartoon turtle. Knowing something about actors, having been one and worked with many as a casting director, I feel Routh is a work in progress. I hope that he continues to be cast without the burden of carrying a whole film and that along with paying that acting coach, he does some theater–which is an actor’s medium. A little Tennessee Williams would do him a world of good not to mention what’s going on currently in theater. I freely admit I don’t know. When I left production, I left it all behind and now am a consumer–an audience member. I want to see what’s behind Routh’s big brown eyes.
Whatever limited appeal this film possesses comes from Sam Huntington, who was Jimmy Olsen to Routh’s Superman. Huntington is now the resident werewolf on the SyFy Channel’s Being Human. George Bush senior was described as that “first husband–” the one you briefly married before you settled down. Huntington’s prissy “everyman” is the essence of your college roommate’s boyfriend–the one who always shows up to help you move. He’s so funny as the reluctant zombie–grossed out by his zombie needs, that he makes you forget the awkwardness of the film. Here’s another problem: the props. Couldn’t they get real sides of beef rather that plastic? It really distracted. Taye Diggs is such a compelling actor that he blows everyone else off the screen. And one more problem before I go on to Demon Knight. Dylan Dog is full of monsters because Dylan is the “middle man” between humans and the world of monsters. Most of the movie is spent with monsters, on behalf of monsters and fighting monsters, yet all the fight scenes are versions of martial arts. Where are the claws, the fangs, the bolts of lightening, the melting people, etc.? Other than throwing punches and tossing people around, the demons, vampires and werewolves are pussies.
Now on to Demon Knight. This 1995 release was connected to TV’s Tales From the Crypt. It stars Billy Zane, William Sadler and Jada Pinkett with CCH Pounder and Thomas Hayden Church. The director, Ernest R. Dickerson has directed episodes of The Walking Dead and Treme as well as other high profile TV offerings. I had seen Demon Knight several years ago and what stuck with me was how much I enjoyed Billy Zane’s performance. So last night, I decided to take another look. Zane plays a demon and this little devil really enjoys his work. Zane, like Routh, has a handsome face, but he hasn’t let it slow him down. His performance in Demon Knight puts his melodrama-villain turn in Titanic to shame. If the Zane of Demon Knight were on that boat, Rose wouldn’t have given Jack the time of day. This film was a spin off of the TV series, Tales From the Crypt, and the series was inspired by those comics–the lurid, wild-eyed, bloody, bony stories we loved even though reading them led to many a night light. Demon’s story is simple. A man with a secret hides out at a hotel out in the middle of nowhere. He’s being chased by a demon who wants something the man carries with him. It’s one of seven keys and if the demon gets it, there’s lights out for all mankind and we’d better get used to a lot of slime and cackling. The man and the hotel’s few occupants are under siege as Zane and his army of zany demons, try to get that key. Each guest is tempted to hand it over. Among the group, there’s plucky little Jada Pinkett’s character, a convict on work release, CCH Pounder as the cynical hotel manager, Thomas Hayden Church’s sexy lout and William Sadler, an actor who usually plays a villain as the mysterious, weary guest.
Like a comic book, Demon Knight is in vivid primary colors. Dickerson trusts his actors to breathe life into the narrative and with a cast like this, you can’t go wrong. Even so, Zane is a stand-out. His career doesn’t reflect his gifts–I think because he’s a character actor trapped in the body of a leading man. He shows us the sexy allure of evil, how it dazzles and obscures the facts, and the lies, which he gleefully admits. If for no other reason than Zane’s performance, take a look at Demon Knight. It’s on Netflix. On a Saturday night, a friend or two, a bowl of popcorn and Demon Knight, you could do worse.
WARNING: BIG SPOILER ALERT–GO NO FURTHER IF YOU PLAN TO READ THE PASSAGE.
Okay you’ve been warned about THE PASSAGE. So trudge along with me.
The Passage is a novel written by Justin Cronin, a professor of English at Rice University. It was published by Random House in 2010. Before I began to read The Passage, I read the back page of acknowledgements where the list contained many famous names like Ridley Scott, higher ups at Random House, Creative Artists Agency, Orion, Ballatine–you get the picture–this guy knows people. A look at his bio gives a hint as to why. He’s written some award winning material and earned an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop –a great place to network I’m sure. Plus, Justin Cronin is cute. All of those Rice girls I think, would agree.
I don’t recommend The Passage. Here’s an overview of the book and as I read the last page, my reasons for wanting to throw it against a wall:
The book is 766 pages long. The first 208 pages are really, really good–almost brilliant. The story begins with a five year-old girl (Amy), the child of a friendless single mother who abandons her at a convent. There’s a nun named Lacey, who is a survivor of civil war in Sierra Leone. Hoping to care for Amy and keep her at the convent, Lacey tells little white lies.
