Friday, March 20, 2009

Development Hell

Mick Garris is a pretty well known name in horror circles. He has directed a number of horror movies, and since 1992 (Sleepwalkers) has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Stephen King, directing mini-series adaptations of The Stand, Desperation, The Shining, and others. He was also the creative force behind Showtime’s Masters of Horror series and its network TV successor, Fear Itself. He has done some of his own writing, and in 2006, Cemetery Dance published his first novel, Development Hell.

Since this is a horror(-ish) story set in Hollywood, featuring movie legends past and present, it was right up my movie buff alley. The results however, are a little mixed.
Development Hell is the story of an unnamed young Hollywood director, someone who sees himself as Ernst Lubitsch but is more of a Michael Bay-wannabe. The director has a number of chances to achieve his dream of becoming a major Hollywood player, but his personal flaws stop him short every time. This continues even after the point of his own death.

The first section of the book is fairly obviously two short stories integrated into the narrative, one about the director’s discovery of a deformed baby and building a movie around it, the other about his obsessive love for the reanimated corpse of Jean Harlow. The rest is more of a seamless narrative.

A number of real movie people make appearances in the book, often to their detriment. (I’m tempted to refer to this as a roman à clef, but I’m not sure if that applies if you name names.) Suffice it to say that James Cameron, Jerry Bruckheimer and Halle Berry wouldn’t be pleased to read this, although I imagine their depictions are accurate.

The book’s message could be summed up as “In Hollywood, Art is sacrificed to Commerce”, which is true, but rather obvious. The slowest parts of the book were where this point is hammered home repeatedly.

All in all, a fun book if you are an avid movie-goer, but I’m afraid Garris’ best work is still on the screen.

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