Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Horror, Aliens, and Marriage

The second-scariest experience of my weekend was watching the keenly well-done revisioning of The Thing.

The movie, which attempts to fill in the back story from vastly-underappreciated John Carpenter’s The Thing, which I’ve praised previously as part of The Doppelganger Trilogy. This new version, starring the continues-to-intrigue Mary Elizabeth Winstead in an understated but good role, is more of a worshipful paean to the original.

The fear and discomfort I experienced watching this movie was quite real, but when the DVD stopped, and I turned the TV off, I found myself haunted more by the special effects -- the attempts at making the imaginary as realistic-seeming as possible. My fear didn’t remain post-film, because no matter how well-done, it’s fake, and it’s aliens, and it’s derivative. The movie itself is its own alien creature, copying the cells and notions of a previous version... which makes it meta-cool, if flawed.

While I can walk away from The Thing, I’ll have no such luck with Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s ripped-from-the-headlines quicksand assault thiller on domestic malaise to the max.

Here's the deal. If you can read the first 100 or so pages of this novel and not find ways to connect it, perhaps just loosely and ever-so-vaguely, to your life, then:
(a) You're single and single-mindedly focused on remaining that way;
(b) You're married and still intoxicated on the Kool-Aid illusions you drank growing up;
(c) You're proudly insistent that your marriage is far more picture perfect than it is or will be;
(d) You're even more psychopathically fucked up than one or both of the main characters in the story.
Answer: There's no correct answer, you idiot! Quizzes are made by wicked sociopaths! Stop looking to quizzes for life's answers!
(If you read the book, you'll understand why I felt compelled to add this quiz.) 

I'm 300 pages into the book, and tonight I found myself forced to choose between going out to a bar with friends or staying home and ignoring my family and digging further into the cavernous hole that is Gone Girl. Because let's face it. I'm more than 2/3 of the way in (#Kindlespeak) and completely engaged; the only way out is through, and the sooner through the better.

It's one level of disturbing to be surrounded by a group of Norwegians you've never met and feel isolated and distrustful; it's altogether a different matter when the stranger is in bed next to you, clothed in skin and a voice that sounds exactly like some person you fell in love with oh so many years ago.

The brilliance of Ms. Flynn's book is that she manages to wrap up some meaty and real relationship boondoggles and modern trevails inside a tasty tabloid premise any voyeur can devour, like cramming fruit and granola inside some White Chocoloate Froyo.

What's more horrifying: believing you know everything there is to know about your spouse, or believing you know far too little? I've seen marriages end both ways, but the former fate feels worse. Imagine being an oceanographer and waking up one day believing there's nothing else worth discovering in the water. Why would you ever want to go back in, if you already knew everything there was to know?

But that's what happens to so many of our marriages, or for ice age stretches of our relationships. We come to some point where we quit exploring, where we lose the joy of discovering some new feature in the ocean of the person we live with or marry, either because we believe we know enough or because we're tired of swimming. The way I see it, if we completely lose our drive to discover more about the person we claim to love most, we've lost everything.

And that's a horror story.

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