Well, hey. Here we are, the day before Halloween. And now we'll talk about one of my favorite True Crime novels--In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. If you've never read the novel, you absolutely should. It's stunning and creepy and the first of its kind in the sense that it blends fact with fiction and focuses exclusively upon actual events while doing the impossible--delving into the minds of those who were present. (If you don't count Moby Dick, that is.) It centers around the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. I won't go into details. I'll leave it for you to explore. In any case, this is another set of films you should see back to back. The first is the movie, In Cold Blood (1967.)
I can't help being attracted to the utter obliteration of an era's (1950s) smarmy self-satisfaction. It's Capote's absolute determination to make America stare into the mirror and stop denying the truth--that all is not as wholesome and perfect as America imagines, that there is a dark undercurrent of abuse and oppression, and that its happiness is built upon the misery of people it refuses to see. At the same time, I can't help feeling the whole situation is an author's nightmare. To demonstrate why, I give you the next film, Capote (2001.)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, bats and ghouls. Fucking Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's totally brilliant in this movie. And the whole piece illustrates the thin ethical line an author can tread when they pursue the truth of horrific events. At least, that's my experience while writing about The Troubles, and perhaps that's why this film hit me so hard. Anyway, it's an amazing movie depicting the dark side of humanity. IMHO, it does a far better job of portraying an author's nightmare than any Stephen King novel, including Misery because it demonstrates that the monster could be you. That moment when Capote says, "When I think of how good my book could be, I can hardly breathe." is spot on. Dreams have edges, y'all, and sometimes they cut.
The last movie I'll list is older, related, and is far less known. It's called Flesh and Bone (1993.)
It's a fiction, this version, but it's well-done, and the dialog between Dennis Quaid and James Caan is downright chilling--particularly James Caan. You can see the pain in Quaid's face as he struggles with the weight of his childhood. The same with Meg Ryan. Both are doing their best to be good people in spite of the terrible things in their lives. Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand, is brutal in her efforts to survive all the things that Quaid has walked away from. All in all, it's an under-rated movie, and I recommend it.