Categories
Point Horror

Nightmare Hall #8: The Experiment

By Diane Hoh.

Caryl is ecstatic when she gets a place in Professor DeLure’s “Experiment: Poets and Scientists” class. Her excitement is partly due to the course’s exclusivity (she’s one of only 12 students admitted); partly due to her literary aspirations; and mainly due to the fact she’s got a massive crush on the alluring professor, with his silver-streaked hair and sexy eye patch. Her friend, Anna, doesn’t share in Caryl’s obsession. She prefers his Teaching Assistant, Nicholas. Besides, Anna’s heard some pretty sinister rumours about Professor DeLure, which implicate him in the deaths of his wife and child. It seems they may hold some truth, when Caryl’s attempt to introduce herself to the mysterious professor ends with him chasing her off so he can continue torturing his pet fish.

And yet, he’s a completely different person at the first class. Warm, engaging, and very complimentary of Caryl’s poetry. Not only is she acing her school work, and back in the professor’s good graces, she also hits it off with handsome classmate, Dare. But the course of true love does not run smooth, and their mutual flirting attracts the wrath of Caryl’s sort-of-boyfriend, Ben, and Dare’s bitchy ex, Perri.

Someone who is infuriated about all the focus Caryl is getting, inside and outside the classroom, starts leaving her caustic messages… in verse form. At first, it’s merely vexing, but things take a sinister turn when Perri is poisoned by a tarantula, planted at the desk where Caryl should have been sitting. It’s the last straw. Caryl determines to find out whether her persecutor is Professor DeLure, living up to his crazy reputation, or whether one of her own friends secretly wants her dead.

The plot of The Experiment is all over the shop; it doesn’t seem to understand the tale it’s trying to tell. Until late in the narrative, only the nasty poems give Caryl any valid cause to believe something dodgy is afoot. Okay, the professor acts a bit strangely – but who doesn’t have a nutcase or two amongst their university faculty? Okay, he keeps a bunch of creepy creatures in his lab… he’s a biologist! Far scarier is the violent, controlling behaviour Ben displays when Caryl rejects him, but this is never addressed or treated with appropriate seriousness. If you’re going to go to the campus police about anything, send them in the direction of that mook.

Throw in Caryl’s bizarre encounter with Giselle, the Nightingale Hall ghost; a finale featuring an explanation which explains nothing; and the unconvincing exoneration of a major suspect (I don’t want to give anything away, but someone should definitely still be fired) and it all makes for a disjointed and unsatisfying entry.

3/10

Fear Factor

Diane Hoh is usually so adept at weaving an entertaining tale of horror – I genuinely don’t understand what has gone wrong here. The couple of scary moments turn out to be dreams, there’s some blatant overuse of an oblivious tarantula, and then there’s the random ghost, presumably thrown in for those of us who are unfazed by spiders but spooked by spirits? None of it makes sense, leaving the reader too baffled to feel afraid.

2/10

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