Ghostbuster Boys Vs Ghostbuster Girls

Ghostbusters

Boys vs Girls

 

Who doesn’t love Ghostbusters? No. I’m serious because if you don’t, get off my blog! I love Ghostbusters both the original and the new. I will be comparing the two and if at any point it sounds as if I prefer one over the other or that I dislike one for any reason, I apologize. That is not my intent.

As a female, I am going to address the elephant in the room: gender and the attitudes towards it in both films. We’ll start with the 1984 original. When I was a kid all of nine years old when this film opened in theaters, I thought nothing of the all-male heroes. For me, that was a norm. When they announced a reboot with an all-female group, I was excited because I remember the feeling I had walking out of the theater as a kid and feeling like I could be a hero too. I was excited for little girls who would get to see women being the hero and not have to just imagine it. The thing is, it was not hard for me to imagine even with the male cast because I never felt that movie came off sexist or misogynistic in anyway.

This semester, when I watched it with a critical eye, looking specifically for sexism, I still could not find it. Yes, Dr. Venkman was kind of a sleaze ball, womanizer, but that was his character and in no way did that represent the general feel of the film. In fact, most of the buffoonery, questionable professionalism and general ignorance was seen in the male characters. The two main female characters in the film, Dana Barrett and Janine Melnitz were independent, self-assured, take-no-shit women. Even the final “bad guy” Gozer, who could, according to Egon, be whatever it wants to be, chose to be the form of a woman. And she was a real bad ass. If there is any complaint to the film’s treatment of non-white male characters, it would be Winston Zeddemore. He became a ghostbuster only because he needed a job and they were swamped. He turned on them as soon as they ended up in prison and never played much of a role in the end either. He is a character that leaves you asking what exactly was his point to the plot.

In contrast, we have the 2016 female-led cast which brings with it more scares, a different kind of humor and an agenda. From the very start, Erin Gilbert is critiqued on her clothes, told her references from Princeton are not prestigious enough. She is frantic to hide a scientific book she co-authored because it might be regarded as silly. Men in the movie make comments like “she shoots like a girl” or “women…always late”. The mayor wants to use their talents and skills to save the city but never gives them credit for their work. He calls them crazy to the press, has them publicly arrested while continuing to utilize them. These are more “unspoken” parodies of common sexism that women face in daily life. And then there’s Kevin, the quintessential hot but dumb receptionist who happens to be male. The girls interview him asking inappropriate questions—questions many of us have endured even if it is inappropriate. Kevin is the more obvious and humorous example of the movie’s message on sexism by turning the tables on common roles in the workplace and exaggerating (but surprisingly not by much) the inappropriate interactions that can and do occur.

The women ghostbusters actually tested their tools, they made more than just a trapping device, and they fought more and harder. The girls took on scarier and more menacing ghosts more frequently. Collectively, they came off smarter than their male counterparts—except for when Erin made a mistake by releasing the demon when trying yet again to prove herself as legit to a man that she held in high regard (played by Bill Murray). Patty was an important member to the group and she brought a lot to the plot. She was street-smart, sassy, and hard working. She wanted to be a part of their team and she cared about the job. The women didn’t care about color (except for Garfield hair color) and the film-makers cared enough to make Patty essential to the plot.

Venkman became most serious about his job when a would-be girlfriend was affected, all four female ghostbusters took their jobs seriously and even risked their lives to save each other. Bottom line, while 1984 Ghostbusters is a straight up great movie filmed with the intent to entertain, the 2016 Ghostbusters is a great movie too, but those women came in with a message and I heard it loud and clear.

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Poltergeist

Poltergeist 1982

Movie Review

 

This movie is, for me, the best “haunted house” movie ever. It is one of my all-time favorites and it was hard for me to watch it critically. I did manage however to find a few things that could have gone better. First, let me start with why the movie is just such a great piece of cinema. When I saw this as a kid, it scared the shit out of me. To this day, I get anxious when I have to look under a bed or even if a leg dangles precariously off the bed. I just know that damn clown is going to reach out and pull me in. I also to this day still have nightmares about being stuck in a muddy pit (pool) and not being able to get out and away from whatever is after me. All because of this movie.

