Oscar’s Night by Matt Shaw is a self-described extreme novella on the Amazon book page. People familiar with Matt Shaw’s writings will not be surprised by this; readers expect it. Looking at the cover, the very top line above the author’s name are the words “Horror’s Darkest Imagination.” The bottom line has the words “A Psychological Horror,” (there seems to be a word missing but that is quibbling). Somewhere close to the middle of the cover are the words “Some Scenes May Disturb.” I look at this as three warnings, especially the one with the word “disturb.” If some of the stuff in this 57-page extreme novella does not disturb, the reader may want to return his dictionary to a shop for a definition adjustment. There is outrageous material here. I have abandoned reads that have gone as far as this as completely useless in terms of entertainment or message.
But this short read led me to the following administrative rant which I will only post on this blog, not on Amazon, Goodreads, or Library Thing.
This novella has a message. As a baby boomer 60s generation person of liberal to extremely liberal views, I disagreed with my fellow hippies on opinions about violent movies, art, and literature and their effect on social behavior. I still am a fanatic about first amendment rights but I believe there are unintended social consequences we must deal with. For me, violence encourages and suggests violence whether it is in film, theater, music, or literature. Those exposed to an easy acceptance of violence at an early age can grow to be some very sick adults, the kind you don’t want to invite home for dinner. Your steak knives may end up in places not intended. My view is only intuitive; there are scientists who will disagree. They have their statistics. As an ex-cop, I had my victims.
Back to the twisted novella.
The hero’s name might be Oscar, the reader never gets really introduced. Tonight is a red carpet night for Oscar as he will get one of those cool statues that have the same name. He will be surprised at this because it is not the type of films he likes to make, he is more the Quentin Tarantino type; he likes slasher movies. However, he will accept the prize and begin a night of heavy partying with a couple of supermodels who have turned into instant groupies desiring to share some of the newly-won fame even if it is from the periphery.
The problem with a heavy night of partying is the feelings that follow the morning after. For Oscar, the feelings are accompanied by scenes and acts of horror. Michelle has broken into his apartment while the three party goers were asleep. She wants to express her adoration of Oscar by auditioning for him. Her stated purpose is to show Oscar just how well she can emulate Oscar’s techniques of filmmaking and depicting horror shown in the many films Oscar made in his favorite genre, the slasher films. For these, she will need models. She will use two of Oscar’s playmates. Oscar’s ultimate fate will come at the end of her “audition.”
There are fourteen short chapters in this novella. From chapter three on, it is all blood and guts, very graphic, and quite disturbing. But for two of the characters, Oscar and Michelle, Shaw’s character development is quite interesting. Michelle’s character is the most fun to observe because the reader will probably have shifting opinions of the extent of her craziness. Is she really crazy or is she a calculating, intelligent psychopath? Oscar’s character is easier to understand but also interesting to watch. He was a filmmaker of violent films, probably prefers them, and will return to his familiar genre despite having won one of the highest awards for work outside his favorite category. But there is some rethinking of that as the night wears on. He seems to be gaining a new appreciation for how his films affect at least some members of his audience.
The characters move the story quickly (it is a novella) to a surprise ending. Maybe it was the fast pace that caused me not to be able to see the surprise earlier.
Because of the amount of violence (and sex) I don’t have many friends to whom I would recommend this book. Friendships would alter; they would consider me weirder than is the actual case. But with the anonymity of the internet, I would recommend this to readers who like to read dark themes. But don’t read it before important social events or at any time where you have to be a social, communicative animal. This is a scary, depressing, horrific (made up word?) read.