"The Girl in the Video" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing

the girl in the video michael david wilson poster large

Written by Michael David Wilson
2020, 71 pages, Fiction
Released on 28th April 2020


At 71 pages, the entertaining The Girl in the Video is a speedy read, easily devoured in one sitting; to avoid spoilers I will be vague with the plot. Freddie is a British ex-pat who lives with his wife Rachel in Japan and teaches English to local children. He leads a relatively contented life, but it is revealed early on that the couple have been unsuccessfully trying for a baby. After ten years together – five years married – they philosophically balance the failure to conceive with the ability to spend money freely and go out on the town for nice meals and fun times.

The story is built around a dumb mistake which in a weak or distracted moment any one of us could make, and that is what makes the initial sections of the story believable and a convincing mechanism for building tension. This could be you or I. Whilst still half asleep and eating breakfast, Freddie opens an Instagram direct message with a Hello Kitty display picture and reads: “a late birthday present”. The link takes Freddie to a five-minute video of a sexy young woman with smooth toned legs in fishnet tights wearing a mask. It is semi-erotic, and the combination of sleaze and the amateur style of the film turns Freddie on bigtime, and he watches the film many times before eventually forgetting about it. This is only the beginning. No surprises there.

Subsequent dodgy and shakily produced films follow the first and they (or Freddie watching them and his reaction) are amongst the strongest sections of The Girl in the Video. They are not high-quality films, are probably fake, but the allure comes from the mystery of whom this woman is? Does he know her? Is it solely targeting him or connected to a wider scam? These are all fascinating questions which add to the intrigue and suspense as the drama is played out. Before long, the reader is acutely aware of the escalation when a brief ‘Tell me what you like’ message appears in his inbox.

The most obvious comparison with a video footage you are guaranteed to regret watching is Ringu; who could ever forget the blurry black-and-white image of the woman climbing out of the well? As with that Japanese masterpiece, sometimes the most captivating scenes do not have to be particularly professional to maintain a powerful hold over the viewer. I am sure many readers would not have minded a sneaky viewing of the video which Freddie was sent, but without the consequences. It is very nicely described, with just the correct level of innuendo.

As an underlying theme, the novella has much to say about modern day technology, social media, and personal security. Freddie has his routines, which undoubtedly sound familiar to all of us; check Twitter, then WhatsApp, then a second look at Twitter, followed by Hello Talk (I don’t know that one!) before opening Facebook. It has been widely commented upon that in this modern world employers often stalk the digital footprint of potential new employees, and how easy it is to find out personal data about anybody online. This is nothing new, but Freddie quickly realises that there is no such thing as ‘secure’ or ‘private’ in the online world and the story does a good job of playing on these insecurities, with The Girl in the Video being a cautionary tale.

Considering The Girl in the Video is relatively short, it spends too much time revealing to the reader what exactly Freddie is eating and after a couple of lunches are described in detail, this seemed like padding. In contrast to the extensive food descriptions, Freddie’s character comes across as rather bland and superficial. I neither liked nor disliked him, and although I enjoyed the numerous musical references, they do not help flesh out his shallowly-described personality. The story is written with a first-person narrative and this gives the potential of introducing an unreliable narrator, but it is not developed. There are hints dropped here and there, Freddie may have secrets, but if he was an unreliable narrator, it lacks clarity.

There is clear potential for this to be a longer, perhaps more complex, piece of fiction. Instead it finishes abruptly, with a rushed ending I did not find especially convincing. The events leading to the big finish are nicely constructed, but the very end flops badly, and I was surprised the author did not come up with something more believable, as it just does not fit with how the main character previously behaved and had been presented to the reader.

This is Michael David Wilson’s debut novella, following many short stories, however, he is best known for being the founder of the excellent This is Horror website and accompanying podcast. Both of which rank amongst the classiest and best in the horror world and it is great to see such an outstanding servant of the horror genre in print.

Thankfully, my daughter had a Hello Kitty phase some years ago, as I really would not want any reminders kicking around the family home!


Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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Buy from Amazon UK

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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