Kea Wilson’s WE EAT OUR OWN is one hell of a debut–vividly written, ambitiously put together, and derived from the actual filming of the classic horror film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST in a South American jungle. While the subplots didn’t weave together in such a way around the “blurred boundary between real violence and fiction/acting” theme to pay off at the conclusion, these parts and their sum are distinctive and engaging.
As for the synopsis, it’s titillating. In the 1970s, a nameless, struggling actor gets a call to go to Colombia to film a horror movie in the middle of the jungle for which there isn’t a script and the director is angrily searching to break boundaries to make something new. Inspired by domestic terrorism in his native Italy (the Red Brigades), the director is tired of carefully staged horror and wants to create the conditions for real violence, something that convinces viewers what they’re seeing is real and thereby affect them in a more visceral way by rejecting formula. Horror that shocks instead of feels safe. Intertwined with the main plot is a cast of characters at various levels of the production’s periphery–the other actors, a local drug cartel, guerillas, and people who live in the nearby town. Framing these stories is a transcript of a trial in which the director is accused of murder and negligence on his set.
The book is inspired by actual events surrounding the filming of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, a shock horror film that broke boundaries with its graphic and realistic violence toward people and animals, and which pioneered the found footage horror genre. As in the book, the film’s director was put on trial in Italy for making a snuff film. The film was banned in multiple countries.
For a debut, WE EAT OUR OWN is an impressive read. Character and setting are vividly rendered. Stylistically, the book stands out for its unorthodox choices of presenting the protagonist in second person, no quotation marks, and other choices. Wilson handles these devices deftly so they sing instead of distract. Her voice is confident.
My only criticism is I was very satisfied with the eating but not so much the aftertaste. For much of the book, the subplots and minor characters are more detailed and engaging than the protagonist’s story, and while these side stories provide depth, they do little to move the main plot forward, which dissipates rather than concludes.
Overall, I enjoyed this debut and look forward to more from Wilson.