So, since I'm apparently awake and not falling asleep any time soon, a few thoughts on horror literature again.
Let me get one thing set out there first: I like EAT. EAT is one of the Fears that I consider most interesting, and I'll explain why later in this post.
Now, that said, I don't think EAT is as scary as the rest of them.
Some of you might be wondering why. After all, EAT absorbs you into a hive mind and replaces all the water in your body with itself, turning you into an only-partially-human abomination whose personality has been obliterated and subsumed by The Camper. That's pretty terrifying, right?
Well, no. I don't think so. EAT is, essentially, the Borg. It assimilates you. And the Borg, while awesome, are not particularly scary. They're intimidating, yes, but there's a big difference between being intimidated and being terrified. EAT also runs on paranoia fuel, since, conceivably, any drop of water could be the one that turns you into a zombie, but still, I don't find that to be terrifying. Would it be absolutely nightmarish to be in a world where EAT exists? Oh yes, the same way that it would suck to be in a world where the Borg were actually flying around space in those giant cubes.
But I don't find it particularly nightmare-fuel-y when placed next to the rest of the Fears. Why? Well, because EAT opens the door.
Like I explained in my last post, "opening the door" means "revealing too much information to retain the aura of sinister mystery which enables the audience to fill in the gaps with their own fears". EAT opens the door. It infects you when you drink part of its "ichor". Once you're infected, you become obsessed with something; if that obsession isn't enough to keep you away from the ichor, you drown yourself and become part of The Camper. Even the process of creation and development for The Camper is fully explained. This really leaves only one question for the audience to answer in the privacy of their own heads: "what does EAT's 'true form' look like?" And there's really only so much terror the answer to that can produce, even given Lovecraftian levels of atmosphere.
Beyond that, EAT is a character. EAT has a personality, concrete goals and desires, and, most importantly, a voice. It's possible for a character that speaks to be frightening, of course, but it's always going to be a very different kind of fright than that engendered by a silent antagonist. Going back to the Borg analogy here, in Star Trek: First Contact, the crew of the Enterprise is attacked by a Borg cube. But this Borg cube has something else with it: the Borg Queen.
Until this point, the Borg (except Picard, when he was temporarily assimilated) have been largely voiceless, emotionless, and entirely lacking in personality. They're nothing more than mindless assimilators. They're intimidating because they can't be reasoned with, they can't be bargained with, and they're nearly impossible to stop. Once the Borg Queen shows up, the Borg have a voice and a personality behind them. They weren't particularly scary to begin with, but once the Borg Queen shows up, they're no longer scary at all. They're still intimidating, yeah, but they're not frightening.
Why? Because the Borg Queen is not a monster. The Borg Queen has a face, a personality, a voice. The Borg Queen has an identity. The door is fully open for the Borg Queen. Contrast this with Michael Myers. We know almost nothing about Michael. Therefore, he is frightening.
That's what EAT is. EAT is the Borg Queen. EAT has a personality. Thus, EAT is not as frightening as the other Fears.
You might recall, though, that I said at the beginning of this post that I like EAT. Why, if I don't think it's particularly frightening? Simple. That's not EAT's role in the story. That's not what EAT is meant to do.
Because EAT has a personality, we can do things with EAT that we can't do with any other Fear. EAT has an agenda, and it's been known to work with humans to achieve its ends. That's something no other Fear really does. The Blind Man does it in some adaptations, but not as often, and rarely does it work with actual protagonists (as opposed to the cult which comprises The Archive).
So no. EAT is not particularly frightening. But it is extremely useful, and that's something that shouldn't be overlooked. Because EAT exists, the mythos is open to a lot of stories that wouldn't otherwise be possible. That's why I like EAT. When it comes to scares, I'll look elsewhere. But EAT can fill roles in the story that nothing else can, and that is a priceless tool.