Posts Tagged ‘HP Lovecraft’

My boy, HP Lovecraft

So today as I was heating up dinner, a thought passed through my head that sometimes passes through there (along with, “Oh, that would make a great story,” “I’m hungry,” and “These miserable mortals must be destroyed! Rise up and cleanse the Earth of them!”). The thought was, “I wish there were more HP Lovecraft adaptations. He’s got a lot of material to work from.” This thought was followed, rather unexpectedly, by “Why wasn’t there an HP Lovecraft cinematic universe? You’d think it’d be perfect for film studios. The stories literally take place a multiverse, possibly the very first multiverse!”

Now, if you’re wondering who HP Lovecraft is, you’re not alone. He’s criminally under-known (a word I just made, so copyright). What’s important to know is that he was a writer from the early half of the 20th century who wrote horror stories based around powerful cosmic entities and truths from beyond the stars whose exposure to humans can cause insanity, destruction and death. This is called cosmic horror, and Lovecraft practically invented it. And while you might’ve never heard of HP Lovecraft or cosmic horror (though I talk about him often enough on this blog), you’ve probably seen the wide results of his influence. Ever wonder where the ideas for the Demogorgon or the Shadow Monster and the Upside-Down from Stranger Things come from? Those all are at least partly inspired by Lovecraft’s creations. The weirder, more interdimensional aspects of the works of Stephen King, such as the last two-hundred pages of It or the Dark Tower series? Lovecraft helped inspire them, especially his Dream Cycle stories in relation to the Dark Tower books. And that thing with a mouth full of teeth coming out of my hotel room toilet? That’s actually a demon crocodile, where the hell did that come from?

Point is, Lovecraft has influenced a lot of horror fiction, and even some things not normally considered horror, such as Marvel comics villains. Now excuse me, I’ve got to take care of that demon crocodile.

Still here? Good. Well, you’d think that with such a bibliography and legacy, you’d think Lovecraft would have several adaptations, right? Maybe even a cinematic universe, considering he has one of the earliest multiverses in fiction? Wrong, actually. There are actually only a handful of direct HP Lovecraft adaptations, the most well-known being Re-Animator, and the story that’s based on is kind of in its own separate mini-universe (kind of like Deadpool in the X-Men movies). But wait. If his ideas and the works they influence are so ubiquitous that we’re getting major Netflix shows and box-office record-breaking movies based on them, why aren’t his works being made into more movies? And why isn’t there a cinematic universe, when there’s a gold mine right there for it?

Thank Lovecraft for this guy.

Well, there are a few reasons for that. One of the reasons is that movie adaptations, and especially cinematic universes, are made from properties that filmmakers feel will make them money (now there kind of’s an evil god to rival Cthulhu, am I right?). In the past, movies based off of HP Lovecraft stories have only done moderately well at the box office, mostly as cheesy B-movies, and that’s on a good day. Even Re-Animator only earned around two-million, and its budget was just about half that. So if a major film studio were to make a major adaptation of a Lovecraft story, they’d have to believe that a Lovecraft story could bring in a major profit. And if past adaptations are any indication, it’s not a risk studios are willing to make (let alone a cinematic universe*).

Another issue is that, to be frank, Lovecraft stories don’t always translate very well to cinema. They’re often centered around one person’s experience, and the events surrounding that person aren’t always told in a structure that lends well to movie storytelling. Hell, some of them don’t even work with literature storytelling (*cough* Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath *cough*).  If you were to adapt some of these stories, you’d have to do a lot of work just to make some of them look good as a screenplay. And even when doing comic book adaptations sometimes involves tweaking entire story arcs just because of copyrights and other aspects, not everyone is willing to do that.

And finally, HP Lovecraft is under-known. Well-known properties, even if there’s no reason to think they’ll be money-makers, are more likely to be adapted than something that few people have heard of. William Shakespeare movies usually don’t make tons of money unless major stars are attached to it, but some of his plays are so well-known and loved that they have multiple adaptations and there’s a good chance more will come in the future (I’d like a Titus Andronicus adaptation, please). But if a work is lesser known, or its appeal is too esoteric, it’s likelihood to get adapted is pretty low.

And all these factors are in the way of more Lovecraft adaptations.

Great adaptation of Lovecraft’s best-known story, The Call of Cthulhu.

