THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO by Michael David Wilson (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, April 28, 2020) Paperback, 100 pages. ISBN # 978-1-943720-43-9
THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO is an edge of the seat thriller, very cinematic in tone. This fast-paced, fluid novella transports readers on a journey of heightened apprehension and paranoia.
While Michael David Wilson is best known as the creator of the THIS IS HORROR website and co-host of the THIS IS HOROR podcast, aside from some short stories this is his first major published work. Based on this engaging tale, I believe he is due some increased attention and recognition.
The most striking impression of THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO is that it feels so real. In our mobile device/social media-obsessed culture what happens to main character Freddie could actually occur.
Just as Freddie and Rachel, a transplanted English couple working as teachers in Japan, speak of plans to settle down and begin their family – – Freddie receives an odd video on his cell phone. While disturbing and alluring at the same time, he can’t discern the identity of the sender and forgets about it after some time has passed. Months later, the video messages return with more frequency as the unknown social media stalker begins to add text messages of a threatening nature.
While our modern society seems driven by mobile apps, there is still a need for person-to-person contact as current protests over stay-at-home directions during the coronavirus pandemic can attest to. However, there also seems to be a contradictory trend of avoidance of personal confrontation of any kind when two parties can’t agree. Especially among the younger generation, disagreement tends to lead to flight and separation. Too many would rather run away from a situation rather than confront it when they can no longer avoid it.
In that light, Freddie’s reluctance to inform the police of his plight seems understandable. He does eventually contact them, but not before all other avenues of resolution seem exhausted. Even though Rachel had pressed him to contact the police, she also held back during Freddie’s nightmare when the logical solution to his extreme distress would have been to transport him to the emergency room.
When the continuing barrage of messages and videos became too much, Freddie turned to a co-worker and an old university comrade for advice. However, their comments and observations were not helpful, and only served to enhance Freddie’s anxiety.
Some reviewers may consider this more in the thriller genre than a horror story. While I wouldn’t argue with that assessment, I consider this true horror. The most frightening kind of horror story is human against human.
The stalker in THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO torments Freddie to the brink of madness, and the methodical progress of that cruelty is horrific in its consequences.
I have been listening to the This Is Horror podcasts (co-hosted by Michael David Wilson), so I’ve come to recognize his speech patterns and individual phrasing, as well as learn something of his background. While reading THE GIRL IN THE VIDEO, I could hear his voice. This only served to make the story more realistic to me. Especially when there were so many similarities between Michael the writer and Freddie the main character: living in Japan, cultural disorientation, about to begin a family with his wife, the teaching profession. I’m wondering if the events in the story represent an exaggeration of some actual occurrences or imagined situations in the writer’s thoughts.