Black Light: Don’t Look Too Deep by Melton, Dunstan & Romano

Or read too much…

It is probably a pretty good idea to avoid a book written by three writers. It is probably an even better idea to avoid a book written by two of these three writers who wrote screenplays for four of the Saw movies. These same two writers, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan also won the Project Greenlight film making contest with their entry of Feast.

I’ve seen Feast and apart from one moment very early on in the film that made me fall apart laughing, the film was dross. It’s where a guy fights his way through a crowd of alien type monsters in a bar parking lot. He crashes into the bar holding a pump shotgun and after closing the door, someone behind the bar says, “Who the hell are you?” Pumping the shotgun the man says, “I’m the guy that’s gonna save your ass!” The second this statement leaves shotgun man’s lips, a monster breaks through a window and (if I remember correctly) crunches the guy’s head off like the top of a Tootsie roll.

The added “credit” of having written four of the Saw films has little to no punching power because they did not write the first Saw film which was pretty damn great and definitely outside the box. The rest were tired sequels that first tried to rekindle the magic of the original and then just pandered to the fans of hack and slash horror with a bucket of gore added for the bloodthirsty teen fans.

Stephen Romano, the third writer in this trio of men in a poorly floating tub, has the dubious distinction of adapting a story for Master’s of Horror and is  the author of the illustrated novel Shock Festival. I have no way of knowing how much (or how little) Romano contributed to this mishmash of a book, but just adhering to the old saying of “too many cooks spoil the broth,” is enough for me to think that anything he added just helped to sink this book further into its own mire.

I seriously cannot tell if the three were trying to “piggyback” on the success of Supernatural (which, unbelievably is still going on; I lost interest after the dad died) or are just trying to invent a new exorcist type private eye, Sam Spade with a shovel and an urn instead of a gun and a hot moll on his arm.

The other thought that briefly flashed through my head was that they were trying to write another Vampire$ (written by John Steakley) about a bigger than life character named Jack Crow and his little posse of vampire slayers who called themselves Vampire$ Inc. The two books are not too dissimilar although Black Light does just boast one protagonist by the name of Buck Carlsbad. It even looks like they’ve taken a page or two from the comic Hellblazer (made into a not too bad film with Keanu Reeves called Constantine). Regardless of what they were trying to do, it doesn’t work.

Buck Carlsbad is no Jack Crow.

Buck Carlsbad is an orphan. His parents died when he was four. He himself either died or was so close to death that he has developed certain skills. One of these skills is to “exorcise” spirits (called walkers) by swallowing them up. He then holds the walker inside his body and when the time is right, he regurgitates the spirit into a silver urn and buries it.

He also has the ability to see the “black light.” It is a dead dimension, where all things dead converge and, according to Buck, it’s nice there. The writers have gone to great pains to paint Buck as a type of idiot savant. Uneducated and unrefined; I don’t honestly remember when I’ve read the word “ain’t” used so many times and so pointlessly.

I have a problem with protagonists that I cannot believe in or even like. The picture that has been painted of Buck Carlsbad is not two-dimensional; on the contrary, he appears to have so many dimensions that it is hard to imagine one chap having that many sides to him. But my problem is not just with Buck.

All the characters in the book appear to be clichés or stereotypes of the horror/fantasy genre. The pacing of the book is clunky and wooden. But worst of all is that I just don’t care.

I’ve tried to. Hand on my heart, I’ve given this book one hell of a chance and in return I feel like it’s given me the finger and tried to kick me in the family jewels.

I started reading chapter 1 yesterday. I am now in chapter 7 and until I sat down to write this review, I was doggedly reading page 89. I was mid-sentence when, with a groan of despair, I gave up. I cannot dredge up one iota of enthusiasm for this slow, dragging story with characters I feel absolutely nothing for.

And before you start accusing me of not loving the horror genre; I will state that I love horror, when it is written well or filmed well. Or even when it’s done so badly that it’s funny. Black Light falls into none of these categories.

I have unfurled the white flag and I surrender. I cannot fight this book any longer and I will be returning it tomorrow to the obscurity it deserves. This book would score a 0 out of 5 stars for not containing one sliver of ingenuity apart from their obvious plot device based on an apparent combination of the film The Grudge 2 and the character of John Coffey from Stephen King‘s The Green Mile.

Avoid at all costs.

Sort of how I felt while trying to read this book.

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