By Ben Arzate
Welcome to the first installment of “The Unreprinted,” wherein I discuss out-of-print books of every genre. For this initial discussion, we’ll be taking a look at the cult erotic horror novel by author and film critic Tim Lucas, Throat Sprockets.
“A city without theaters is a guilty city; it is a place where dreams have become too terrible to share, not least of all in darkness, among strangers in the vortex of the same material.”
The unnamed narrator of Throat Sprockets likes to spend his lunch break in adult movie theaters. One day, he catches a very unusual film called Throat Sprockets. It has even less plot than most porn films and no sex, just close ups of women’s throats. Despite that, he finds it more erotic than any other porn film he’s ever seen.
He develops an obsession with both the film and with women’s throats. It affects his life for better and for worse, ending his marriage and frustrating his sex life but, eventually, leading him to a more passionate relationship and improving his creativity as an adman.
Throat Sprockets is a primarily a psychological horror novel about obsession. Everything that the narrator does after he sees the film revolves around the film and women’s throats. Even his taste in music changes exclusively to female opera singers.
His fixation leaks into his work at the ad agency he’s employed at. Rather than diminishing his work, it enhances it, leading him to climb the ladder of his company faster than he anticipated. His obsession has liberated him as much as it has enslaved him.
Vampirism is a recurring theme. Biting his lover’s throat and drinking their blood becomes the equivalent of an orgasm to the narrator. At one point, he watches a version of Throat Sprockets which has been retitled Transylvania Mon Amour. He also contemplates the psychosexual meaning of Dracula after first watching a full version of the film. Watching the film seems to “infect” a lot of the people who watch it. Throughout the book, Throat Sprockets becomes more and more well-known and causes a widespread fixation on the throat as a fetish object.
For the most part, the book doesn’t have any explicit supernatural elements. The effect that Throat Sprockets has on its viewers is hinted at being due a dark power within it, especially when the narrator learns of its origins, but he never truly finds out.
Likewise, while he’s trying to track down a home video version of the film, he learns of another one that, according to a sleazy underground video distributor, kills the person who watches it. The distributor sends him a copy of the killer tape along with Throat Sprockets, but he discards it, deciding not to take the risk.
Initially, Throat Sprockets is an obscure film known only to few people, the narrator and his new girlfriend after his divorce included. However, to the surprise of the narrator, the film gradually becomes more and more well-known, eventually becoming a phenomenon that starts a new movement of throat fetishists. He becomes worried that the widespread popularity will eventually destroy his relationship. The throat fixation is no longer a special secret between them.
Throat Sprockets is an excellently crafted and fascinating work of psychological horror. It’s an insightful look at how film and images in general can influence us and even infect us. This is a book well worth tracking down and I hope it comes back into print.