There's a lovely, creepy, under-seen film set amongst the wealthy in NYC -- Birth
, like the best horror, burrows under the skin with an ability to make the utterly familiar seem uncertain, make you question who people are or what lies underneath, to twist our understanding of relationships inside out.
There's also a hacky, overblown, high-profile film set amongst the wealthy in NYC -- Wolf
, like the blandest horror, relies upon some stock disuptions of the normal (and normative), finding fairly familiar Id-iotic impulses running under everyday life, but the film is swollen by a false sense of saying something--as if the pulpy pleasures of genre need better set design, as if the gloss provided by the bigshot talent behind the film will turn leaden convention into gold.
This novel is far more like the second example than the first. I compare it to films because--despite a tedious expository fussiness--it seems so explicitly to be written with cinematic conventions. (At one point, as dad Alex digs through an apartment abandoned by the parents who told he and his wife about a new fertility treatment, and now something BAD has happened to them, he opens a drawer and "[t]he blade of a straight razor greets him with a sinister wink of reflected light." That "of reflected light" spells out the image, rather than trusting language.)
And yet the novel balloons from a potentially sleek, lurid little exercise with the kind of bloated extrapolations that think the thrust of action and convention need better set design to be taken seriously. When one character is thrown through the air, to end flight impaled on a statue's sword, we get four paragraphs of the character thinking, realizing what has happened. Don't get me wrong here: I happen to like movies where people are thrown the air and get impaled on objects. The fact that this impalement happens in the novel is pretty far from surprising, yet the drawn-out sequence only works if we readers are surprised by the sudden occurrence of a pulpy contrivance in the midst of "character" and "good writing."
I disliked this more than others may, because I long for more great uneasy horror OR for more well-made reiterations of the generic potboiler. I kind of hate when a cheesy potboiler comes across like, pinkies in the air, some kind of recuperation of trash. This bored the hell out of me.