Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Trailer Park Tuesday: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

There will be blood. Oh yes, buckets and freshets and rivers of blood. Sniff the first pages of Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel See What I Have Done and you’ll catch the unmistakable odor of musky iron, damp earth, old pennies (or, considering the book is about Lizzie Borden, bad pennies). In the first chapter, narrated by Lizzie, Schmidt gives us a gore-streaked description of the axe-work inside the Borden house in Fall River, Massachusetts:
Like a tiny looking-glass inside my mind, I saw all of Father’s blood, a meal, the leftovers from a wild dog’s feast. The scraps of skin on his chest, his eye resting on his shoulder. His body the Book of Apocalypse.
Beyond rendering blood into poetry, however, See What I Have Done is a riveting portrait of a mind gripped by madness. What happened in that family home back in 1892 to bring about such personal and deliberate horror from the blade of an axe? Schmidt investigates the mystery and describes the scenes in beautifully-written prose. By the way, contrary to the popular children’s rhyme—heard in the trailer—it probably wasn’t 81 whacks, but more like 30. Still...the horror, the horror.

As for the book trailer (the reason we’re here today), it’s the very best one I’ve seen all year. Here’s what makes it work so well:
  • The haunting children’s chorus singing about the 40 whacks
  • The ticking-clock pace that ratchets up the tension
  • The seep of blood across the wide planks of the wood floor
  • The shifting, geometric angles of the camera, hinting at the jarring, unsettled atmosphere of the house on that August morning in 1892
Visually and aurally, the trailer is a marvel. Listen closely to the way all the sound effects (the pendulum tick, the wasp’s wingbeat, the music-box tinkle, the breathy rush of wind) come together. I also love the yellowed papers where we find some blurbs for the book: “What a book—powerful, visceral and disturbing. I felt like one of the many flies on the walls of that unhappy, blood-drenched house.” (Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love)

The book and the trailer are both great. Bloody great.

Trailer Park Tuesday is a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

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