Barkereqsue reality bending and mythology building, and a to-me new take on the very concept of God.
I can’t deny that my expectations were high going in. Jasper Bark released my favourite short story story in 2014 (‘Taking The Piss’, as part of the exceptional collection ‘Stuck On You and other prime cuts’) and this was my first encounter with his novel length work. How would it measure up to that stirling collection? How would the patented Bark ‘brutality-with-brains’ approach translate on the wider canvas of a novel? Could he sustain his exemplary focus and pacing over a long form piece?
I needn’t have worried.
‘The Final Cut’ is both an incredibly smart and brutally visceral horror novel, following the (mis)fortunes of two indie filmmakers in their ill-fated quest to fund their breakthrough movie via the supremely misguided tactic of borrowing money from one dangerous underground figure in order to buy a large quantity of cocaine from a different but equally dangerous underground figure in order to raise enough money to actually complete their movie.
This goes about as well as you’d expect.
This also covers only about the first ten pages of the novel. From there, things get… dark. Also weird. Also, did I mention dark?
In the ensuing pages, I encountered visceral body horror, an interrogation of what drives people to make and consume horror fiction and movies, splatterpunk sex scenes, philosophical debates on the origins and nature of horror, magical realism, very firmly expressed ideas about how fictional narratives should work, voodoo, Barkereqsue reality bending and mythology building, and a to-me new take on the very concept of God.
So, not short of ambition, then. But how do those elements sit together on the page? Does this cauldron of ingredients produce a satisfying and heady brew, or a bitter potion of disappointment? Or to put it less politely - is it any good?
Well, IMO, yes it bloody well is. In fact, I’d say it oscillates constantly between ‘bloody good’ and ‘utterly outstanding’, with the odd stop off at ‘jaw dropping’. There is an awful lot going on with this book, but the narrative flows well, propelled by believable characters and readable prose. The apparently disparate elements listed above are woven together with skill and care, creating a story with far more scope and heft than the already-entertaining opening premise might suggest. The journey from gritty crime realism to Barkeresque fantasyscapes is seamless, and by the end I was left in admiration at the sheer breadth and depth of this tale.
The Final Cut is a belter of a splatterpunk horror novel. It’s also one of the most unflinching interrogations of the horror genre in novel form that I’ve yet read. It’s a potent and compelling combination, and one that I suspect I will be thinking about for some time yet…
Purchase a copy from Amazon