BOOK REVIEW: “Snuff”
The other day I overheard someone saying that they thought the world was a much more violent place than ever before in the history of the human race. This made me pause. My gut reaction was to agree, but then, I began to wonder: is this really true? Is the world more violent? Is the human race more vicious than previous centuries? Or are we merely more open about the violence that takes place to the point that we have become jaded to the horrors humans inflict on one another? Serial killers are nothing new to our species; mass murders have been around as long as history allows us to recount.
We have tried to place labels on certain individuals who have caught our attention such as Elizabeth Bathory, Vlad the Impaler, Jack the Ripper or the Servant Girl Annihilator, but the truth of the matter is vicious serial crimes have plagued our race since the beginning of civilization. They went unidentified as such simply because superstition and fear kept people ignorant and cowering from truly investigating the source of the violence. It is speculated that many supernatural creature legends such as those surrounding werewolves, vampires and demons were the product of tales woven to explain series of horrendous murders. Even the Brothers Grimm told the tale of an old woman who lived in the woods and ate little children.
We are a violent race by nature, instinctually vicious towards one another and, at all times, a mere step away from devolving into a feral, primal state like a praying mantis ready to bite the head off their mate. It is simply that we have grown numb to this aspect of our being, our senses over-stimulated by violence everywhere we turn from the nightly news to video games to literature, magazines and movies. Your next door neighbor is eating people, the woman down the street just drowned her five kids to save them from the Devil, a guy in New York takes a hatchet to his psychiatrist on Valentine’s Day, millions are being massacred on a daily basis in Darfur…It’s almost too much to bear if you think about it every time you wake up.
The human psyche can only take so much and, as a coping mechanism, it builds walls of jaded apathy around itself in order to keep from buckling and shattering. In response, our creative efforts have become more and more bizarre and brutal as we attempt to regain the waning attention spans of the mass public. Nothing is taboo anymore, nothing off limits. We will take the graphic nature of a piece to the absolute extreme, slicing to the very core of what terrifies us. Rape, torture, mutilation, dissection; you name it and someone somewhere will pay to see it happen on the screen or unfold in a book. The only way, it sometimes seems, to make a statement these days, is to make someone throw up and call their therapist for another month of intense treatment.
And this is exactly what Eric Enck and Adam Huber set out to do when they started writing SNUFF. Called an “unapologetic experiment in brutality” by its authors, SNUFF follows Jack Sanders, a severely disturbed out-of-work actor obsessed with ultra-violent sex, as he teams up with his friend, an amateur sadomasochistic pornographer in order to further both of their “careers” in the snuff film business. After an incestuous turn of events, Jack finds himself deeply tangled in the psychotic mess he has created, and realizes that the demons of his tormented past and present pale in comparison to the revenge-driven bloodlust of a victim’s father.
SNUFF is by far the single most disturbing piece of literature I have ever read. I imagine it will probably be hard for many to get through because of the unimaginable level of brutality that takes place, page after bloodied page. Especially women since this is a novel whose main character is acting out his hatred for women due to the abuse he suffered at the hands of his foster mother in the past. Readers will have to have the ability to step back and take the piece as a whole, to see the greater message about the insane level of brutality in our culture and the effects of abuse on the human psyche it is attempting to deliver, rather than focusing in on each grisly detail. This is definitely not a novel for the weak of stomach; even I, a tried and true horror fan, had a hard time with many of the passages due to their graphic content. However, I persevered, resisting the urge to shut the book and run to the bathroom to wretch, because of how well the novel is written. It’s amazing to me that such a psychotic story could be so intelligently written, but Enck and Huber have accomplished this feat. There is a certain societal awareness about the piece that makes it very fitting for the age we are struggling to live in. Indeed if I were to sum up the book in one phrase it would have to be “Jack the Ripper meets American Psycho in a basement bondage dungeon”.
I spoke a bit with author Eric Enck after I finished reading the advance copy of the novel and what he had to say I found quite interesting. He commented that after he and Huber finished the novel they were uncertain what publisher would have the courage to get behind a hardcore book like SNUFF. However, after one of the copyeditors at Blu Phi’er said it was “by far the most nauseating and deeply horrifying book” he’d ever read, they realized their vision was about to become reality. I commented back that now they would most definitely have to prepare themselves for the firestorm of controversy that is sure to follow the release of SNUFF. And in all honesty, I am very curious to see how the public reacts to this novel once it debuts on May 10th. For now, more information about SNUFF and its authors can be found on the official site at www.keepitbrutal.net.