Thank you for bearing with me on the Salad Fingers saga! Now we move on, to other curiosities of the interweb. Today’s Yeerie YouTube video is actually a short claymation film, and it would also fall under the category of a Reader Request, which is something I’ll begin in earnest once the 30 Day Horror Review is over.
From Beyond is an adaptation of a short story from the almighty H. P. Lovecraft – a story which I made a point of reading after I’d seen this video. While we’re on the subject, I might as well admit that I am not well-versed in the writings of Lovecraft. The truth is, I don’t know where to begin. I know that Cthulu and other manifestations of mangled incomprehensibility are involved, but I don’t know how or why. This short film and the story that begets it are as good a place as any to start. To me, the story reads like a cross between Robert Louis Stevenson and Clive Barker; it has the mystery and trepidation of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and the gorgeously gory imagery of The Hellbound Heart (specifically the reference to corrugated flesh).
The short film preserves the original text as much as it can, in particular, the words of Crawford Tillinghast. But it also simplifies the language and updates it – only slightly, so as not to put off the casual viewer. This is good because it still gives a sense of something grand and terrible. And slowly, very slowly, thanks to a machine designed and built to break down the barriers between worlds, we see things… horrible things that no-one was ever meant to see. Said Wesley, the reader who suggested this film, “I did like how it kept the sense of absolute wrongness building before actually showing anything, which is something a lot of Lovecraft adaptations forget”.
Something else which is changed from the original text is that our principal character does not see Crawford directly at first. Crawford speaks to him through a television set, and finally has him turn around to see the nightmarish thing that he, the scientist has become. This is quite an interesting addition, as it gives the viewer what they have been waiting for – the greatest terror of all from this new, unfamiliar world. Stephen King is quoted as saying, on the subject of horror: “The reader will not feed forever on innuendo and vapours; sooner or later even the great H. P. Lovecraft had to produce whatever was lurking in the crypt or in the steeple”. Obviously this applies more to the written word than to any visual medium, but short horror films also have to produce the thing that is meant to frighten the audience – in a relatively short space of time.
Wesley also brought up a good point about the film being animated. He told me: “Live Action wouldn’t work, I think. This mainly works because it’s stylised. […] Seriously, with a Lovecraft thing, you need to get the sense of wrongness, which is near impossible in live action. With stylised animation it already looks odd, and you can accept it as an abstraction”. I agree, and not just because I am a mahusive fan of stop-motion animation. It’s true that you can use the pliability of clay to your advantage, to make more hideously jellyish monstrosities, and also to make more exaggerated facial expressions. Here’s a screenshot of our main character cowering in fear.
Look how unhappy that man is. “Oh nooo, no no no, oh bother, oh dear, I was not expecting this today.” And that’s with his eyes closed. Watch the film and you’ll see that the man’s eyeballs are made out of something with a reflective sheen, making him look all the more alive and responsive. The sound effects also contribute to the overall vibe, with the exception of a few that I recognised from the kid’s show Trapdoor and various Horrible Histories audiobooks. That detracted from said vibe just a tad. But then again, the film’s creator probably didn’t have a big budget.
The ending of the film is interesting, once more diverging from the source material. The cliché of having a story’s events turn out to be the fantasy of a madman is an old one, but here it works. Mad or not, that man has to deal with those pant-wettingly terrifying visions, possibly for the rest of his life, and there’s really no proving it either way, which is perhaps the worst thing.
So, yeah! Good little film that. Cheers, Wes.