Still, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been Lovecraft adaptations in recent years. And not all of them have been cheesy B-films. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society (yes, that’s a thing) has previously made great adaptations of The Call of Cthulhu (which I own and reviewed HERE) and The Whisperer in Darkness that were made to look like they were filmed in Lovecraft’s time. Guillermo del Toro nearly made a big-budget adaptation of At the Mountain of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s better-known works, and there’s a chance he may try to make it again someday. And with Lovecraft’s appeal staying steady and possibly even growing, there’s a chance other studios, including independent ones, will make their own adaptations. One article I read even said that a lot of international indie studios are not only making Lovecraft films, but showing them at film studios.

And even if Lovecraft films aren’t being directly adapted, as I’ve said, his ideas are appearing all over the place. I’ve already mentioned the works of Stephen King and Stranger Things, and those are only the tip of a large iceberg. The Hellboy films all feature Lovecraftian monsters, as do a number of major video games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Bloodborne. And I recently saw a film heavily influenced by Lovecraft called The Void, and while I had some issues with it, it definitely had its points, including great atmosphere and practical effects. Stuff like this will only keep Lovecraft in the public consciousness and maybe someday lead to further adaptations of his work.

So maybe HP Lovecraft won’t have a cinematic universe anytime soon. But he’s clearly got staying power, and that means there’s always a chance we could see more films by him as time goes by. Some of them may even come from major studios and perhaps even be great successes. As nearly everyone says, you never know what the future holds. Maybe even an adaptation of Shunned House? Please?

What do you think of HP Lovecraft adaptations? What would you like to see adapted? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The demon crocodile (whom I’ve named Alathla) and I are off to cause terror in a major metropolis area. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Though from what I hear, cinematic universes are on the way out the door, thanks to the massive mistakes studios like WB and Universal have made with the DCEU and Dark Universes. So…never mind?

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I’m going to start this post by stating for the record that I have not read any of the Dark Tower books, or the audiobooks, or the graphic novels. I’m coming at this as an outside fan, someone who likes Stephen King a lot but has yet to try his fantasy series because, as even King puts it, it’s an acquired taste.* I also realize that this is a movie, so they’re going to have to make many adjustments between getting the story from the page to the screen. I’m okay with that, because I’m pretty sure a straight adaptation would be longer than Titanic (and that’s three hours long!). And I somehow managed to keep away from reviews from other sources, so I went into the theater with a clear mind in order to judge this film on my own terms.

That being said, I liked this film.

The Dark Tower follows Jake Chambers, a teenager from New York who is having dreams about this strange world, a man dressed in black who is trying to destroy a gigantic tower, and a man called the gunslinger who hunts him. While the rest of his family and even some of his friends think he’s crazy, Jake manages to find a gateway to the mythical Mid-World, and becomes an important piece in the battle between Roland the gunslinger and Walter O’Dim the Man in Black, as well as an important piece in the battle to keep all of reality from becoming destroyed.

So like I said, this film worked for me. The visuals were very beautiful, giving us this huge world with strange features and breathtaking views. The actors were all great, especially the main three, Idris Elba as Roland, Matthew McConaughey as Walter, and Tom Taylor as Jake Chambers. My favorite was McConaughey, his take on Walter was terrifying. You could sense the psychopathy in this character, the indifference to death and love of destruction. It’s really creepy. Elba was also commanding as Roland, making you feel this intensity, and Taylor as Jake was a believable character who finds himself in this strange world and is trying to make the best of it.

*shudder* Scary dude.

Also, shout out to Fran Kranz as a bad guy. Did not know he was in the film, so it was so cool to see the guy who played Topher in Dollhouse there.

I also thought the fight scenes were choreographed very well. They didn’t look silly or hard to make out, and the camera work wasn’t shaky or anything. And for a series well-known for being complicated and bizarre, I actually felt like it was easy to follow. Sure, some things didn’t make sense or weren’t explained, but I was able to follow it for the most part.

That being said, there were two things that I didn’t like: one was there was this minor character called Timmy, who is supposed to be a friend of Jake’s, and he’s in the film for maybe three minutes and really doesn’t serve a purpose. If you took him out of the story, the film wouldn’t be missing anything. I also thought that the story was kind of by-the-numbers. There wasn’t any sort of point where I was surprised by what happened, or the filmmakers threw me for a loop. Was I thrilled? Yes. Did I was like, “Oh hey, I didn’t see that coming”? No.

