I've gobbled up three of Patricia Highsmith's later Ripley novels, but for some reason I found this one unreadable. It might be this: Highsmith (at least in the Ripley novels; nothing else appears to be in print) specializes in creeping dread, anxiety, and general muted uneasiness. Well, in this one -- at least in the opening ten pages or so -- the uneasiness is not muted. In fact, it rubbed my nerves so raw after three pages that I couldn't take it any more and I put the book down. I'd recommend starting with any of the other Ripley novels, and then see if you like this one.

Then there's the movie. What to say about the movie? Language fails me, but we can start with this:

If you walk into a movie theater and a giant steel bear trap snaps shut on your leg, and then the opening credits of this movie appear on the screen, get your teeth around that leg and chew like hell.

It's two and a half hours (or maybe three; it seems like ten) of a psychopath parasitizing a series of tedious assholes (who generally despise him), and then brutally murdering them. All of this is beautifully filmed in gorgeous light. Wherever Ripley goes, he is intensely uncomfortable, and that discomfort is shared with the audience. Wherever he goes, he lies outrageously and then has to improvise his way out of it, sometimes by beating somebody's head in. Somebody always suspects, but nobody can quite prove anything. The uneasiness mounts. The audience begins to squirm.

There was not a single character in this movie the appearance of whom I did not learn to dread. The only character I did not loathe was Ripley's final victim: He was okay, but I knew he was going to be killed so I dreaded him as much as the others.

This movie would be an ideal choice for people who really, really enjoy loathing, disgust, and despair.