The movie opens with the playing of the national anthem on the television. Yes, kids, the programming was not always 24/7. But we get an extreme close up view of the television screen until it is only blurry pixels—what are we supposed to see? Carol Anne saw something in those pixels and that something in turn saw her. That’s where the craziness starts.

This movie has all the elements of a perfect haunted house story. The nice, normal family in the suburbs, a creepy old tree, storms, the big bad developers who built on top of a graveyard which somehow opens a portal between the world of the living and a sort of purgatory. As soon as Carol Anne makes the connection with the creatures in this limbo, things start to get weird and they escalate quickly. A dead canary (harbinger of death, right??), furniture and people being pushed by invisible forces, weird weather and a tree that tries to eat Robbie (off topic tangent—why did they put it the scene of Robby and his Mom’s profiles speaking in front of the TV? Poor kid will live with those terrible buck teeth on film for the rest of his life). In the process of saving Robbie from being eaten by a tree, Carol Anne gets sucked into her closet where the portal to purgatory begins. What a great way to introduce the main problem of this story. A perfect storm if you’ll pardon the pun.

I’m going to stop for a moment and make my first critical point of the film. What exactly is the point of the character Dana? She is the eldest child of Steve and Diane Freeling. She is sixteen so much older than Robbie’s eight and Carol Anne’s five. We also know that Diane is thirty-two so that means she had Dana at sixteen. I know that’s possible, but it just doesn’t really jive with the picture we’re presented of this particular family. Dana really brings nothing to the plot and most of the time is not even there when anything frightening happens. She makes some obscene gestures to the cat-calling excavators and screams a lot, cries a lot, and makes a subtle remark about how she knows about the Holiday Inn motel suggesting Dana isn’t all that innocent of a teenager. Besides that, what is her purpose in the plot?

And since I am being nit-picky, let’s talk for a short moment about the paranormal investigator who decided to make a late-night snack while everyone is sleeping. He goes to the fridge and pulls out (not on a plate or wrapped up in any way, mind you) a nice, thick, raw steak which he then throws on the counter (again sans plate). Now, first of all, it’s probably not his steak and secondly everyone is sleeping in the living room! Is he really going to fry up an entire steak and eat it as a midnight snack? What? I just found this extremely humorous. I thought I would point that out. You probably didn’t notice because you were laughing at the special effects of the guy’s face melting off, but back off, it was 1982, geez.

Bottom line, this movie still gives me the creeps and I love it. The complaints I have are few and petty. It’s a complete tale of a haunted house and it works. You care about this family and you like the extra characters. It’s got great jump scares and some slow burns too. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it. Forget the new version and go with a classic.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

 

Based on a true account of an unsuccessful exorcism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a cross between Miracle on 34th Street and The Exorcist. I know that sounds crazy, but it is, and I loved the movie.

Not so much an account of a possession, although we do see the progression of it in flashbacks told from different friends and family’s points of view, this story is more about the aftermath of an exorcism gone wrong resulting in the death of nineteen-year-old Emily Rose. Father Richard Moore, the priest who performed the exorcism is on trial for negligent homicide. While the church wants him to plead guilty so the whole “embarrassing” incident can be swept under the rug, he refuses because he wants to tell Emily’s story.

What I love about this movie is not the horror elements that are for the most part your typical demonic possession tropes, but the character study of those directly involved in the trial of the priest. The defense attorney played by Laura Linney (a favorite actress of mine), is an agnostic looking to advance her career while the prosecutor is a church-going catholic selected specifically for that reason. Father Moore, of course, will lose his position in the church should he choose to go against the Arch Diocese request that he take a plea deal. Each of the major players in this trial must choose between their career and their belief system.

