I’m not sure if I’m supposed to know the author Bruce Jay Friedman. I came across his novel Violencia! (2001) while doing research for my own novel in progress. Friedman, now in his 80s, over decades has written a bunch of novels I never read, some off-broadway plays I never heard of, and the screenplays for movies made in the 1980s I couldn’t care less about, e.g. Stir Crazy, Doctor Detroit, Splash. If Friedman is a famous author I gather it’s because he’s supposed to be a master wit in hysterical fiction. Hysterical is a pretty good word for describing the mania of Violencia! A retired police precinct clerk is recruited to write the libretto for Violencia!, a Broadway musical based on gritty experiences observed in the crime fighting world. Despite knowing nothing about writing a musical and being a rather ordinary man, the clerk unwittingly becomes a swiveling node for the novel’s cast of neurotic producers, composers and theatre actors. They all see the dull clerk as an embassy for their vanities, character flaws, and harebrained ideas about art and audience. Violencia! follows the attempt to put on a big musical from it’s distasteful concept, to dishonest financing scheme, to pointless and vulgar production numbers, and then to calamitous road tryouts. The novel is intended as a satire on the affectations of backstage Broadway. Situations and characters in this book are clever I have to admit, but satirical comedy like this too often proceeds plausibility: the fatigued composer returns energized after vacationing in less than a day’s travel from New York to PuertaVallarta, no-nothing producers with hundreds-thousands of dollars at stake insist that Violencia!’s success is held in suspense by the script’s call for use of the word “doody.” This style of writing allows for comical leaps in logic and abandoned story detail. Friedman’s novel is creative but I also find the storytelling a little lazy considering it’s something he’s been doing for decades. This may be a good light read for someone in the mood for lampoonery; I take my comedy much more serious.
Posts tagged ‘farce’
The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club.Track down today’s movie and post your comments. Good? Lame? Scary? Not scary? Bring it.
Today’s recommended feature is:
The People Under the Stairs
Between numerous sequels of Nightmare On Elm Street and The Hills Have Eyes, horror director Wes Craven came up with this wild, little urban-horror fairytale. It is a horror movie, but a patchwork of just about everything horrible under the full moon: sadomasochism, poverty, injustice, incest, slumlords, economic exploitation, OCD, racism, child abuse, castration anxiety, haunted houses, gore, slapstick, violence, and animal cruelty.
Fool, a 13 year old boy, gets involved in a home robbery with two adult burglars. Fool is looking for a rumored coin collection, the value of which could prevent his family from being evicted and pay for his mother’s lifesaving cancer surgery. The coin collection belongs to a wealthy, racist and a bizzare man and woman who are also the family’s landlords. After breaking into the fortress-like surburban house, the burglars discover that it is full of passageways between the walls, deadly traps, and a vicious guard dog. Also, the homeowners are holding their teenage daughter captive as well as a dozen or so teenage boys in a cage under the stairs, and their tongues have been cut out. The homeowners themselves are a nerotic folie a deux, alternately compulsively clean and prone to wanton destruction of their own property; alternately sexually perverse and obsessive about their daughter’s chastity. Chased by the couple and their flesh eating dog throughout the house and it’s hidden chambers, Fool befriends the teenage girl and her imprisoned, mutilated consorts, and they help him escape with the coins. His family’s financial crisis solved, Fool makes a deadly decision to return to the house and liberate all of the teen prisoners.
The People Under The Stairs isn’t great horror movie or a great movie period. But its unique story and the story telling is intriguing. It has a fairytale quality and a lot of juvenile humor, yet adult themes. It has slapstick and farce, but it’s also effectively violent and gross. The bawdy comedy and gore is definitely intended for a broad theater audience. However dumb it was, I have to confess it worked on me. The bad guys lose and the audience wins.
The People Under The Stairs (1991, d. Wes Craven)