Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud (and Wounds (2019) directed by Babak Anvari)

I saw Nathan Ballingrud on a panel at the North Carolina Literary Festival in 2014 and picked up his first book, North American Lake Monsters, on the spot. It is an amazing collection of literary horror stories, and is due a reread. I picked up a standalone copy of this novella (also collected in his new book Wounds) a year or two ago and haven’t gotten around to it yet. They’ve adapted it into a movie, Wounds (on HULU), so I thought I’d read the book before watching.

The novella is excellent. Will, a bartender at a hole in the wall bar in New Orleans finds a phone left behind by some college students. The students (who were underage) ran off after a brutal fight involving a man who lives in the apartment above the bar. Will starts to get texts from the phone depicting some type of gory ritual and gets drawn into some dark places. The strength of the book is the combination of the supernatural and Will’s descent. He is revealed to be an utterly empty person. One of my favorite types of stories is a person realizing that they are not good, or at least having all the information needed for that realization even if they continue to lie to themselves. This fits that bill.

The movie is a very faithful adaptation. If anything it makes things a little more clear. At first I thought that it over-explained, but I think that I was just anticipating what would happen because I had just read the novella. The texts on the found phone give a little more information, and a couple things that are implied in the book are outright stated in the film (though I suspect I might not have caught them had I not just finished the book). The movie’s strongest scene is the final one. It captures the horror of the book very well.

The Visible Filth- Highly Recommended
Wounds- Recommended
(heavy content warning for both)

I would also like to put in a plug for North American Lake Monsters. It’s very very good.

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