It is thought provoking to see the agnostic come to sympathize with her client’s story so much that she puts her opportunity for partnership and her reputation on the line to prove that Emily was in fact possessed and the exorcism was her only hope. What I did not think was necessary, however, was the “dark forces” surrounding her and the priest during this trial. What exactly was the purpose of it? Wouldn’t the demonic forces want them both to make fools of themselves in a court where it was highly unlikely their defense would be taken seriously? And the story of the found locket with Linney’s character’s initials on it made little sense to the overall plot. In was more distracting than anything. I kept waiting for it to come back into play, to find out what the connection was, but apparently finding it in the snow while contemplating the trial itself was simply a sign from a god she wasn’t sure she believed in? It was unnecessary.

As an agnostic myself who has very strong opinions about organized religion. I found myself most disgusted but not at all surprised with the behavior of the prosecutor and the Arch Diocese. Those who profess to be believers in both heaven and hell are either ashamed of their own beliefs such that they want to keep it hidden (which I believe is the opposite of what a good Christian is supposed to do) or almost disdainful of it to the point that the prosecutor actually became belligerent with the priest and called the idea of demonic possession “silly”.

I found this movie to be more of a statement on organized religion, spirituality, and the right to an individual’s practice of their belief system than a horror film. Still I enjoyed it as a philosophical, discussion provoking film with some occasional horror elements. My biggest and probably most nit-picky complaint was in the choice of Jennifer Carpenter as Emily Rose. It was hard to believe she was a nineteen-year-old girl. She looked way too old for the part and while this film was released a year before the series Dexter began, I couldn’t get the foul-mouthed Deb Morgan out of my head when I watch it.

All in all, I loved the movie as a realistic take on exorcism and the public’s view on it more so than a horror film.

Misery

Misery

By Stephen King

 

Ah, Misery. Stephen King has always been my favorite author. I love his subtleties and themes. His characters are so lifelike and realistic that I am drawn in by the end of the first page. I know he is a master on a level few will ever obtain but I am going to approach this review in the most honest and unbiased way that I can. Not as his “number one fan” but as a fellow writer who has studied his craft and found both genius and some petty mistakes as well.

There is no doubt in my mind that much of Paul Sheldon is King’s fictional alter ego. A prolific and successful writer who wants to dabble outside his designated genre and gets punished for it. And who else could write about the psychological terrors of addiction better than a man going through it himself. I think, when you look at King’s characters, there is often some autobiography in them, which is what makes his ability to turn them into real people so effective.

What King does well is analogy. Sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant his analogies are often both in one. For instance, Paul recalls a time in his childhood when he would go to the beach and watch the tide ebb and flow around wooden pylons. He remembers the ugliness of the portions that become exposed when the tide goes out. Soon, his mind uses these images as a meditation on his pain. As more and more of the pylon in his mind’s eye is exposed, so is his pain. The tide is the relief he receives from his pain meds. Later, as I read on, I wondered if King used those ugly stumps as a foreshadowing of Paul’s amputation at the hands of Annie.

Paul’s mind uses a lot of analogies to help him through his experience. The African bird trapped in a cage, Annie Wilkes as a goddess, immortal, powerful and all knowing, and Scheherazade. Although I do have an issue with the Scheherazade reference because first of all, it was too easy a connection (Scheherazade being the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights who used her storytelling to save her life from the king who planned to kill her) and secondly King used it way too much. Constantly making reference to it until I was so sick of having it shoved in my face I wondered if King thought all his readers were stupid and wouldn’t get it. I got it before he mentioned it and certainly didn’t need it rehashed as a theme over and over. Yeah, obviously Paul is using his revival of Misery Chastain to prolong his own life.

Looking at the book as a whole, I also wondered if the entire tale itself was not an analogy of the task of writing a novel. The pain, the pressure to do it well, distractions, an alter ego that tells you it’s not good enough. Sometimes we need that sort of thing to drive us; that demon on our backs pushing and pushing. Paul ends up with the best book he ever wrote under those conditions. Maybe I should hire a dominatrix to help keep me in check.

