Joey Comeau’s sparse horror debut, despite its cleverness and strong plot, may leave readers thirsty for more of the same bloody ilk.
One Bloody Thing After Another’s follows the teenaged misadventures of Jackie and her best friend, Ann. Jackie, coming of age, has a crush on Ann and is mourning the loss of her mother, perhaps even seeing her ghost. Ann’s mother, meanwhile, has inexplicably transformed into a flesh-devouring monster. Their stories alternate with Charlie’s, a curmudgeonly dog-walker. However, despite Comeau’s sly phrasing, Bloody is an anorexic 162 pages, even interspersed with plentiful blank pages, and it doesn’t have a surplus of story.
Although brief, the story doesn’t lack wit. Comeau gleefully depicts the girls pasting a policeman with water balloons and Jackie agonizing over telling Ann she wants to date her. These potential sociopaths-in-the-making face crises that overtake their humdrum surroundings. Jackie sees the ghost of her mother, who constantly excuses herself, no matter what undignified position she is in. Ann’s home life descends into grisly horror, forcing her to bring home bigger and bigger bacon, so to speak, to satisfy Mom’s ever-growing appetite.
Telling their stories, Comeau employs a sparse style, such as in the tone-setting prologue where Jackie’s mother vomits blood at a job interview. She flees, leaving behind the two dumbfounded interviewers, Alex and Jeff.
Alex looks at the door where she ran out, and then he looks at the wet, bloody chunk of god-knows-what sitting on the table in front of them. The thing she coughed up, partway through the interview. That poor woman.
“That did not go well,” Jeff says.
He can joke because none of the blood landed on him.
Comeau readily applies this pithy touch, depicting everyone’s misfiring desires. Jackie can’t get through to Ann. Ann, in turn, endures horrific trauma. Instead of telling someone or calling the police, she plays hooky. Charlie sees a headless ghost who is mute and cannot tell him her last wishes. Like the apparition, none of the characters can blurt out what they want.
While Ann’s mother devolves into depravity, Jackie copes with grief through acts of aggressive violence. At one point, she relives the same day repeatedly, a reel of delirium that would draw readers in more effectively if they sympathized more with her.
Not only short on content, Bloody is also short on sympathy for the characters in this tale of campy, gory horror involving young girls with hang-ups. His characters are more pitiable than likeable. Although Jackie and Ann are emotionally damaged and interesting, they don’t give readers much reason to root for them. Ann makes morally reprehensible choices that corrupt even the most rudimentary ideas of family. Jackie acts at will, attempting to play out her own desires, or lashes out in grief. All the characters, in fact, carry the weight of grief in their everyday lives.
While the characters are as smart and snappy as the rest of Bloody, it’s hard to care about their fates. The book is a fast read, although Comeau compensates for his skimpy prose in other ways. He includes a flip-book game for clever readers. Also, Comeau’s assiduous prose and incisive eye for social satire match his appetite for horror and dark humour. As a result, his horror novel is roguishly charming, but a little short.
One Bloody Thing After Another
$15, ECW Press