“The Bighead licked his chops and tasted the dandy things: blood and fat, pussystink, the salt-slime of his own semen that he’d just slurped out’a the dead girl’s bellybutton.”
A few things about porn for those of you who don’t know it. Porn cinema came into its own in the 70′s because it was shot on film, had a budget, and took itself seriously. The eighties came along, and any unemployed idiot with a video camera could make a miserable movie that looked like it was shot in a bathtub. Cue the millenium, and porn has gone purely digital. There is no upper electronic limit to the amount of porn one can make and consume, so porn companies have to stretch the limits. A scene with one women and two men becomes one woman and two hundred men (not exaggerating here, unfortunately). In bombarding the audience with the extremes, you make it harder to impress and/or upset because you’ve participated in heightening the audience’s tolerance. The erotic aspect is gone, and it’s only gymnastics and the spectacle of watching how much the human anatomy can distend.
This happens in extreme horror. Some writers look at a novel like The Bighead, and grimly and joylessly go about topping it. That’s easy. Just measure the gore that is there and write more. That is not an achievement.
Can you make pornography dirty, but still keep it sexy and funny? Can you write a horror novel that doesn’t turn your audience off by boring them? And can you write a novel that is horrible and pornographic and yet still enjoyable?
The plot of The Bighead is unexpectedly complex. There’s baby-switching, sexual secrets, underwater tombs, phantom religious figures, torture, a duo of redneck serial killers named Balls and Dicky, but the most important thing to know is this: a massive backwoods cannibal mutant with a fourteen-inch penis is roaming through the book, raping and killing people. Towards the end we’re told he is not exactly human, but we figured that out anyway.
All the good characters are ill in some way. Of the two female protagonists, one is a sex addict and the other’s sexual issue is barely spoken of, so we know it’s going to figure greatly in the plot. The priest in the book is sexually tortured by dream nuns. The monster and the serial killer rednecks, on the other hand, are well-adjusted in their raping, torturing and killing.
The killings go on and on. Many of the victims are extremely young(one is unborn), and that bored, numb feeling starts to creep in early. I put a little failsafe mechanism in my head: Directive – read, move on, and forget this book that I read because it was ‘seminal’, or ‘classic’.
I will say this. There is a strange and elemental psychology running through this book. The obsession with genital size (and that forms a big twist in the plot); the childish, almost sing-song writing in the sections that detail the rape scenes; the sexual addictions; the constants spilling of every single fluid in the human body (nothing is missed, not even eyeball fluid), reminds me not so much of extreme horror, but of a child entering the fascination phase with its own body as it learns to use the bathroom and realizes that boys and girls are different from the waist down.
I have witnessed a child of eight who stuffed all the dirty laundry into his pajamas and joyfully ran about the house with a crotch the size of a basketball. I’ve known kids who make long-form comics about pooping heroes who fight giant pooping butts. Some parents wage war so their children might keep their hands out their pants for even five minutes at the supper table. Little kids are like this, but it is strange to see this mentality in a book written ostensibly for adults.
But should you catch someone reading The Bighead, don’t think badly of them. I might guess that – in an completely unexpected way – they are returning to a gleeful and gross part of their childhood where few books would venture. But Ed Lee will take you there.