But all in all, I think this is the best adaptation of The Dark Tower series we’re going to get without being overly complicated or bogged down in details. I know it’s not going to please everyone, especially hardcore fans, but it was a good film for me, and I would be interested to see a sequel and/or the television series in development based on the movie.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Dark Tower a 4.4 out of 5. Go see it, and find yourself reciting the Gunslinger’s Creed for the rest of the day.

*And if the books anything like their probable inspiration, HP Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, particularly The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, I’m willing to wait.

I found out about this novel on Facebook, which was billed as a Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos-meets-YA sort of story, and wondered how that would work. When the opportunity came, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and started reading. And my, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Awoken follows Andromeda “Andi” Slate, an average teenager who isn’t to thrilled about living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire but deals with it with the help of her good friends. One night, she has a dream about seeing a giant tentacled monster and being rescued by a handsome youth. The next day, she and her friends get their hands on an infamous book of eldritch magic known as the Necronomicon, and do some reading from it. Within a day, a new teacher arrives at Andi’s school, as well as a strange new student who looks like the handsome youth she dreamed about. What happens next will not only change her life, but will decide the fate of the universe.

So if the handsome youth bit didn’t clue you in at all, yeah, there’s a pretty big romance aspect to this story, bigger than what I’m used to reading (especially in a Lovecraft-themed story). However, it’s a romance story between a human girl and a Great Old One (basically an ancient demon-god, if you don’t speak Lovecraft), one trying to balance the desire for the end of the world with his newborn desire for a human girl! I’ve never seen that before!* Romance isn’t something you normally associate with the Great Old Ones, who are notorious for seeing humans only as snacks (when they see them at all). It’s so weird, it kept me interested even though I don’t usually go for romance! Definitely one of the good points of the story.

So what were the other good points? Well, I liked Andi for the most part. Besides one or two problems, she was a very likable character, even when in the middle of an annoying teenage mood. The story was also very well-written, with very few typos and a distinct voice for Andi that kept me wanting to keep reading. I also liked how Elinsen made the works of Lovecraft accessible for her audience, who probably wouldn’t be big fans of Lovecraft and his Victorian-era speech patterns, though she manages to slip some of those words in, like cliquant and voltaic. Despite a few changes here and there, the Cthulhu Mythos is pretty much intact and treated with reverence, and the usual tropes that Lovecraft fans enjoy are there: cults, ancient beings, the idea that certain truths cause madness, Azathoth threatening to wake up, etc. The author also manages to slip in references to HP Lovecraft and his works (Portsmouth is secretly Innsmouth, Andi fears water, a reference to a racist writer from Rhode Island, Cthulhu’s relationships with the opposite godly sex, a cat, etc.), as well as references to Stephen King and even one reference to Supernatural that made me laugh out loud.

However, I did have some problems with the story. A major one was the male lead Riley (name based on a famous underwater city), and his relationship with Andi. Look, I know that in romance the asshole with a secret heart of gold is a popular trope (I’ve seen it in a few manga), but Riley is super-unlikable. And yeah, he’s secretly a terrible god who sees most humans as ants, but I can’t help but hate him as a protagonist. And his relationship with Andi is so abusive for a good chunk of the book. It’s supposed to come off that he’s protective of her, but doing things like commanding Andi to do things and intimidating her with his mood shifts just scream abusive creeper. What’s even worse is that Andi, once she falls for the guy, can’t extricate herself from him. It’s like an unhealthy obsession, to the point where she’d rather die or go completely mad rather than live without him (and that’s not teenage histrionics, she really feels that way at one point). It’s almost like she’s the ultimate worshipper for a Great Old One, and I just want to tell her that even taking out the god part, her relationship isn’t normal or healthy! How crazy is that?

I also wanted more from the main antagonist. We only see what she does in the name of her apocalypse, but I could’ve used more from her. Who was she really? Why did she do what she did? How did she become a worshipper of the Great Old Ones? I would have loved to see that explored a bit more in the story, and sadly we didn’t get that.

