B-Movie Bad

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Montserrat is a bisexual nerd-girl working in a man’s world. She’s the best sound editor in Mexico City in the 90s, but she is constantly overlooked, underrated, and underestimated. Her best friend, sometimes enemy, Tristán, is a washed-up soap-opera star who jaunts from one (also bisexual) relationship to another, constantly seeking self-edification and his next big chance. Together, the two are mostly alone in the world, drawn together by a shared childhood, getting fast food and booze late at night, and slamming everything about each other in a truly toxic way. Enter Tristán’s new BFF. Retired film director Abel Urueta, who claims that he was cursed by a film and that with Tristán and Montserrat’s help he can finish the film, renew his luck, and jump-start their own careers. What he leaves out – it’s Nazi black magic, and the dead magician who started it all might still be pulling the strings somewhere between life and death.

I decided that I would read absolutely anything by Silvia Moreno-Garcia after I discovered (and became utterly obsessed with) Mexican Gothic. Silver Nitrate, however, just never sounded like my cup of tea. I love old, B-horror movies, but I’m hardly a movie buff and the idea of weaving a spell into a film seems more absurd than horrific. But I trusted Garcia after my positive experience, and my horror book club picked this one up, so I gave it a chance. What’s the point of being in a book club if I don’t use the experience to get me outside of my comfort zone after all?

But Silver Nitrate is just so . . . well . . .  boring. Nothing happens very, very slowly. We get a lot of film trivia, a lot of nerdiness from Montserrat, who has just broken up with her girlfriend and is feeling the need to hermit-up and nerd out. There is so much trivia that just doesn’t matter. Then, we get to do this all over again with Tristán. What happens is we become perpetually bored AND learn to hate the characters. Really, what utterly selfish people.

The worst is Tristán; the brutal car-wreck that killed his girlfriend and left him with a minor scar haunts him. It haunts him because in her death, she’ll always be more famous than him, and because said minor scar ruins his movie star good looks. I know, right? Doesn’t care that the women died horribly. Oh, and his not caring gets worse.

Monserrat, for all her combat boot, tough-nerd girl coolness, is also unlikable, but in a different way. She seems bored with herself, and hates herself for her never-ending crush on Tristán, who is literarily the world’s worst friend. She even admits that when he is in a relationship, she never sees or hears from him. His fast-food friendship is one of convenience, dropped when a new squeeze who might advance his film career enters his life. Monserrat’s main character feature then is one of self-loathing, a loner with a chip on her should that is no longer redeemable. If the Nazi, actor, occultist dude gets them both, we’re totally ok with it.

Image by AlexBelozertsev from Pixabay

And speaking of our scary occultist dude, don’t expect him or the haunted B-reel to show up any time soon. There is a lot of useless dialogue to get through first, including more film trivia than anyone ever wanted to know and bickering between Tristán and Monserrat. Frenemies, much?

Finally, we start to get to the film, and it’s just as ridiculous as I had guessed. The characters get random powers and capabilities that make no sense. Is spellcasting just so easy that all you have to do to be a powerful wizard is vibe with it, feel the energy, and think happy thoughts? Really?

There are far too many old movie characters hanging around with their own agendas, and creepy sorcerer dude only really lives in his surprisingly easy-to-find reveal-all diary. Although, he does make a few shadowy appearances so Monserrat can moan a bit and the characters can pretend to be in danger at the very end when we finally get the lights, film, action bit of this ploy. It’s all so lame. So unbelievable. So, under and over developed at the same time.

In the end, the Audible edition made Silver Nitrate easier to bear, mostly because narrator Gisela Chipe did such a good job reading, and I was able to listen (and zone out) while doing chores and thus race through this book. It still felt like it took a hundred years, and a lot about becoming a grand sorcerer (which, again, seems to be more vibe than work) remained unanswered or conveniently absorbed by the characters for the sake of the plot. Not recommended, unless you are an extreme film buff with a lot of patience.

– Frances Carden

Follow my reviews on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/xombie_mistress

Follow my reviews on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesReviews

Frances Carden
Latest posts by Frances Carden (see all)