Something that I often struggle with in my first draft is description. King is a writer of little sprinkles of it only when necessary and I love that. If you’ve ever read his book On Writing, he discusses that very thing. When I first read Misery, it was before seeing the movie, and it is funny to me that when I reread it again, I still saw the home I concocted in my head the first time I read it and not the movie’s scenes. That maybe why I thought to make this point. I bet those who have seen the movie before reading the book don’t necessarily notice King’s paucity of description. He only describes the things that are absolutely necessary for you to know and the rest he leaves up to your own imagination. So many Stephen King stories in my head took place at the farmhouse my Step-father grew up in. That was a scary place to me and so that’s the home I always saw in my head, the layout and everything. I like that we have a good idea of what Annie looks like, a vague idea of Paul and just a general idea of everything else. Because that’s all we need. We don’t need pages of boring description of the house, the room he is in. Just little details here and there and those almost give a feeling not a look to the room. The guy is a master with this and I think it is a big reason his books are so readable and catch you so quickly.

Now, I did promise you something petty so here it is. There is a scene after Annie takes Paul into the basement to stay and she brings a couple Pepsis and a bottle opener. “There were three bottles of Pepsi on the collapsed TV tray. She opened two of them, using the opener on her keyring, and handed him one.” Bottle opener=glass bottles, right? You wouldn’t need a bottle opener for a plastic bottle with a screw top, would you? But then, two pages later “Annie came back and took a third bottle of Pepsi…She twisted the cap off the bottle and drank deeply.” Ok, so two glass bottles opened with the opener on her keyring and one plastic bottle with a screw cap. A few pages later we are told the bottle is indeed plastic. “She drained her second Pepsi and held the empty plastic bottle…”

I told you, petty stuff, right? But hey, this is Stephen King we’re talking about. He is allowed a dumb mistake here and there. You’d think his editor might have picked that up, but one little thing in a sea of gold, is not all that bad. So, I’ll just end with this shout out to Mr. Stephen King—if you ever want or need a gal like me to hang around and pick out petty mistakes like this feel free to give me a call. I’ll move into your guest room, I’ll read each page as it comes off the printer. I’m a doc too, so I can always offer health related services as needed. Come on, Mr. King, I’m harmless and I just happen to be your biggest fan.

 

The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

1991 Movie Directed by Jonathon Demme and starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodi Foster

 

Revisiting a movie I have watched at least a thousand times is not a problem, the problem is trying to watch it in the spirit of academic review. With the eye of a critic, I viewed it and found some really amazing things and some not so amazing. It doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely love the movie (not as much as the book of course, but this review is of the movie and I will stick to that only.)

Let’s begin with the beginning of the film. Clarice Starling, a student in the FBI academy is called to the office of Jack Crawford head of the Behavioral Science Unit. This happens to be the department Clarice hopes to someday join. On her way there, multiple scenes show her weaving between the myriad of male recruits all of whom oogle her like nothing more than a piece of meat. She gets on an elevator filled with men who dwarf her into a small meek woman rather than the strong (both physically and emotionally) woman that she truly is.

The first time viewer will not realize that Crawford is lying to her when he describes the job he wants to offer her. He is not, in fact working on a collection of profiles of the country’s most infamous killers but he is sending her in; young, attractive and innocent as a way to bait Hannibal Lecter to aid in their Buffalo Bill investigation. She is being used by the very man she looks up to and strives to be like. A man who would become a father figure to the once orphaned little girl who rose above her “white trash” family history to follow her dreams.

When she arrives at Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, she meets Dr. Chilton who makes a pass at her and again refuses to take her seriously. The FBI recruit can’t catch a break. So far, she has not managed to garner any sort of respect from the men—all professionals—that she has encountered.

Enter Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The introductory scene is effectively creepy as we pan into the plexiglass lined cell to see Lecter standing, hands at his sides, clear blue eyes, and a slight smile on his face. The strange attentive stance tells us everything we need about this psychotic psychiatrist.

