"I don´t do science fiction. That´s stuff for fat fags who jerk it to anime girls."
Coz Tony is a horror guy, and that´s one thing that won´t change, you see? Personally I neither care much for Sci-Fi so I wouldn´t know if this is true (sounds gross anyway) nor do I read normally horror books, but I picked up ´The First One You Expect´ because reasons. It´s not straight forward horror but more of a self-ironic take on a micro-budget film maker who does slasher movies, Tony, which moves into Noir/Crime halfway through the book without ever losing its path.
Adam Cesare plays with all the present stereotypes and clichés, and at the same time making fun of them. Tony, the nerd and basement dweller, working in a dead-end job as a cashier in a local, small grocery store; Burt, his co-worker and star as a killer in Tony´s films who is a loner & alcoholic; and Anna, the real pretty girl who will do anything to become famous, including flashing her boobs at a horror con. Sounds familiar, right? At the same I wouldn´t be all that surprised to see those exact stereotypes coming alive right here, right now. They do exist after all, but Cesare doesn´t mock the people - he is probably one of those guys as he sounds like a true fanboy (I´m not complaining!) - but the clichés while using them to his advantage.
And he sure has an huge amount of knowledge of horror movies as there are plenty of references and he seems to depict everything spot on. The movie obsession itself, the collection of any kind of limited edition DVDs & bootlegs or posters available, as much as the people watching and making those movies, but he does so with a smile. That IMO is the greatest strength of this little novella, as Cesare nods lovingly in their direction, but taking the horror/movie parts seriously.
Tony has some delusions of grandeur; mainly via his social media following, making him aware that he plays his audience, while he knows he is being played too, and giving in to what his followers want. The sick shit, the gore stuff, the violence in true slasher style. Not that he doesn´t love that stuff, he does, but maybe he goes a bit more over the top just for them.
The coolest part is probably that Cesare knows what he´s talking about, so obviously Tony and Anna do what so many other artists have done before them in true 21th century media style. They do a Kickstarter to fund their next movie. And of course they need a nice, bloody video to show how serious they are about their project. I can tell you Anna is very, very, VERY serious about it.
Slowly but steadily Tony loses control in their relationship while Anna takes over, and her sociopathic nature shines through and comes out in full force. From rather quiet girl with a lovely smile and girl-next-door ponytail to full blown killer queen in a heartbeat. Talk about method acting. Tony kinda realizes it, more and more so, but he is also fascinated by Anna and of course due his wanting to have a wider recognition as a film maker he just rolls with it. Until he gets dragged into something bigger than a movie. The power struggle, and change of dynamics, within the two is one of the most important and interesting parts to read about.
Being a typical basement dweller Tony´s relationship to his parents consists more or less of his mom´s sniffing at his Amazon packages of Japanese gore porn, and his dad not talking to him, presumbly because he is such a sick piece of shit. There are moment of self-awareness but those are brief, and easily dismissed. Some of those make Tony likeable, but also someone to loathe. He really is a sick piece of shit, a sorry little loner but there is something sweet about him that I couldn´t be mad at him for long. At least he showers on a regular basis and doesn´t piss in bottles, so hooray for some human decency.
Most surprisingly ´The First One You Expect´ is incredibly funny. A lot of dry and black humor in the narrative voice, graphic but not all to graphic but most of the time extremely subtle with flashed out personalities - my perception of Tony & Anna changed more than once-, and an idea which I think is interesting to watch how it plays out in all its glory. A real wicked little novella. I´m not much of a movie buff myself, but for some odd reason I like to read about movies. The oddball stuff, the small independent stuff no one in his right mind would follow up with. In so far I certainly wouldn´t watch the movies Tony shoots but I sure would read anything I could find about them online.
´The First One You Expect´ is for me as much a horror/crime satire - and a close observation of it - as it is a honorary mention and a tribute of the underground film makers. The one who might not have the funds but have the artistic skills, the imagination, the heart and passion to do what they love the most.