As I mentioned when I first started this challenge. I had never read anything by Bret Easton Ellis nor had I ever actually seen the movie of American Psycho. I remember my brothers rented the movie when I lived at home but I fell asleep before the opening scene – as we were partial to starting movies at 12 or 1am. I remember I woke up to see him hack at Jared Leto with an axe and I saw him flexing in the mirror during a sex scene. Other than that I could tell you literally nothing about this movie/book. Knowing nothing about this story I wasn’t sure how it would grab me, but as my wife can attest to, I’ve done nothing but talk about/analyze this book for the past few weeks. Nothing made her happier when I finally finished it and decided to put all my thoughts down on here instead of talking about them at her. And I will say so far this has been the most interesting book on my list, it wasn’t quite horror but at the same time the “horror” scenes were the most graphic things I’ve ever read and more horrifying than anything I read in any of the other books on this list. Anyways, without any further ado, here’s the full review!
I mean what can I say about Patrick Bateman that hasn’t been said. Google Patrick Bateman and the result pages will explode at you with people psychoanalyzing his character in terms of his desire to have expensive things and the reasoning behind his violent tendencies, which is why I’m not going to approach him that way. Rather as someone in the Social Services I can tell you this, this is perhaps the most accurate depiction I have ever read of someone with an anxiety disorder. Not the murderous personality, that’s a whole other diagnosis. But rather, there were several moments throughout the book where he began having panic attacks because his hair was out of place, he hadn’t read the latest restaurant reviews or he forgot to return rented videotapes. Often his anxiety would worsen as he would begin escalate his thoughts and in a sense snowball this into a much bigger issue. This would also come across in his murders (again there’s no causation here, anxiety is not the reason he was a murderer), he would capture his victim and subdue them and then he would panic as he wasn’t sure what he should do next. Often he would perform numerous torturous acts on them without finishing as he would begin second guessing if this was the best method and then he would panic and switch to something else. Often this resulted in messy, unorganized killings that more often than not were uncomfortable to read. He would struggle with what to do afterwards and would once again throw himself into panic attacks. And to me this was fascinating because in 2015 Anxiety is one of the most diagnosed mental health illnesses, and only now do people understand what this really looks like. Also we finally recognize that it can affect literally anyone, not just shy timid types. So for Easton to have a wealthy, seemingly well-adjusted, wall-street shark in the late 80s with a crippling anxiety disorder is in my opinion well ahead of it’s time.
Once I was helping my brother move apartments and while moving he asked me how my wife and I can afford so many trips. While I was explaining how we save for them I dropped a box containing a pair of his shoes at which point he said “hey man! Be careful! Those shoes were $500!” I then very easily explained to him how I could afford to travel but he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that my shoes I was wearing were $30. He always wanted the biggest and most expensive everything. Which is all I thought of while reading this book. I literally learned so much – not that I wanted to – about fashion, expensive brands, cheap brands, expensive alcohols, cheap alcohols and what living in NYC when you’re wealthy must be like. This often took me into a whole other experience with this book as none of the other books ever touched on anything like this. Normally the other books have set the mood, built the suspense and then abruptly scared me. This one touched on some of the murders so casually and rather enveloped you in the lifestyle of these young rich wallstreet sharks. He would casually drop in a paragraph that he murdered someone because for him the most exciting part of his day was getting dinner reservations in the restaurant he had been trying for weeks. “I stopped at the ATM took out a few hundred dollars, murdered someone on the subway, then met up with Van Patten and McDermmot”. I’d read the chapter and just think “mmmhm mmmmhm mmmmhm…..wait what!?” Because it just wasn’t as important to him as say making sure he knew what the latest restaurant review said. It’s what made the death’s even more horrific was the casual tone he used when speaking about them, and at the same time I wasn’t disappointed or anxious for it to get to the horror. In fact you don’t actually read a full murder sequence for a good third of the book, and yet I enjoyed every page of the book beforehand! I was equally gripped by the other aspects of the story and if there had been no murders at all I probably still would’ve loved it. It was a fascinating examination of our culture, because you don’t need to be in the wealthiest class to relate. Often he would openly admit to his crimes but the people he was with were so wrapped up in their own heads that they ignored what he’d say, and with everyone (myself included) constantly glued to their phones and computers I found that we’re very much like the people he met in the book. Often in our own head which results in us missing what people say to us.
