But may be that’s what surrealist horror is often about – leaving the reader to picture things, to put the pieces of a puzzle strewn forth by the author in their own peculiar way, drawing upon their own idea of what terrifies a man out of his wits; unless it’s splatter-punk where blood-spilling is the norm, but where is the fun in that except for real lovers of gore?
Klein does encroach into direct blood-letting territory every once in a while. The first story ‘Events at Poroth Farm’ was perhaps his first novella. It creates a heady mix of creepy atmosphere, using rural areas in American backwaters the way older practitioners did with Gothic European mansions and castles standing like brooding old men in the midst of nowhere. And the local people are always afraid of what lies hidden in the ghostly aura surrounding an ominous place like that.
A blend and rehash of M R James and Algernon Blackwood-stuff in a not-so-modern setting, electrified villages but still regressing to the days of people having nothing but books as companions, some of them by Bram Stoker just to raise the stakes a bit higher. That’s what the protagonist does: stay as a couple’s guest and read, write and ruminate over the pall-like gloom descended upon a house in the midst of a forest with a brook trickling nearby, its sound mingling with the racket of crickets and something else that chooses to scuffle and move about amid woods and thickets at night. A cat to bring back memories of Poe, disturbances reeking of an unknown presence, and finally – the coup de grâce befitting a story that perambulates around spooky cats, lost sanity and unseen apparitions at windows.
I was terrified with the climax, but as I have earlier said, the thing, the something that wreaks such untold havoc upon hapless humans is left concealed behind a question mark that grins like a loon in the darkness, promising more brushes with hell, but again – without a face to break the spell. Perhaps that’s the lifeline of the best horror – the unknown, like the unseen pagan god moving behind a lush green crop of corn in Stephen King’s ‘Children of the Corn.’
‘Petey’ is another tale which deserves mention. Mad people – aren’t they fascinating in a twisted way? And the worst of the lot are the ones with a horrible experience to babble about. Here is a creepy and old but spacious house recently acquired by a couple and they are having a party with their close friends to celebrate their ‘good fortune.’ But what’s brewing in the last owner of this house’s mind, crazed and devoid of lucidity, strapped to his bed and tapping his feet to mouth loony words like ‘Petey?’ And what’s the dark hairy shape preserved in a bottle of formaldehyde stowed away in a cabinet and why does it have such a grip upon the new owner George? Then there is the Tarot pack with arcane images that somehow have a bearing on what’s gnawing at George’s mind. Enough fodder for a night of lost sleep? I thought so too, but it didn’t all turn out the way I wished and left me longing.
I may not read this whole collection but I am willing to try more of this author’s work.
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