Then, the narrative jumps to first person in emails where we learn about research going on in the Amazon jungle. They’ve found a batman statue down there. I don’t mean the super hero–this thing sports fangs and attitude. The US military is involved and in a horror novel, that’s never good. The scientists aim to conquer death (one named Lear is grieving the death of his wife). Several scientists are killed and eaten by vampire bats; we’re left wondering what the scientists found before they became bat food.
We skip to a secret research facility. The military is busy with Lear’s help, experimenting on a dozen condemned murderers. This segment, with its seeping creeping dreams, experienced by the sex-offender personnel, as they record vitals and clean up the guano of the new “bat men,” who hang upside down in their cells, rivals the vampire dreams of Salem’s Lot. It’s very scary.
Two FBI agents recruit the death row inmates and this is where Cronin’s skill really shines. We meet Carter, a bewildered little man who is on death row for accidentally killing his benefactress, a housewife who rescued him from under a bridge and gave him work, a home and dignity. Carter, a gentle soul, accepts his fate. Wolfgast, one of the FBI men, grieves the death of his infant daughter. Wolfgast reluctantly recruits Carter, recognizing that the man is not a killer. Carter’s journey to the research facility is Cronin at his best; we see Carter’s enjoyment–amazed at the America that his poverty and friendlessness denied him.
Then, Lear wants to test the serum on a child. Wolfgast and Doyle, his partner, are sent out to find one who won’t be missed. Back to Amy. Lacey takes Amy to the zoo. Amy makes the TV news when all the animals freak out and try to follow her. To Lacey, Amy explains cryptically” “They know what I am.” Okay, except that this whole segment is never explained to the reader and it happens way before any of the events that might have led to Amy’s weird behavior. You assume that it, along with Lacey’s prescience will be given an explanation. Not.
Wolgast tries to rescue Amy but is stopped by trigger-happy government guy Richards, a character who is the poster child for overkill–he kills all the nuns for pete’s sake. The writing has been so good so far that you forgive the cartoon excess. The best two hundred pages ends with Wolfgast rescuing Amy after she’s been given a giant dose of refined bat juice. The convict batmen get free and kill everyone. Somehow, Lacey tracks them down (she wasn’t home when Richards killed the other nuns) and we leave her as she distracts the batmen (later called virals) so that Amy and Wolfgast can get away. The last page of these 208 ends with Amy being alone with no one to protect her.
The rest of the book–all 548 pages begins almost one hundred years after the virals have pretty much killed the world. It centers on the “Colony” a small group of survivors located in California. Exposition is in the form of a document presented at a “World Conference” in “1015 av.” Okay, so we know that there’s a world and conferences and that mankind as a global civilization ultimately survives. Now back to the document–a first person account written by a woman who was the oldest person at the “Colony’. Her name was Ida. Think The Stand’s “Mother Abigail.” Ida makes awful tea and blurts out remarks like she knows what’s going to happen. She doesn’t. The Colony survives by vigilance and keeping the lights on at night to keep out the virals and protect the “Littles” (as in Lord of the Flies “little-uns”) who stay segregated in a schoolhouse. Unfortunately, the batteries are dying and so in desperation, the “Watchers” turn on the forbidden radio, hoping to signal for help. It comes in the form of a teenage girl–Amy who, after a hundred years has managed to hit puberty. She can’t talk.
I could name some of the zillion characters who continue the story, which jumps from one character to the other in a third person narrative. Not one pops out. Cronin doesn’t give enough weight to any of them to make us care. I kept waiting for the writing to get better–to get anywhere near the caliber of the first section. There’s a series of forays, attacks, discoveries and we finally learn that all forty something million virals are telepathically connected to one or the other of the original twelve convicts–like giant bee colonies and each convict is a queen bat-bee. If you can kill one of the original, then those connected will remember who they are and will hang around until the sun comes up until they burn and then fly to that great hive in the sky. Right. This all happens at the very end and what really frosts my shorts is that Cronin leaves us hanging. He doesn’t tell us how or when the world is saved. In fact, the last “document” presented at the “World Conference” reveals the assumed death of one of the major characters. We don’t know for sure because Cronin has a habit of killing someone off at the end of a segment then beginning the next segment by informing us that they were rescued by some fluke. This is lazy writing. Cronin knows better and we the readers deserve better. The ending was very frustrating and I felt had.
Unless you want to be really really annoyed, I don’t recommend The Passage.
