Hollywood, California: the Bermuda Triangle of art, sex, and commerce. The beautiful people make their daily deals with the devil on the sun-dappled patio at the Ivy, not in a fiery underground cavern. Nobodies become somebodies in the blink of an eye, but the flash of heady success can be fleeting. The rocket that shoots you into the atmosphere can be carrying weapons of mass destruction that can send you just as quickly and efficiently to Hell.
And back to Heaven again.
Development Hell is a wicked Hollywood satire, disguised as an extreme erotic horror novel. It is told knowingly from an inside perspective, tracking the career trajectory of a young film school hotshot into the annals of the Big Studio.
This arrogant young director leads us through his own set of unique experiences, starting with his explosive and disastrous first Hollywood movie; his discovery of a mutant baby in the arms of a Mexican news dealer in downtown Los Angeles that will be his ticket back to the top of the heap; into the arms of a re-animated glamorous star who died in the 1930s; and body-hopping through the most glamorous sheaths of human flesh on the planet.
It is a side of Hollywood rarely seen from beneath its unvarnished, Botox-free, crinkling, wrinkling flesh, and features a supporting cast of characters you will surely recognize.
Development Hell welcomes you into a behind-the-scenes peek unlike any other you have witnessed before.
When I was a youngster I watched Stephen King’s The Stand on television. I remember it was during the great mad cow disease scare and due to the combination of that apocalyptic film and the hysterical news coverage I got it into my head that we’d soon all be dropping like flies and I’d have to smother my family with pillows before the end.
Fortunately this never actually happened, but I was left with a love for that adaptation of The Stand, which years later I learned was directed by Mick Garris. I didn’t seek out Development Hell with Garris in mind; rather it became a very happy coincidence that the director who enthralled me in childhood would write a book I would so thoroughly enjoy almost two decades later.
Development Hell is a long crawl through the shit-pipes of Hollywood. Our protagonist (the archetype of Hollywood hack: huge ego and zero talent) rises and falls over and over like waves on a turbulent sea, forever given chances and each time blowing them in spectacular fashion. And yet, as despicable as the lead character is, the world as seen through his eyes remains an honest one, a true depiction of the shallow excesses of the industry.
I was drawn to Development Hell after reading the first chapter in a short stories splatterpunk compilation and although the novel never reaches the same heights as that first gruesome tale, the narrative is interesting, witty and even touching at times. You can never quite bring yourself to root for the main character, although you do identify with him, a peculiar mix that captures his own self-loathing perfectly.
I would recommend this book to anyone who knows enough about the film industry to appreciate the satire, even those with weak stomachs who would be put off by the (brilliant) opening section. There is much more to this book than graphic sex and nauseating descriptions: brutal self-deprecating hilarious honesty.
A true master of the splatterpunk genre: someone who sees disgusting content as a means to an end, rather than the end in itself.
Development Hell by Mick Garris is available here for £1.99. A bargain!