‘My Heart Is a Chainsaw’ Will Thrill Horror Movie Fans | Books
MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW by Stephen Graham Jones, Galerie / Saga Press, 416 pages, $ 26.99
I started to review films for the local newspaper in high school. My degree is in cinema. I’ve watched a lot of movies in almost every genre except horror. I have never been able to invoke the desire to be terrified for the sake of it.
That’s why Stephen Graham Jones My heart is a chainsaw is such an accomplishment; it makes me want to see all the horror. This novel is a hymn to slasher movies, a devotion to a sidekick written by an obsessive. And it’s a lot of fun.
The story follows Jade Daniels, a 17-year-old misfit who dyes her hair with shoe polish and food coloring and considers overalls and combat boots a wardrobe staple. Her parents are absent or abhorrent, she has no friends, and every disappointment is “one more nail” in Jade’s coffin of dreams. (Right now, Jade considers the casket to be “pretty much any nail.”)
Horror is Jade’s only comfort. For her, slasher movies are a religion, offering a heartwarming vision of order: “Everyone in a slasher cycle has a role,” she explains. “Isn’t that a line from the Bible, even?” When the bodies start to pile up in her small town in Idaho – not just dead, but brutally dead – Jade’s most fervent prayer is answered: it looks like a slasher cycle begins.
Jade has been preparing for it all her life. She recruits the last most likely girl – the last character standing in a slasher, usually a beautiful beacon of kindness and strength – and tries to figure out who might wreak ungodly havoc. His investigation is renewed and bypasses all the signs of the genre while pragmatic characters offer more plausible explanations for the macabre events. It’s a neat storytelling trick that creates enough reasonable doubts that we can’t be sure what to expect. Even Jade is not positive. “It’s not yet a certainty,” she recalls. It may still be wishful thinking on his part. When you wear slasher goggles everything can look like a slasher.
Jade’s awkwardness and insecurities, her intractable stubbornness, her refusal to behave in a socially acceptable manner, make her a credible nuisance to the adults in her life, who expect “Jade to continue to to be the burden that it already is “. Despite all of this, neither they nor we can help but love him. Although their resistance to her theories leaves her “flabbergasted to the point of no return,” she tries, tries, and tries again. She is respectful and patient, with an irrepressible sense of humor to balance our sense of horror. We are so on his side that we find ourselves hoping for the worst.
When the going does get really gonzo, and we try to hang on by the fingernails throughout the climax. Everything promised in the first act is happily delivered in the third with comedy, pathos, and a machete in the hands of an unforgettable character.