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Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Dunwich Horror and Others

Night 10
The Dunwich Horror and Others (1920-1935) By: H.P. Lovecraft

Another short story collection with over 13 tales by itself, though I can't recommend reading them all at once.

In the Vault (1925) 5/10
A slothful undertaker takes his time burying bodies. One day he gets trapped in a crypt and some of the dead are unhappy with his shortcuts.

This one had great potential to be a creepy tale, but the delivery was very confusing. It shifts between talking about the present and the past too much.

Pickman's Model (1926) 4.5/10
An artist creates terrifying and otherworldly images, but how does he think them up.

I think the big problem with this one was that he describes a lot of pictures, but without really being able to see them I think it loses the horror. Also, the ending was predictable.

The Rats in the Walls (1923) 7.5/10
A man reacquires his ancestral home and begins renovating it. He has heard of his family's black history, but feels he can move past that. However, there are still some old secrets hidden in his house.

This one was recommended by a friend and I thought it was pretty good. The build was excellent. slowly providing doubts and building a mythos about the estate and the family. I only wish the ending had been less abrupt.

The Outsider (1921) 8/10
A man is locked in a tower and cannot recall ever seeing the sun. He goes in search for it and encounters the outside. He soon learns why he was locked in the tower.

The Outsider is a cool reversal of the typical person encounters what is beyond. The ending may be predictable, but it is one of Lovecraft's most interesting tales.

The Colour out of Space (1927) 6/10
A meteorite lands in a farm and slowly infects the surrounding countryside even the family who live there.

This one was creepy, but I thought it took to long to build to its climax and then dwelt too long on the horrors that occurred.

The Music of Erich Zann (1921) 7/10
A man arrives at a new town and takes a cheap apartment. He hears some strange yet beautiful misc coming from an apartment nearby. He goes up and meets a strange little man and asks him to continue playing. The man plays on, but it isn't the same music as before.

This one could have fallen into the trap of Pickman's Model with us not being able to hear the music. However, it actually worked quite effectively in making me really want to hear this maddening music from the man upstairs.

The Haunter of the Dark (1935) 7/10
A writer moves into a new house and notices the beautiful skyline of the city and in it a mysteriously enticing church. He decides he must find it.

This one has a nice journey and exploration story. The main problem with this is that the ending once again gets a bit long.

The Picture in the House (1920) 7/10
A man seeks shelter from a storm in a seemingly abandoned hut and encounters a rare book. After looking through it a strange old man comes down from the second floor. He points out a picture that fascinates him.

This one is actually too short. The man's fascination is really disturbing and full of some great and gruesome imagery. When Lovecraft steps away from his expansive mythos, he creates some really effective true horror.

The Call of Cthulhu (1926) 7.5/10
It features an anthropologist trying to piece together information on a newly discovered cult and slowly coming to realize that their god may actually exist. 

One of the longer tales and perhaps the most famous. Excellent tale in three parts piquing the horror and leaving the reader with an ominous ending.

The Dunwich Horror (1928) 6/10
This details the history of the area and of the Whateley family in Dunwich and of the Dunwich Horror, which causes everyone to avoid the rustic town. It details the preparations of Wilbur Whateley to raise an elder god.

This one is really long and that hurts the rising tension the most. The best part about it is that it fleshes out H.P. Lovecraft's universe. We get to see how people view the insane events with reverence and horrors.

Cool Air (1926) 6/10
A man moves into a new apartment and meets the mad scientist upstairs. Through several conversations he learns the doctor is obsessed with staying cold. One day his refrigeration unit dies and we learn the true reason for his obsession.

The story is enjoyable until the abrupt ending. With a little more of the doctor's fit at the end, this one could have been on of the best.

The Whisperer in Darkness (1930) 5/10

A man becomes embroiled in a controversy over the existence of extraterrestrials. He corresponds with the man and gains a respect for him. He learns of mysterious assaults on the man's property and is soon drawn to the farm to try and collect some proof.

This one was definitely too long. The suspense built in chapters 2-4 is long dead by the time we get to the house in chapters 7-8. This is a good one if you like the universe HP Lovecraft built as it expands it into space with the introduction of the Mi-go.

The Terrible Old Man (1920) 4/10
Some men decide to steal from a crazy old man. Bad idea.

This one was too short and, aside from some creepy hobbies, offers little in the way of horror. We don't even really get a description of what happened.

The Thing on the Doorstep (1933) 7/10
A man marries the strange girl from another country. He begins having more and more issues with their marriage and soon has random times when he disappears.

The ending was a little predictable, but the end got me. It was about the right length for one of Lovecraft's longer stories, but could of used some editing in the middle section. This would have been more compelling if we'd gotten to see some of the details of Asenath and Edward's relationship.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931) 7.5/10
Sections I and II relate Robert Olmstead's reasons and journey to Innsmouth. Section III gets a bit more interesting with a description of the city's history, though told through the town drunk named Zadok Allen's annoying accent. The fourth chapter becomes much better with a description of his harrowing escape from Innsmouth. The final section details a curious nagging idea in the Robert's mind and has a really creepy twist ending.
This one had a slow start that might have been fascinating had I not read 14 other Lovecraft stories prior to this.

The Shadow Out of Time (1935) 5/10

A man went insane for five years and lost his family and career.Once cured, he tries to find out why his life went so bad and learns a terrifying truth about his experience.

This is an outline for an alien race more than a story. It has some interesting science fiction concepts mixed together, but it doesn't scare. It can be creepy, but a lot of the information just kept being repeated with better descriptions. Especially at the end of a long string of Lovecraft, it is just redundant.

The problem with Lovecraft is that his writing his very similar and he tends to explore three emotions: fear, paranoia, and doubt. While he often does this effectively, it can get a bit old after sixteen stories. He's best read one or two at a time over a long period. 
his best stories are those that step out of his comfort zone: stranger goes to weird place and is driven insane. He is still worth reading. You can find all his stories free on various websites. I chose these because they are all from the same published collection. So read them here.

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