Here is a man who immediately accepts Clarice for who and what she is. While occasionally brutally honest, he is never disrespectful to her. He never treats her as if she is beneath him and he never objectifies her (although there was that opener when he did regret that he could not smell her c**t). He makes it clear to her that he knows the real reason she is there and opens her eyes to the truth. He never talks down to her and he gives her puzzles to solve leading her to more clues in the Buffalo Bill case.

Now, given that, I will say this led to several things I just couldn’t buy. For one, Clarice solved the Miss Hester Moffet anagram and the “look inside yourself” pun way too easily and once she did, she was allowed to go investigate on her own—a student, who could have messed up everything, alone. I guess one could argue that in this instance she was treated as an equal, but one could also argue that perhaps again she was only being humored and allowed to run after what they considered a lot of nonsense.

The lack of respect for the female “lead investigator” continues when she is taken along to view the recently found body of a Buffalo Bill victim. Crawford introduces her last, then excludes her from the conversation, leaving her in a room full of male police officers, all of which shamelessly glare at her. Throughout the movie, Starling is forced to guild her loins and keep holding her head up high even when she wants to break down and cry. She only does so once in fact near the beginning, after Miggs throws his jizz into her hair. Watching the girl crumble into sobs at her cheap Pinto, I was reminded of a piece of advice my mother drilled into me my entire life: “Put on a strong face, don’t let them see you’re nervous or scared. Be strong always in public, then when you get home, if you need to fall apart, do it then.” In that moment, I felt for Clarice, I felt her pain, I felt her heart pounding and I felt the unfair feelings of being a “poor, one generation away from white trash” female trying to make it in a professional male’s world.

She even once tries to call Crawford out on his treatment of her, but he blows it off and later almost makes a joke of how she got upset when he left her out of the conversation back at the funeral home. Yet, in each interaction with Lecter and make no mistake it is a true interaction, a give and take, a quid pro quo, he treats her both respectfully and equally. He even talks Miggs into swallowing his own tongue after Lecter is humiliated by the way his “guest” was treated by the crazed masturbator.

Although never given full credit, it is Clarice and she alone who solves the Buffalo Bill murders and somehow manages to survive long enough to take him out all by herself. Let’s take a closer look at that as well. Buffalo Bill or Jame Gumb. A man who has taken over the home of a seamstress. Now, I don’t know if the man has a job but he certainly has a lot of “stuff” that makes it easy for him to do what he does. I’ve brought this up before. How do these serial killers have access to all this equipment?

Of course, there is the deep symbolism of the Death’s Head moth pupas placed in the throat of at least one victim. We learn that he has these eggs imported. WITH WHAT MONEY? Not to mention the setup he has in the basement to grow them. The basement is something else too, isn’t it? A complex labyrinth of hallways and rooms so that each one can be devoted to a specific aspect of the killing. There is the autopsy table and dissecting area, the sewing room, the dressing room, the moth farm, the decomposing bathtub, and of course, the convenient well in the floor. Wow, what a great real estate find. Lucky for Buffalo Bill, right? Lucky thing he has those military grade night vision goggles too so he can shut the lights off to pursue the FBI student in the dark.

His only mistake is hesitation in the end. Oh, how many murderers have been taken down in a similar fashion?

But even in the end, Lecter continues to be the shining example of a most decent villain when he telephones Starling to congratulate her on her graduation and wish her well. He assures her that due to his respect for her, he will never come after her.

Don’t get me wrong, Lecter is and always will be one of the creepiest villains I have ever known. I wouldn’t want to find him in my closet. But in review of this movie and in comparison to all the male protagonists in it, he doesn’t look that bad after all.

