Review: Vile Blood by Max Wilde

Current soundtrack: The Last Beat of my Heart by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Currently reading: The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares-Joyce Carol Oates, Shadows-Joan De La Haye, A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home-Jason Arnopp

Now, some of you who follow me on Twitter (I wouldn’t particularly advise it, all I seem to talk about these days is urinary tract infections and how tired I am. TMI? Okay, TMI…), may remember that I spoke briefly about wanting to write an article regarding the representation of women in horror. This would be for Pandora Press #5 (theme: ‘Media’), Swansea Feminist Network’s very own zine.

I conversed with some like-minded folk who agreed that the main conundrum of being a horror fan, from a feminist perspective, is the sheer amount of sexual violence aimed at women in both print and screen horror.

So how can you reconcile being a massive horror nerd with being a feminist?

Anne Elizabeth Moore, author of Cambodian Grrrl and blogger at ‘The Blog is Coming From Inside The House’, sums it up with more eloquence than I can (not that I even really tried):

‘’Horror films show us who, in our collective cultural imaginary, we endow with the ability to harm, to save, to fail, or to survive. It is a space where body integrity is not assured anyone and where the range of props for inducing otherworldly or far too corporal experiences is constantly expanding. Horror films allow for endless experimentation of the imagination, beyond morals, beyond ethics, where the solitary measure of success is whether an audience loses composure while watching.’’ (click on blog link above for the full article).

Horror is a genre that constantly pushes at the boundaries of what is acceptable. And in this genre that so many of us love, it seems that pretty much anything goes. Horror taps into our very real fears; fears of being raped, ambushed while walking home late at night, kidnapped, tortured, sodomised, duped or punished by strangers or, as the (worst) case (scenario) may be, those closest to us.

I’m not scared of monsters, aliens, ghosts or zombies (okay…I am a bit..). I am more scared of the violence that very real, and seemingly normal, people could perform against me. But, isn’t everyone? Isn’t that the point of horror, to remind us of our extremely precarious position on this mortal coil? We’re all dust at the end of the day. No-one is safe. And horror fiction/movies remind us, rather uncomfortably, of all the things that could happen to us, and ultimately, that it’s all pretty much out of our hands…

Anyhow, I digress.

That all being said and done, when I read the first line of Max Wilde’s Vile Blood:

‘The night the four men came to rape Skye it wasn’t them she feared, it was the dark thing deep inside herself…’

…I thought, here we go again.

But, my preconceptions were misplaced.

Skye Martindale is a seventeen year old girl hiding a terrible secret. After the aforementioned four men try to rape Skype one dark night as she is walking home from the diner where she works, another part of her is unleashed, something she calls ‘The Other’. Coincidently, when faced with high-stress situations, Skye struggles to contain ‘The Other’ and people usually wind up dead; eaten and torn apart like they’ve been attacked by a wild animal. Unsurprisingly, the four would-be rapists end up scattered across the desert before they’ve even had time to undo their zippers.

Skye, incidentally, is sister to Gene Martindale, Deputy Sheriff; a seemingly cold man with a history of family tragedies-a history that begins with the mysterious brutal death of his own violent father when Skye was two years old. The siblings never speak of this. Gene’s wife and unborn child were also killed a number of years before by two deranged cult members.

As Skye’s facade of normality begins to fall apart as she succumbs to ‘The Other’, killing by killing, Gene vows to protect his eldest and lone-surviving son from her, even if it means the ultimate betrayal. But Gene’s son has a special gift of his own, something he calls the ‘Creepshow’ (A Stephen King reference for you there, fans)…

Who is Skye? Or more importantly, what is she?

Chuck into the mix some cross-border drug cartels, corrupt police officers, Satan-worshipping cults, some mother-son killing sprees, psychiatric hospitals, crazy preachers, near beheadings, alluded-to child prostitution and a bleak desert landscape, and you have a story dripping with suspense, horror and the crushing inevitability of life out in an unforgiving wasteland, corrupted by pointless violence and extreme hedonism.

Overall, I thought it was rather gripping and I found myself rooting for the main protagonists more and more as you are drawn into the desolation of their world. I recommend it. Though it might be a little unsettling for those faint of heart or weak of stomach…

As the tone of this blog suggests, I do feel distinctly uncomfortable reading/viewing sexual violence in horror but it’s important to remember that horror does exactly what it says on the tin; it is designed to scare us and appeal to our primal natures. Our state of nature is just one big socialisation experiment, anyway. Tweak the conditions and you find people behaving in entirely inexplicable ways.

Anyway, I am still hoping to write an article about the representation of women in horror so if you have anything you’d like to contribute, please get in touch. Something short and sweet will do.

Ta.

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