Thursday, August 24, 2006


Finished Theodore Roszak’s Flicker last night (about ten years later than I should have) and couldn’t sleep. I lay there in the darkness and as my eyes adjusted the little light that crept in beneath the curtains gave me chills. Flicker exudes a creepiness that’s hard to place. There are no shocks in the book. No scenes of violence outside those in the films discussed. But there is this constant and nearly overwhelming sense of dread. It’s a foreboding that I think must be at the heart of all conspiratorial fevers. Like being in the head of the guys who craft those little ‘zines about the New World Order and the Intelligentsia that line left-field bookshops. I can’t for the life of me imagine how Darren Aronofsky is going to make this thing. Or better yet how Jim Uhls is going to translate that almost existential creep.

The novel is about a film geek turned professor obsessed with the work of a ‘30s director named Max Castle (orig. Kastell) who’s work may lead to the obliteration of all life on Earth.

If you’ve read Flicker you’ll be familiar with the Simon Dunkel (a stuttering albino film prodigy (and follower of Max Castle – I’m trying not to spoil anything here) and member of a baleful sect) Sewer Babies flick. The film’s a low-budget horror film about sad fetuses living in sewers. As the main character, Jon, explains, it’s a “quiet descent into absolute despair.” The one line in the novel that has haunted me since I read it is Simon’s explanation of the sewer babies themselves. They were “mewling, grublike embryos” and a “remarkable screen effect.” When Jon asks Simon how he made them his response still sends my gut twisting:

“I couldn’t make out what they really were. Obviously not costumed actors; their diminutive size ruled that out. Nor were they animations; they were far too organically mobile… I asked Simon what they were…”

“G-guess,” he challenged me.

“Some sort of puppet…?”

He gave a dismissive smirk. “You c-can’t guess?”

“No, I can’t.”

“N-n-nobody will,” he answered smugly. “It t-took a long time to grow them,” he added, but would say no more."

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