Ultimately though, Awoken is a different take on the Cthulhu Mythos, and I enjoyed myself despite the issues I had with the story. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the novel a 3.2. If there was a sequel, I’d consider reading it (though four years after publication and no updates from the author on her social media since October 2013, I’d say that’s not going to happen). If this sounds like your sort of thing, take a dip into the madness and see for yourself.

Now if you need me, I’ll be playing Hide n Seek Across the Dimensions with Nyarlathotep. Hail Cthulhu, and I’ll see you around.

*Please be aware, I haven’t read all of Lovecraft’s bibliography, so if this does happen somewhere in his stories, I haven’t gotten to it yet. So don’t spoil it for me, okay?

There’s been a battle raging among horror fans and horror writers for years. A fierce battle with all the monsters, deaths, and mysterious disappearances that one can expect from such a group. This battle is played out in bookstores and on bestseller lists, in interviews with magazines and television hosts, and even on message boards (because this is the age of the Internet, so why not?). The debate is: which is better, horror stories where the supernatural is the cause, or where humans are the cause?

Surprise to say, this is an actual debate among fans of horror. What makes for a scarier story, one where the horror is caused by something supernatural, or when it is caused by a human like you or me?* Or perhaps some combination of the two? Each side has their own pros and cons, and depending on which you prefer, can have a huge influence on what you tend to read and, if you’re a creator, what you put out in the world. Authors themselves tend to deal in both kinds, but if you observe an author long enough, you start to notice their preferences. HP Lovecraft and Anne Rice seem to go more for horror, while Jack Ketchum likes human horror. His Royal Scariness Stephen King has a lot of supernatural forces in his work, but there’s definitely a partiality towards human-based horror. One needs only read Misery to see that. Even in his more supernatural stories, there are usually human characters who are only to happy to cause pain and death, whether of their own volition (Carrie’s mother and Chris Hargensen in Carrie) or under the influence of a much more powerful force (Henry Bowers and Tom Rogan in It).

A great example of supernatural horror.

So is there a better source for horror? Let’s take a look, starting with supernatural-based horror. Honestly, this one’s easy to explain the appeal: whether it’s been called Satan, Lilith, dark faeries, demons, yokai, or a hundred other names, humanity has been scared of some possible other out in the universe. Something greater than human beings, possibly very malevolent, and ultimately difficult to understand. The only way to survive is to run, placate the monster, or find some way to fight back, and the last one often comes at a high death toll. There’s also greater room for imagination with supernatural stories. You can take forces right out of mythology, use them as they’re typically portrayed, or change up their mythologies. Sometimes you even come up with original creatures, like Stephen King’s Langoliers or the entity formerly known as It. There’s a lot of freedom and potential in supernatural based horror.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that you can fall into a trap of relying too much on a mythical creature’s established mythology. And if you try to create something original, you find it’s extremely difficult to do so. Not only that, but with something non-human, there’s the risk that, unlike a human villain, the reader will have difficulty connecting with them. Some readers really enjoy connecting with villains, which in this instance makes Cthulhu a bad villain choice.

My own human-based horror.

Human-based horror, on the other hand, is a lot more personal, and very true to life. Despite our lofty ideals of goodness and perfection, one needs only look at the news to know that humanity is capable of dark thoughts and acts.  Human-based horror taps into that, delving deep into what humanity is capable of without a supernatural cause or encouragement, as well as how characters and we the audience react to it. It’s a powerful, visceral way to tell a story, and is often quite effective at scaring us with not only the acts of the characters, but at what we ourselves are capable of.

And that unfortunately is also the con of human-based horror. No one likes to be exposed to their darkness or flaws, and this form of horror gets deep into those. Which for some readers can be more disturbing than they would like. Hell, for some writers it’s more disturbing than they would like, sending them to parts of their imaginations they would rather leave alone. And exposure to this sort of horror can not only leave readers scared, but depressed. I’ve written before about how the escape into imaginary horrors can be therapeutic, and sometimes people prefer an escape that doesn’t remind them of the reality they’re escaping. Or as someone from one of my writer’s groups put it, “If I wanted human horror, I’d put on CNN.”

