Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Clive Barker
Published by HarperCollins
It’s been a while since Clive Barker has put out anything in written form that wasn’t Abarat, so let me tell you it was a thrill to find out that not only did he have a new book on the way, but it was going to be a short one and his return to adult fiction, as it were.
Mister B. Gone is the autobiography, of sorts, of one Jakabok Botch (or Mister B for short), a demon from the ninth circle of hell who manages to get caught by a fisherman (!) and hauled up to our world. We’re told the trials of his upbringing, which included an incredibly abusive demon father, and how he became covered in burns on over 70% of his body. We’re told how he met his traveling companion and how the two of them became inseparable, committing all manner of horrific mischief on our planet’s surface for well over a century. And we’re told, over and over, to burn this book.
You see, Mr. B isn’t happy with being alive anymore. Centuries before you, the reader, picked up this infernal book, the demon became trapped inside it and is now stuck between its pages with no hope of escape other than the sweet oblivion that would come with incineration. So while he’s more than happy to tell you a tale or two of his rather interesting life, it’s all done with the promise by you, reader, to burn the damn book when the tale is at an end.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never read anything by Barker quite like this before and it was very refreshing. While at times he tends to get a bit too vague with his narrative voice, because of the very nature of Mister B. Gone said voice is crystal clear. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a fair amount of humor and light-heartedness, either.
It’s a damn quick read, too, making one wonder how so many years of being a evil, vile beast roaming the wilds of our planet could be so easily condensed in such a scant run time. Of course, the skillfulness with which the tale is told and its ability to draw you into this fascinating new vision of reality make you wish the tale would go on and on. Surely there must have been more to this demon’s life than these brief highlights?
Truly that’s the only complaint I can level against this book, too, save for one other thing. Throughout Mister B Gone, the title character hints at a secret we will eventually learn about, but man, when it hits, it’s about as disappointing as you could ask for. In fact, the whole last chunk of the book gets a bit derailed because of this discovery.
I don’t want to say it falls apart, because the observations Barker makes about the holy and the unholy and how the two relate to and deal with one another is pointed, at best, which makes the last section of the book a pretty funny chunk all things considered. But it did feel rushed in some spots, as if he had a specific deadline or page count he didn’t want to exceed, but that could just be my personal tastes.
The version of reality Mister B Gone is set in is fascinating, as well. We learn early on that the Above world has been plundering the Underground for all manner of demons for years, some for their skin, some for their horns or tails, and still some for humans’ love of sport. Hell has nine circles, each more disgusting and vile than the last, so the place Mister B comes from is obviously the worst, a world littered with garbage and the most vicious of all demons, another great twist on classic ideologies that helps set Mister B Gone apart from other books on shelves.
How does any of this tie in with The Scarlet Gospels, the book Barker’s been working on for years now to tell the final tale of Pinhead? I’m not sure, but I’ve heard there are hints here and there to events that go on in Gospels throughout Mister B Gone; I guess we’ll have to wait for the new book before we know for sure. And man what a long wait it’s been!
Mister B Gone is like no Clive Barker book that has come before and for that reason alone I can’t recommend it enough. The story has just the right balance of horror and humor, elation and sinking depression, so that you’re virtually guaranteed a good time from start to finish!
4 out of 5
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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here
Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar
Directed by Kimble Rendall
If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?
Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.
We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.
All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.
A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE
Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.
What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!
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THE DEVIL AND FATHER AMORTH Review: Friedkin Goes Mondo Catholic
Directed by William Friedkin
Hitting theaters this weekend in NYC and LA is William Friedkin’s new documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth. And right away I am asked: “Is it ‘good’?” You don’t watch a documentary like this with that in mind. Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Mondo Cane. They are not here to be “good”—they are beyond words like that. Beyond good and bad.
It is more like the sideshow—Behold! See what has not been seen before! The Horror! The Forbidden! And you hand the man your ticket — you see The Arabian Giantess at the flea market in New Jersey, and maybe it is a sleight of hand and made of papier-mâché, but it was worth that dollar, and now you have a story. You have bought your way into the unknown.
The Devil and Father Amorth is light on science (and length – it runs just 68 minutes) and heavy on faith. If you have been exposed to Friedkin’s — or more specifically, William Peter Blatty’s — work, there is the struggle with belief in the Roman Catholic faith, and also in the search for evidence of the miracle. You could also prove the Force of Divine Good if you could face the opposite side of the coin—the Force of Evil, in the vernacular of Catholicism—the Devil himself. Paradoxical, yes—faith exists without proof; and so what is the drive to tell the world God exists, the Devil exists?
In the documentary we learn Rome is filled with the possessed. Hundreds of people are contacting the Church about their own possession or the possession of their loved ones. The Most Holy Father Amorth is the person the Vatican has tapped to perform exorcisms—thousands of them. And sometimes he has repeat business. Christina is one such woman, exorcised nine times and still susceptible to the Force of Evil. Those of us who are non-believers look at this woman as someone who is troubled—but “through the eyes of faith,” obviously it is a demon.
Surrounded by her family, the rite begins, and you see… an actual exorcism. There is no enhancement, no Dick Smith make-up; it is not as dramatic as we want it to be. Should we get her help that is not in the form of a witch doctor? What about doctors? And so we meet them.
Friedkin brings the footage to top hospitals in NYC. Psychologists give their point of view. Then neurosurgeons. They don’t know what’s going on—the exorcism seems to help, but they do see that it might be a cultural remnant. There is a medical diagnosis for it, as it can affect anyone of any faith. But the doc never digs too deep. I am disappointed: I needed to know more. I don’t believe it.
Are they hurting Christina? Is she just another female the Church is suppressing, as they did with witches—the control, the stigma, of the female body and identity? None of this is explored because it’s just a 1-dollar ticket under the striped tent, just left of the dancing girls and the strong man—Actual! Exorcist! Footage! Hurry up and see!
As Friedkin mentioned himself, when someone asks you to film an exorcism, you say yes. So see it for the freak show. Expect nothing else. And either you believe or you don’t, based on how you were raised — mythology, religion, or superstition.
See it for the freak show. Expect nothing else.
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