My interpretation of the dialogue was that it was poorly worded on purpose. Most horror movies have bad dialogue, even the best of them. Because he was deconstructing horror movies, again I took it for granted that he wrote this way on purpose.
The comments about potentially flat dialogue remind me of a problem I’ve had with screenplays for years. I’ve always been amazed at how mediocre (in my humble opinion) the dialogue in screenplays can often be. Years ago in grad school, I took a class in screenplay writing and read a number of famous scripts. I was amazed at how sparse they are. I always wondered, “How does an agent or a producer tell if this is going to be any good or not.” I assumed that screenplays were purposely sparse so the actors and directors would have plenty of room to inject their own character traits and developments. Admittedly, I’m completely out of my element so this is just a wild guess, but I finally just assumed that this is the way screenplays are done.
With DEMON THEORY, I think Jones did a fabulous job of straddling the fence between novel and screenplay. For example, I thought the use of directions (such as establishing shots and point-of-view details) was pretty seamlessly woven into the story. Those details weren’t distracting to me.
But back to the dialogue, I thought it fell in line with the nature of screenplays (in my limited experience) and with horror film dialogue.
Ultimately, I thought DEMON THEORY expanded the boundaries of a screenplay while not going so far as the limits of a novel. It inhabits a borderland between the two genres. And the dialogue is the same way. Maybe more than a script, but potentially less than we usually find in a literary novel.
I do have to say, having read Stephen’s short story collection, Bleed into Me: Stories, it becomes pretty obvious to me that the dialogue in Demon Theory was stilted on purpose, as the discussions between characters in his stories are very fluid and interesting.
I also agree with Scott’s assertion that the way Stephen uses directions has them woven into the story extremely well – not as if you were reading a screenplay with the standalone POV directions.
All in all, to me the idea showed a unique way to tell a story, and put some constraints upon himself – I think he was true to those constraints, whether or not those constraints may make the novel less appealing to some. It seems to be a pretty bold move in my opinion, but one that fits Stephen Graham Jones and his work.