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UGLY
By MICK GARRIS (Cemetery Dance; 2016)

Here we have a very rough little book by filmmaker Mick Garris (of SLEEPWALKERS, RIDING THE BULLET and the MASTERS OF HORROR Showtime series), who as he did in previous novels like DEVELOPMENT HELL and SALOME puts his status as a Hollywood insider to excellent use. Running a fast 86 pages, UGLY is crisply written with noteworthy (if frequently repellent) descriptive skill. It’s one of the most accomplished horror novels of 2016, being a thoroughly warped variant on VERTIGO and FRANKENSTEIN whose insights into the lives and mindsets of the Beautiful People ring true, even if that truth is quite (yes) ugly.

     The narrator is an altogether vile individual named Terry, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon responsible for sculpting the faces and bodies of quite a few movie stars. Consumed with appearances, Terry views physical attraction as all-important, and has no patience or respect for anyone who doesn’t possess it.

     One morning Terry is confronted in a coffee shop by Brittany, a horrifically ugly woman who spikes Terry’s coffee with Viagra and rapes him(!). He’s understandably traumatized, though not due to the rape itself so much as the fact that it was committed by such a heinous creature. The manner in which Terry makes things right is somewhat odd, though entirely in keeping with his profession and overall world-view: he kidnaps Brittany and straps her to an operating table, aiming to use his surgical skills to recraft her appearance.

     The deranged love story Garris appears to be building toward seems entirely appropriate, given that Terry and Brittany are characters whose respective ugliness, both inside and out, is reflected in a narrative arc that’s increasingly unpleasant. There some brutal twists in store, with Garris pointedly ignoring his commercial Hollywood instincts--which decree that a happy, or least moral, ending is a necessity--in a finale that essentially defines uncompromising. 

     

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