What’s The Festival all about?:
The Festival is the second story in this volume of sixty-seven by celebrated horror and occult writer H.P. Lovecraft. It concerns a man who is travelling back to the home of his ancestors to participate in a festival of celebration. But nothing is quite as it seems…
What did I think?:
Our narrator for this tale is a nameless man, whom when we meet him has just arrived at a small village in New England where his forefathers are from to join in a festival. When he first arrives, he is astounded by how ancient the village seems, with little human activity and few lights burning in windows. The property which he has been advised to go to seems dark and sinister and he is greeted by a mute old man who has a “bland face,” that he later suspects to be “a fiendishly cunning mask.” The room he is taken to contains an old woman hunched over a spinning wheel who does not look up or acknowledge him, and suggested shadowy figures in recesses of the room that remain hidden in the darkness. Our narrator begins to feel quite afraid, especially when he finds a translation of the Necronomicon that contains a legend too hideous to be repeated. The ritual begins and he is led in a procession of people to a church and then down into the depths of the crypt where a river flows, and a flute player seems to be summoning the creepiest creatures imaginable. Although he is reassured by the old man that this is a valid ritual performed by his ancestors, it is all too much for our narrator and he throws himself into the river as a means of escape. The next thing he knows is waking in a hospital where all of a sudden, the village outside seems modern and from the present day. Was it all a bad dream? With Lovecraft, you’re never sure.
This is only the second story that I’ve read of Lovecraft, but I’m getting a real appreciation of his style of writing, and the manner in which he ramps up the horror and the tension. This story was first published in 1925 in an issue of Weird Tales, yet I find it sits quite comfortably alongside the more modern horror and science fiction writers of today. His vocabulary as I mentioned in my last post, is amazing and quite dense and descriptive, but I enjoyed the way he wrote immensely. I think perhaps a lot of the time, it’s what is NOT mentioned that can sometimes be scarier than what is mentioned, and this is definitely the case with this dark tale. Even just one word can conjure up a night-times worth of terrors – for example, the “flopping” sinister creatures. Ugh, just the word flopping does it for me! Another particularly creepy line comes near the end where our narrator is reminded of the passage he read in the Necronomicon – “Great holes secretly are digged where earth’s pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl.” I would definitely recommend this story to fans of Lovecrafts work or anyone new to him who want to get a sense of his style.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Ghosts by John Harvey from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Volume 7