Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott

Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott
12363724Release Date: April 2nd 2012
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Format: Paperback
: 104
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The first story in the book introduces the other four: A little girl visits an amusement park. She looks fascinated, but finds everything too expensive. Finally, behind the rollercoaster she eyeballs a small booth with “CINEMA PANOPTICUM” written on it. Inside there are boxes with screens. Every box contains a movie; the title of each appears on each screen. Each costs only a dime, so the price is right for the little girl. She puts her money in the first box: “The Prophet” begins. In the film, a vagrant foresees the end of the world and tries to warn people, but nobody believes him. They will soon enough.

In the second film, “The Wonder Pill,” a short-sighted man initially goes blind from some pills his doctor gave him, but soon the blindness wears off and he finds they accord quite a view. “La Lucha,” the third story, introduces a Mexican wrestler who fights against death himself. In a typical Ott twist, he wins and loses at the same time. The final story, “The Hotel,” depicts a traveler who goes to sleep in what seems to be an otherwise empty hotel. His awakening is the stuff of nightmares...

Ott’s O. Henry-esque plot twists will delight fans of classic horror like The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt, or modern efforts like M. Night Shyamalan’s films (well, the good ones); his artwork will haunt you long after you've put the book down.


First off, I think this book falls prey to the synopsis giving too much away (and it’s also wrong). This is a horror graphic novel created solely with sketches. The only words are those that appear on a sign or the beginning of the sections. I thought the artwork in this book was fantastic and for it only being black and white sketches there was quite a bit of detail in the pictures.

The book starts off with a little girl peering over the fence of a carnival. She only has 5 cents to her name but decides she wants to go in anyway. She is having trouble finding a game that she has enough money for. As she is wondering around she finds the Cinema Panopticum. Inside there are 5 film machines, each with a different title, and they all cost only 1 cent. So she decides that this is what she wants to spend her money on.

The first machine is labeled “The Hotel”. This is my favorite one of the bunch. It is definitely creepy. It features a man who walks into a seemingly empty hotel. He helps himself to a dinner that is fully laid out for him and proceeds to get a room and fall asleep. This is where his stay turns into a nightmare. This film intrigues the little girl and she moves onto the next one.

The second machine is labeled “The Champion”. This one features a man that is a champion wrestler with a family at home. After winning the championship he receives a letter to go to another fight. It turns out he is wrestling against death himself. Turns out he both wins and loses. This one startles the little girl but again she continues onto the next one.

The third film is labeled “The Experiment”. Where a practically blind man takes an experimental medication in order to have better eyesight. Things seem to go terribly wrong until he makes it back to the eye doctor and discovers what has really happened.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one but again, the girl is shocked and moves onto the next one.

The forth film is labeled “The Prophet”. This one shows a man who is trash digging and finds what seems to be the missing piece to a puzzle. As he puts this puzzle together he thinks it means the end of the world is coming. He makes a sign and tells everyone what he thinks. Nobody believes him and he ends up getting beat up for it. When the end of the night comes he realizes how right he really was. We don’t see a reaction from the little girl for this film.

The last film is labeled “The Girl”. That’s all we know about this one because all we see is the girl screaming and running out of the tent. It is left open to the imagination of the reader. If you pay close attention to the beginning of the book when the girl is wandering through the carnival you will notice that each one of the people from the films are at the carnival that day. That makes the book extra creepy.

I definitely recommend picking up this book. It is a very quick read and adds a little creepiness to your day. Especially if you like things like this.

My Rating:

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