Red Dragon

Red Dragon

By Thomas Harris

 

I’ve given a lot of thought to want I want to say about this book. It was not my first time reading it. I remember reading it after I read Silence of the Lambs. Silence of the Lambs terrified me. Hannibal Lector lurked in my closet waiting to bite my face off. So I remember finding Red Dragon and devouring it as well as the subsequent sequels. While I recall that I liked the book Red Dragon, I don’t recall being afraid and the only images I could remember were those of the movies (there were two based on this book. One starring William Peterson called Manhunter from 1986 and one starring Edward Norton in 2002).

Now, I will always be a fan of Lector and therefore, I have to give Harris a lot of credit for bringing this complex madman to life. That says a lot about a writer when he can create a character that will live in infamy forever. You’re doing something right. And without re-reading Silence of the Lambs critically as I have Red Dragon, I only speak to the writing in it.

The writing in this book is flat for me. I wanted to feel more for Will Graham than I did. The story is told in third person and mostly from Will’s POV, but even so, you never get close to him. As for the rest of his cohorts, I couldn’t keep them straight. I knew Jack Crawford from SOTL but the rest all blended together because none of them sounded different or spoke differently enough to tell them apart. How can a man who wrote one of the greatest villains of all time fail to write a standout protagonist (remember, I am talking about this book only)?

One other thing that bothered me was the head-hopping. As I said most of the book was from Will’s POV yet occasionally in the middle of it, there would be a sentence or two thrown in from another character’s POV. Which threw me off and made me stop. Never a good thing, right? Now, when I have a problem with a book, especially a popular novel, I like to read reviews by others to see if anyone else felt the same. I found a review by a person who stated they were too young to have ever seen the movies or read the book when it came out. So, take this for what you want, they made a great point that maybe Harris did the head-hopping to show how Graham’s brain worked; i.e. always trying to see through other’s eyes. Maybe that’s true and if so, I guess I missed that. So, not sure if it’s me that is too dense to get a genius idea or if we’re giving Harris too much credit.

One thing I did notice and found interesting was in the one scene with Lector (yeah, the book that advertises itself as the book that introduces Hannibal Lector has one scene with him in it), whenever Harris gives a description of Lector, he does it in present tense. It ups the creep factor. Hannibal is not Hannibal was.

Speaking of creep-factor, how about that Mr. D? Very creepy, yes. Sad though, because we learn about his traumatic childhood and if that isn’t sympathy-inducing enough, we also learn that he is struggling in the end when he finally finds someone like Reba to love him unconditionally. By then, he is too far gone. It’s easy to forget what he did to the Leeds and Jacobis. It’s hard not to root for him at least to survive. I knew and cared more about Dolarhyde than I did Graham. I got hints at Graham’s past but never enough of his internal thoughts or memories to care.

The story was good, although perhaps cliché (especially the “twist” at the end. Oh no, the killer isn’t dead? I didn’t see that coming when he died with three chapters left in the book) Still, I enjoyed watching Graham figure it all out and Dolarhyde struggle with his inner dragon. I liked the book, I read it quickly. But could it have been better, sure maybe even a lot better. But the tale should come first, the fancy shit is just the icing on the cake.

The Sculptor

The Sculptor

Or as I like to call it: The Sculptor vs The Pretty Protagonist

 

When I pick up a piece of fiction to read, I have entered into a contract with the author; I agree to suspend my disbelief and they, in turn, tell me a good story that I can completely lose myself in. Like most contracts, there are usually benefits above and beyond the main clause—things like suspense and scares and thought-provoking commentary woven seamlessly into the tale. I think few books manage to meet all our individual requirements. Most are read once, put on the shelf and forgotten, a few are so bad we can’t even finish and then there are those special ones that we read over and over, recommend to all our friends and list as our favorites.

The Sculptor sits in the middle of the bell curve I just described. It was an easy read, had an interesting plot, and your basic expected but not unsatisfying finish. It wasn’t bad, but for me, there were just too many problems and irritants that I never found myself fully involved. The writing is fine, everyone has their motives, the action is enough to keep you turning the pages, so sure, it was a decent book. I like my psychos to be intelligent and calculating. I like when they have a purpose to their madness beyond the clichéd “I hate all women” or “I am gay but hate myself for it so I kill gays”. And I have a confession: I liked Dan Brown’s books because I am an art and a history buff so if you can weave those into your plot and make it a puzzle as well, I’m on board.

