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This send-up of a coupla novellas is a good example of New Jack verses Old Jack when picking from this author's body of work. Personally, I avoid Old Jack pretty much altogether. I've already been through the shock gorror of the Michael Slades, the Edward Lees, the Charlee Jacobs. I'm sorry, for the most part, it's just sick shit. New Jack is exploring interesting avenues using his trademark evocative writing style, but with nuance and subtly not found in the earlier works(1). I'm Not Sam, for instance.

Beyond that, this combo is pretty much Beach Read and not much else. I mean, these are, after all, Jack Ketchum works so I dare you to quit before the end. Old Flames, however, borrows from the Hollywood fixation of decades past on the terror of letting an unbeknownst-to-you creep into your intimate life. Fatal Attraction (1987), The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992), and my favorite, Shannon Tweed's masterpiece of erotic thriller cinema, Scorned (1994), vary the example. Ketchum's Dora of Old Flames is a nutbag in high heels, smart enough to manipulate her way into an ex-boyfriend's married life, kill the wife, seduce the old high school lover once again, and cloud the eyes of the 2 kids enough to make sunshine from rain for awhile. The holdout is the teenage daughter, but Dora's ultimate enemy is her own uncontrollable rage against men.

Right to Life is another feminine point of view, but with a whole different leading lady. Sara is met as she heads for an abortion center to fix an “impossible”, since the father's a married man. She's abducted by a barren couple and imprisoned in a basement waiting for a due date. I'm sorry, “imprisoned” is a really misleading word. She is graphically tortured in about any way you can think. And for those of you who think I'm referring to a mere naked whipping or strapping, take an imagination pill. By the time you get to the ultimate image of the gynecologist's table and surgery equipment in the attic, it is enough to turn any conscientious person away from this genre forever. Lots of people would consider this tortureporn. The redeemer here is how hard and well Sara fights for both of their lives and the attitudinal adjustments that ensue. The only question here is didactic: is abortion wrong, period, or, are Sara's tribulations a foreshadowing of how miserable it is to bring an unwanted child into this world?

 

1) exception is She Wakes, a bona-fide masterpiece.

 

© copyright 08/14/2013 by Larry Crawford

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