Now I know I mentioned that he often brushed over some of his murders. I say ‘often’ and not ‘always’ because there were certainly some murders that he dedicated whole chapters to. I said in an earlier post that I’m not a fan of anything torture or gratuitous violence which is why I hated the Hostel and SAW franchises. I didn’t hate these parts but they were tough to get through, they were terrifying and I literally read them as fast as I could so then I could stop reading them. If you have a weak stomach then just don’t read these parts. If you have a strong stomach like me, you’ll still get tested and may still want to skip these. I read a review before I read the bookwhich stated that the movie, which struggled to be released due to the extreme violence, is considerably less violent than the book. I didn’t know what to think of this and then I read the book and said “yup okay that makes sense”. If they had stuck to the book there’d be nooooooooo way the movie would ever get released let alone green lit. It would have basically been a snuff film released online and you’d be put on the government’s surveillance list for downloading it. I don’t think anything I ever read will be as graphic, horrifying and sickening as those chapters, but somehow it didn’t ruin the book for me because these chapters don’t start until much later in the book and by that point it kind of fits with Bateman’s character. The entire novel focuses on overconsumption and overindulgence. He buys needlessly expensive and dissatisfying dinners, buys bottles of champagne where he drinks one glass and leaves the rest of the bottle and impulsively buys thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes. It only makes sense that for his murders he would go over the top with his viciousness and creativity. It was unpleasant to read it but absolutely made sense. The author was smart introducing these scenes when he did because for most people you were so gripped by the story you didn’t want to put it down so you powered through those scenes. Had they been in the first few chapters however I could see most people deciding to skip the rest and abandoning the book. In the end it wasn’t scary, but rather it was horrifying if that makes sense?
I watched the film after reading the book when I was waiting for my next book to come to the Library. And I absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe how faithful it was to the book – without the horrible horrible graphic scenes. It made sure to include almost every interaction within the book by at times combining conversations or overlapping parts. In one interaction he combines three different conversations with three different females into one interaction with one female. In three chapters he analyzes Phil Collins, Huey Lewis and the News and finally Whitney Houston. That’s literally all he does in those chapters, he isn’t in the store looking at their album, he isn’t talking to anyone, rather he just jumps into it in the first line and analyzes their music for the entire chapter. In the movie they worked this analysis into conversations with his victims, which in my mind almost improved on the original scenes and it was interesting how the director found a way to keep these chapters in the movie. I can’t think of anything significant that they cut out and they kept the majority of the original dialogue. Christian Bale was a perfect Patrick Batemen and nailed the character’s behavior, personality and psychotic behavior. I tried thinking of any actor’s in Hollywood now that could maybe portray Batemen if they ever redid it and couldn’t think of anyone that I’d buy as much as Christian Bale, I’m so much happier they went with him rather than their original choice of Leonardo Dicaprio? Overall an amazing adaptaion.
It’s really tough for me to say who I’d recommend this book to. The graphic chapters I know would only be accepted by horror lovers, while the everyday life chapters would only be accepted by non-horror lovers. The devout horror readers may grow impatient as the majority of the book doesn’t deal with the murders, while those who dislike horror will certainly hate the murder and torture scenes. How’s this, if you liked the movie then you’ll LOVE the book, If you enjoy psychological thrillers then you’ll love this book and if you are extremely open minded then you’ll love this book. But if any sort of violence or blood upset you then throw this book into the ocean as fast as you can and hope it never comes back. Overall it was an amazing book that I absolutely see myself reading again.
Next up I’m continuing my trend of non-paranormal stories as I just read two ghost books back to back before this one. I’m taking on Jack Ketchum’s novel The Girl Next Door. Wish me luck!