Here’s the problem with The Sculptor: Christian Bach is just too perfect to be believed. He is genius level smart, independently wealthy, has access to all the equipment he needs (without ever drawing suspicion to himself for all the stuff he must be ordering in bulk), can expertly replicate a master artist (meaning on top of all these things, he has innate/natural artistic talent), he is unnaturally strong, manages to work nonstop/around the clock for days-weeks on end while also caring for his invalid father who also requires round-the-clock care, and is apparently immune to chemical burns and explosions. If he has a flaw, it’s his ever-changing underlying motive for his killings and his years-long obsession with Dr. Cathy Hildebrandt that he quickly gets over in the end.

When we first meet The Sculptor, we’re given the impression that he is killing to make a statement to the world—to “wake them from their slumber” and his obsession with Dr. Hildebrandt stems from his belief that only she understands his genius, only she can help interpret his message. He wants the world to know her and read her book and have their eyes opened. Later, we learn that The Roma Pieta was originally planned to be his debut piece rather than the Bacchus statue he started with. (his attention to detail was so precise except, we learn, that he used the wrong marble for Bacchus because he already had the other stuff lying around for use with the Pieta. Don’t think that was lost on me, Funaro—either this guy is hardcore OCD about his work or he isn’t). The Pieta, we come to discover has this whole weird incestuous meaning for The Sculptor dating back to his childhood and relationship with his mom. So now, we are to believe that this is his true motive and Hildebrandt just happened to write a book that gave him some helpful ideas.

Do we learn these motive revelations through The Sculptor’s point of view? Sort of, but it is spelled out for us by the also perfect, unbelievably intuitive Sherlock Markham, I mean Agent Sam Markham who, using the talented but more importantly pretty Dr. Hildebrandt as a sounding board, keys in on the Sculptor’s deepest thoughts and symbolism and pretty much his entire subconscious. This is the guy they should have sent to talk to Lector in Silence of the Lambs, he thinks on the deepest level and would have caught all of Lector’s inferences (with the aid of his trusty but more importantly pretty sidekick; the lovesick Dr. Hildy—who, have I mentioned is pretty and has Korean eyes?). Basically, Dr. Hildebrandt reads passages from her book to him, sometimes even having to explain what she means and then it is Markham who extrapolates it to the killer, not Dr. Hildebrandt. In this way, he remains the star, the hero.

And so, I come to the famous and also pretty Dr. Catherine Hildebrandt. Our first description of Cathy comes from her own inner thoughts: “Although she was an attractive woman, Cathy could not deny that she had been a nerd all her life.” And thus begins a pattern for Dr. Hildy who is always pretty BUT has this one snag of also being smart. Throughout the entire book, she is presented this way through every character’s eyes. First a physical description about her level of attractiveness followed by her intellectual traits that are always presented as a kind of footnote. When we see her through the Sculptor’s eyes, he opens her book (the one he has used as his textbook for his life’s work, mind you), flips to the back jacket flap where her picture is, notices that her hair was shorter then, and thinks “looked a little heavier” and notes that perhaps it is her glasses, “yes, the black frames she wears now look much better on her than those old wire rims”. Special Agent in Charge, Bill Burrell is constantly reminded of his Korean wife when he sees Dr. Hildebrandt (no, I will not stop referring to her as Dr. Hildebrandt instead of Cathy, someone has to give her the respect that is due.).

“Turning, Burrell’s gaze fell upon a petite, attractive young woman shivering beside the Quantico profiler. He right away pegged the eyes behind the black-rimmed glasses to be Korean—same as his wife’s.”

