The Ritual of Illusion, review: the dark side of Hollywood

The Ritual of Illusion, review: the dark side of Hollywood

The Ritual of Illusion, review

In the world of publishing, today more than ever, courage is needed to dare and bring out those works that otherwise the reader who loves the genre will never be able to enjoy in our language. There is talk of a market linked to a genre, that of horror literature, which rarely leaves the "comfort zone" which guarantees guaranteed economic returns, but skimping on experimentation. It is thanks to publishing houses like Cut-Up Publishing that today we can tell you about The Ritual of Illusion , one of Richard Christian Matheson's most intimate and experimental novels .

The Ritual of illusion and the link with Hollywood

“ Brilliant, like his father ”, says Stephen King speaking of Richard Christian Matheson. After all, we are talking about an authentic son of art. Richard Christian Matheson is an American film and television writer and screenwriter, son of Richard Matheson, the unforgettable writer who gave us masterpieces such as I Am Legend, Three Millimeters a Day and Duel.

R.C. Matheson is the author of over 100 short stories of psychological horror and magical realism, collected in more than 150 anthologies and in his short story collections Scars and Zoopraxis both available in our language and published by Independent Legions Publishing. His other works include the novel Created by and the commemorative book Stephen King's Battleground. As a screenwriter, the three episodes of Masters of Horror, Big Driver by Stephen King, Amazing Stories and one of the episodes of Nightmares and Delusions (taken from the stories by Stephen King) which won two Emmys are certainly of interest.

His strong proximity to the world of Hollywood and his versatility as a writer of short stories, novels and screenplays, allowed him to conceive The Ritual of Illusion, the short novel - or short story, you name it – originally published in 2013 and now for the first time in Italy thanks to the translation of Cut-Up Publishing. And we immediately anticipate that the true protagonist of the book is precisely the Hollywood star system.

What happened to Sephanie Vamore?

What happened to Sephanie Vamore? This is the question that already emerges in the first pages of the first chapter "Finale Hollywoodiano", after having passed the title page of the "Primo Tempo". The author's intentions are clear right from the start: to project the reader into a Hollywood-style thriller, presenting him as if he were enjoying a film. But contrary to the classic schemes, R.C. Matheson deploys a narrative model that we've never seen before, or at least never on paper. But first things first.

Sephanie Vamore is the beautiful young actress at the peak of her career, hypnotic acting , a wonderful body and an emerald green gaze framed by the fire of her hair. Everyone longs for her, admires her, but Sephanie is elusive in her uniqueness, until she mysteriously vanishes from Hollywood under truly disturbing circumstances. In fact, Sephanie is involved in a horrible car accident, where the collision turns out to be lethal for all the occupants of the car, but the actress's body seems to have vanished into thin air.

Some time later, Sephanie is celebrated from a big party in his memory at his film producer's house, during which an unknown giant appears, wounds, rapes and kills most of those present, only to mysteriously disappear from a police car that had captured him.

The time between these two events is narrated with an unusual and original narrative model supported by a series of interviews, articles and testimonies of about 50 people from the world of cinema, all fictional characters, but with elements of contact with the reality of considerable credibility. From the statements of the characters, the greed, self-centeredness, cynicism and inferiority complexes of many filmmakers mainly emerge. It's incredible how in so few pages (about 100) the author has outlined the character and intimacy of so many characters, but above all the evanescent form of Sephanie, clearly inspired by the myth of Marilyn Monroe.

In complex, Matheson's novella presents an effective narrative plot, at times surreal, until, at a certain point, it veers towards a supernatural turning point, a magical realism if we want not extraneous to the author with lots of magical Jewish texts. Between yellow and some horror elements, R.C. Matheson does not hesitate to resort to the satire of a glossy context that often hides fragility and wickedness of all kinds.

The narrative model is not exactly linear, precisely because of the singular narration made up of a succession of testimonies from the Hollywood galaxy, to which is also added an investigation to discover the truth behind the alleged death of Sephanie Vamore, for a reading that requires al reader a superior effort to fully understand the whole story, a narrative absolutely outside the box.

Still with regard to the narrative model adopted and to the delight of all cinephiles, the story – and the book itself – is structured and punctuated by a mix of the tempos of a film, First Time, Second Time and End Titles with the titles of the chapters of a novel.

The volume of The Ritual of Illusion is attention to the smallest details that distinguish the Cut-Up publications: hardcover volume, black insert pages and ivory paper. All details that will not go unnoticed by bibliophiles and others, given that this work is available, are in paper format.

The novel flows quickly, thanks to the style adopted, and at the end we were not yet in possession of all the yellow answers on Sephanie's disappearance, or at least not all the interpretations. Recognizing that starting from the Second Half various elements come into play that thicken the plot and complicate it unexpectedly. However, its being intriguing and its brevity certainly allow a second (but also a third) reading. If you love R.C Matheson or simply want to discover him in his most experimental work, The Ritual of Illusion could be the horror thriller for you.

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