Death in all its creeping incarnations is the greatest phobia in Ocampo’s (Siete Vidas, 1989) 11 strangely poetic vignettes involving homicidal spouses, malevolent doctors, hellbent rodents and other everyday terrors.
Largely devoid of supernatural or fantastical elements, these quick detours into nagging fears and pedestrian dreads are nevertheless strangely possessed of fablelike qualities that make the mundane insane. The tales tend to confront the implied safety of domesticity and a secure abode. Take, for instance, Sherry’s bedtime routine: “At night, before going to bed, she knelt down in front of her rosemary bush and prayed, and when she smelled the basil leaves, she made sounds as if overwhelmed by pleasure.” Each entry builds upon the blooming terror-scape, while highlights like “Umbrifer Maritus,” “The Power of Buttons” and “Bald Man’s Charm” create an uneasy vertigo that feeds directly into the unsettling collection’s knockout finale. “Love in a Tub,” meanwhile, further demonstrates the provocative author’s facility with light and dark, hope and horror. In it, the dubious benefits of at-home water immersion therapy give way to a wholly surprising, mesmerizing outcome. In other tales, the horror of a winning raffle ticket and yoga are on par with monstrous rats and dull-eyed psychopaths. “Death In The Landscape” takes what most would consider a tropical paradise and effortlessly renders it a claustrophobic hive of impending doom, where even the evasion of catastrophe offers little in the way of relief. In Ocampo’s world, there is no safety, least of all at home or in a loved one’s arms. When the scariest place in the world is inside the therapist’s head, things are not going to be OK.
Magnificently malignant horror shot through with lyrical beauty and profound terror.