Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Eldritch Education: "From Beyond"

Spooky Synopsis: Crawford Tillinghast is a man who never should've pursued science. Peeling back the façade of popular perception to ascertain the reality beneath requires a dispassionate demeanor, and Tillinghast always took everything too personally. The lack of support from friends bred bitterness within him, and the things he found during his inquiries weakened his body and sapped his vigor. Such discoveries require a mind cold as ice, because hot heads can hardly handle the horrors that float all around us, horrors that exist just outside of the range of our normal senses -- horrors that Tillinghast has managed to uncover.

Lovecraftian Language:"It is not pleasant to see a stout man suddenly grown thin, and it is even worse when the baggy skin becomes yellowed or greyed, the eyes sunken, circled, and uncannily glowing, the forehead veined and corrugated, and the hands tremulous and twitching. And if added to this there be a repellent unkemptness; a wild disorder of dress, a bushiness of dark hair white at the roots, and an unchecked growth of pure white beard on a face once clean-shaven, the cumulative effect is quite shocking. But such was the aspect of Crawford Tillinghast on the night his half-coherent message brought me to his door after my weeks of exile; such the spectre that trembled as it admitted me, candle in hand, and glanced furtively over its shoulder as if fearful of unseen things in the ancient, lonely house set back from Benevolent Street."

Eerie Evaluation: Think for a moment about an overripe apple. Its skin might gleam a ruddy red, and when you sink your teeth into it, sweetness might explode upon your palate. But you soon notice its mealy texture and a pervasive bitterness that only intensifies the more you chew. "From Beyond" is overripe in much the same way. At first, Lovecraft wows you with a scientific conceit and hints of a horrible ending to come. That gets you through the first page or two before you notice that you've been ambushed by his old overwriting bugaboo, snared by tortured phrases such as "I observed that detestable electrical machine, glowing with a sickly, sinister, violet luminosity." You could deal with that on its own, but then you wonder why hitherto unknown senses are described primarily in terms of sight and sound. Shouldn't they be, well, more exotic? And isn't the ending more than a bit anticlimactic? "From Beyond" will do if you're hungry for horror, but you probably wouldn't hand it to a friend who's looking for his first taste of the genre.

Number of Sanity-Shredding Shoggoths (out of five):

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To visit the story index for "An Eldritch Education" (my year spent reading H.P. Lovecraft's work), please click here.

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