Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
With the self-imposed retirement of Poppy Z. Brite (and the fact that Brite is no longer a woman), Monica J. O’Rourke is arguably the reigning queen of splatterpunk. While still relatively new to horror, her tales of sex and violence have earned her a following among fans of the hardcore/extreme subgenre. She has even partnered with cult-mainstay Wrath James White on the novel Poisoning Eros.
Suffer the Flesh was initially written by O’Rourke in 2002 and later published by Deadite Press in 2014. The novel follows Zoey. An overweight woman, Zoey is captured by a group of men who claim to have found a new sure-fire way to lose weight. The catch is that Zoey is trapped and must perform degrading sexual acts for their captor’s amusement and study. Of course degrading doesn’t even begin to cover the types of things Zoey will be coerced into doing.
Just as she begins to come to terms with her new role as sex slave, the game changes. The men holding her hostage are taken hostage themselves by even more deranged perverts. These perverts are not content to help Zoey with her weight loss, but rather want to kill her along with all the other women in the snuff film to end all snuff films. Zoey must escape. Of course that is easier said, than done.
The story is overly sexual even for splatterpunk. Suffer the Flesh is intentionally pornographic on a level that is on par with -if not beyond- that of Edward Lee’s most sexual tales. Most of the acts are associated with BDSM. However, there is also bestiality and infantilism. Written in a different manner, this work could almost be construed as erotica. However, in the hands of O’Rourke, the emphasis is much more on the visceral and psychological traumas associated with rape.
Zoey is certainly not enjoying herself and the narrative is not mean to arouse the reader, but rather disgust them. O’Rourke handles the tone perfectly, but the story seems somewhat unfocused. While most will enjoy the unexpected twists and turns in the narrative, Zoey’s captors at times look like evil geniuses and then switch to complete morons with no rhyme or reason to their actions. The result is an unbelievable and lackluster story.
Suffer the Flesh is certainly worth a read. O’Rourke delivers. It manages to shock and disturb the reader. However, the book falls well short of a horror masterpiece.