Experimental Film by Gemma Files is a damn fine ghost story. It’s not a genre that I particularly like – last year I read a couple of ghostly related novels that bored me senseless – but by fusing together the alchemy of cinema with Wendish mythology Files has delivered a compelling and genuinely creepy ghost story.
And it’s not just the supernatural that works. Experimental Film also provides a mature and sometimes confronting insight into what it’s like to parent an autistic child. This aspect of the book is braided sensitively into the overall arc and themes of the novel as Files explores the challenges a parent faces – challenges that range from communicating with your child to the ongoing doubts that they will never truly love you. I accept that for some people these moments in the novel, raw and unfiltered, will be too difficult to read.
To top it all off, there’s a shitload of information about the Canadian Film Industry, a history that will resonate with those who know anything about how films are made in Australia or for that matter any country that isn’t America.
If I have a quibble it’s that there are moments when the protagonist, Lois, who is smart and sympathetic, is a little too self aware, a little too on the nose with pop culture references that reflect the horror she’s facing. But I can forgive most of this given that Lois is a filmmaker and critic.
This is an excellent book and a worthy Shirley Jackson award nominee. (And eventual winner).
If you’re looking for something a little longer than 250 words, Nina Allan’s review of Experimental Film on Strange Horizons is definitely worth the read. Before the novel was nominated for the Shirley Jackson it was Allan’s critique that had me adding the novel to my TBR pile.