Someone please give this academic, intelligent, expert on Michaelangelo some credit beyond her looks! My god, look at this passage and tell me what kind of image this projects? She is shivering? Petite and attractive and shivering beside THE QUANTICO PROFILER. Thank god for the big strong, non-shivering man. (who, by the way is described by his profession and not his looks in this passage). Dr. Hildebrandt, in fact is referred to as “the pretty art professor” no less than four times in the second half of the book (well beyond the initial description telling us she is attractive and one of those times it was from the point of view of a priest! But don’t take it personally, Dr. Hildebrandt, you aren’t the only professional woman objectified by her looks in this book. Our introduction to Special Agent Rachel Sullivan is “blonde, early thirties, with chiseled features that Cathy envied.” And when Markham is thinking about the death of his wife, the first picture we get of her is through the confession of her killer who recalls seeing “the pretty, twenty-six year old ‘scientist lady’”.

I’m not saying we don’t get similar descriptions of other male characters, we do. But when we do it is 1. Through Cathy’s lovesick eyes and/or mentioned once and then not referred to again and certainly not used as an adjective before their profession. We don’t read “The Muscular Sculptor” or “The handsome Agent Markham” do we? And for a professor of Dr. Hildebrandt’s esteem, who also happens to be the object of a serial killer’s obsession, her thoughts are almost always occupied by love, her worry about Markham’s reciprocated feelings for her, her worry about having to be away from him and so on. She is never focused on the task she is consulted on, she is focused on her personal life. So much so that at the beginning of Chapter twenty, two words from Markham are able to soothe her of the loss of her life’s work.

“What’s bothering you, Cathy?”…

               “My life” Cathy whispered suddenly. “My whole life has been dedicated to the work of Michelangelo. And now, I’ll never be able to look at his statues, teach a class—will never be able to even think about him the same way again—I mean without thinking about…”

               Cathy trailed off into a silent stream of tears…Markham reached out his hand for hers. She let him take it—felt her fingers melt into his.

               “I’m sorry,” was all the FBI agent said.

               But for Cathy Hildebrandt, it was enough….Cathy realized her tears had dried.

 

               For the love of god, really? Ok, I have to move on, but I could seriously write an entire thesis on the sexism displayed in the subtext of this book. Now, those of you who know my reviews from the previous RIG know that I am a stickler for believable stories. I can only suspend my belief so far. If you put me in a world like mine with human characters, then I have certain expectations.

Funaro started this book with a killer obsessed with Dr. Cathy Hildebrandt. His entire M.O. was based on her text. He wanted her to see what he was doing, he even used her ex-husband for his second (but really most important) tableau. Then he discovers she is on to him (and of course she is, he did everything he could to get her attention, leading the reader to believe he was planning on her being around to see the murders through til the end and then likely become a victim herself.) and once he decides that she is getting close, he just determines to put a bullet in her head. Really? That’s it? Just shoot her? If I hadn’t had to read this book for this class, I probably would have shut it then and there.

Alas, I continued and stumbled upon the clichéd ending of the man being injured, the woman brutalized and chased and she almost gets away and then the killer catches up. Just when we think she is a goner, the injured man finds the strength to come in and save the day. Please, of course I wouldn’t expect Funaro to give the win to the female lead, not when she is just a “pretty art history professor”. Additionally, as a physician, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that a man who is shot several times resulting in a shattered shoulder, a punctured lung, and having a chunk out of his leg would not be crawling up the basement stairs, leaving the house, traversing the lawn, climbing the stairs to the second floor to leap down upon the bad guy!! No Way In Hell. I don’t care how much adrenaline you have in your system. You must have oxygen to make muscles work and you must have muscle to move bone. Same for Dr. Hildebrandt. She was shot with a chunk taken out of her arm. So one would assume in a petite, pretty girl, that chunk would include muscle. So how she managed to pull her now unconscious boyfriend into the van without arm muscle I don’t know.

I hated the end of this book. I wanted something more and I suspected it from someone who obviously did some major research on his idea. And if I don’t stop this review, my readers will hate me too.