Congratulations on your success Mr. Cronin. Next time give us a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
The Thirteenth Floor, a film directed by Josef Rusnek, and based on the 1964 Daniel F. Galouye novel, Simulacron 3 was released in 1999. Although hard to follow, with a less than compelling conflict and plot resolution, this film was met with enthusiasm by sci fi buffs and it was nominated for the Saturn Award as “Best Science Fiction Film” of 1999. Unfortunately for The Thirteenth Floor, The Matrix was also released in 1999. Rats. I know that The Matrix is beloved by many, but I found it every bit as muddled as The Thirteenth Floor and with its “mysticism,” incredibly pretentious and sophomoric.
Because the intricate plot and guessing what’s going on is the whole point, I’m not going to reveal plot points. The film has a good cast, including Craig Bierko, Gretchen Mol, Vincent D’Onofrio and Dennis Haysbert.
The Thirteenth Floor is not a good film but not entirely bad either. Like Inception, a film much closer in structure and concept, the premise is difficult to convey and so the solution is to blend in another, more easily understood genre. Inception gives us car chases and shoot-outs in our dreams within dreams. The idea, I suppose, is that those who lack the patience to follow the film’s complexity, will understand the language of violence.
In hopes of not losing its mainstream audience, The Thirteenth Floor blends in LA noir and a murder mystery. The result, like Inception, is a feeling of disorientation. We don’t get to know any of the characters or care about the outcome; we’re too busy trying to crack the code–guessing what’s what. I like the idea of computer-generated, sentient beings who believe they’re human. Their limited existence reminds me of another hybrid movie–Dark City. Like The Matrix, Dark City has an element of mysticism but I didn’t think it nearly as pretentious. Very weird (in a good way for me) but lot’s more entertaining than The Matrix.
The concept of virtual reality is such a rich one that I hope someone will make a film that explores it on its own terms, trusting the audience and attempting to answer some of the questions it poses, such as what defines a human being. Along with the Star Trek holodek, television has done its own spin around VR territory, including 1995′s VE-5 and the Syfy’s current offering, EUREKA. Science fiction writers have long mined the territory of virtual reality, including my own second book, Babylon Dreams, where a whole industry competes for the consumer dollar by offering “after-death” destinations.
If you haven’t seen The Thirteenth Floor, I recommend it, especially if you like science fiction. It’s worth the elevator ride.
Colliding worlds, epidemics, vampires, aliens, zombies–writers just love ending the world and we just love reading about how it all goes down. Everyone dies, except us–or those characters who are our surrogates. One particularly gruesome ending has fallen out of favor–World War III with its mushroom clouds and the President in the War Room agonizing on whether or not to take the Ruskies with us into that bad night of a nuclear winter. He always does.
Because the world is different now from the world of the mid-eighties when McCammon wrote Swan’s Song, what limited appeal this novel possessed has all but evaporated. I’m a boomer and all boomers relate to the fear of global nuclear war; we grew up with it. McCammon renders the nuclear nightmare in vivid detail, focusing on characters struggling to free themselves from environments that saved their lives but now threaten to become tombs. One particular bit of irony is a survivalist enclave dug into a mountain. There’s a gym, a movie theater, apartments, etc. and as always happens–the best laid plans go down. A whole mountain collapsing on you–take that survivalists. No control of your fate–all luck of the draw. Unlike Stephen King‘s The Stand, another end-of-the world scenario, we’re not invested in McCammon’s characters. I think that’s because he devotes so much of the novel to showing us how devastating an all out nuclear war would be, not just to humans, but to everything. It’s hard to say who the protagonist is– I guess it would be Swan–a young girl who can talk to plants and it is Swan who will save the world by giving pep talks to trees, grass, crops etc, spreading seeds and re-growing where ever she goes–a kind of “Swannie Appleseed.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist. The antagonist, similar to The Stand‘s Randall Flagg is a devil with a small “d.” The devil keeps whining about how it’s now “his” party and he gets to decide what happens, which is everybody and everything dies. I kept wondering–if he gets his way, what will he do for entertainment when everyone is gone. Of course he doesn’t win–Swan has his number and puts him in his place.
This novel was long–way too long–over 800 pages. McCammon could have carved out at least two hundred pages of that fruit and nut ingredient necessary to every apocalypse mix–the military mad men, the crazies and the religious zealots. The battle scenes were detailed and endless. In terms of characters–there’s lots of pat psychoanalysis but not much in the way of real people to care about. Like King’s The Stand, McCammon’s Swan Song indicates he doesn’t care a lot for the military or much in the way of government.
I know McCammon can write–I read Boy’s Life years ago and it was such a pleasure. I intend to read some of his other novels and expect I’ll enjoy them. One thing–I’m glad that threat of a nuclear winter is diminishing. On top of everything, there would be nothing to eat–unless of course you’re a zombie.