So which is better? Well, I say neither. Like I’ve just shown, both have their pros and cons, as well as their supporters and detractors. Personally, I (and most of the members of one of my writers’ groups) prefer supernatural horror, but we all agree that the occasional jaunt into human-based horror and vice versa are great. Hell, one of my novels, Snake, is human-based horror, and it’s one of my favorite stories.  So in the end, whichever you prefer to read or write, make sure to every now and then dip into the other so as to better appreciate both once you dip out again. And if you write, whatever you write, remember to keep practicing both types, so that someday you can write it well.

What’s your take on this debate? Which is your favorite?

*Still debatable if I count as human, though.

If all goes as planned, this post is coming out on Memorial Day in the United States. It makes perfect sense to do so: Memorial Day commemorates the fallen soldiers in American history, dead from wars and conflicts and attacks and so much more. And the funny thing is, a significant number of those dead would probably have died of old age an not on the battlefield if it weren’t for the fact that at some point, someone couldn’t live in harmony with someone else, and the result was conflict.

Don’t get me wrong, I support my nation’s military, and every person brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of their loved ones. But it seems to me that harmony among humanity is a concept that died a long time ago. Or maybe it never even existed, because if you go back through human history, harmony’s exact antonym, conflict, is seen everywhere. Heck, one of the major theories on the extinction of one of man’s early ancestors, Neanderthal, was that Cro-Magnon, killed or competed with them to death. And while not all conflicts today result in death, a lot of the time humanity as a species seems to be locked in a struggle with someone or something. Countries, political or religious beliefs, people, friends, family, even science and truth. It never ends, and increasingly, conflict erupts into violence. In fact, some people like that violence, and celebrate it.

It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe, despite nearly every person on Earth saying that at some point in their lives that they want world peace, conflict is the natural state of humanity, some holdover from our evolutionary past in trying to survive predators with sharp claws and teeth that we didn’t have and kept because after we managed to fend off predators with weapons, we found ourselves fighting other families, clans, and tribes for resources! Our species is so used to conflict, we’ve become too biologically wired to live without it.

And if that’s true, then honestly it’s sad. Because when humanity and its members aren’t engaged in some form of conflict, we actually make some pretty awesome stuff. Ever listened to a tune on the raio or on YouTube and felt your heart lift? Or did you ever see a piece of art in a museum and it filled you with a sense of wonder? Or a movie made you want to go out and do something amazing? Like build something that will change how we use energy, or a new medical treatment, or even your own work of fiction?

Why do we waste so much time living in conflict with each other, and not devoting ourselves to peace, harmony, and creation?

I honestly don’t know. I think sometimes, in the world of fictions, both in the ones I read and write, I seek out those answers. Horror is full of conflicts of a unique sort: creatures, both human and otherwise, that are entirely adverse to harmony and thrive on the conflict they cause. In that sense, the protagonists are often the force of harmony come to right things. Will I ever find the answers? I don’t know that either. But I honestly hope that I can.

Because despite the fact that this species sometimes makes me wish I really was a demon in human form, I think it can still go out there and do great things when its members put their minds to it. And perhaps we can stop acting like children or like a bunch of rabid animals set into a cage and actually work together. Perhaps, without giving up cultural identities or any of the other things we use to define ourselves in our daily lives, we can still find that elusive harmony that we should all live by.

And I’d like to close this post with a slightly-modified quote from HP Lovecraft, which oddly enough, seems to fit this discussion very well. Or at least, it does to me:

That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange eons, even discord may die.

I asked in this post if harmony, the concept and the practice, were dead. But according to this quote, modified though it is, perhaps we can end the clashes that define our species, and find some way to resurrect harmony and make it a permanent part of ourselves. And maybe I’m just blathering on and on about something silly. But maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the people who read this, and myself, an impetus to change things for the better.

Thanks for reading this, my Followers of Fear. Provided nothing comes up to distract me, I’ve got another two posts coming out on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Keep an eye out for those. And until next time, as always, pleasant nightmares.

Think of every childhood monster you thought might be in your closet or under your bed or anywhere else a monster might hide during the day. What did your child-self know about the monster? Probably only that it was big, that it only came out at night and wanted to eat/kill you, and that maybe only the nightlight kept it away. Perhaps there were certain details, like fur or scales or whatever, but that was the extent of it. You didn’t know if the monster had any weaknesses, or where it came from, or why it chose your closet/bed/whatever. The monster just was, it wanted you, and you were only able to keep it away during the day. And it terrified you.

Now perhaps as a young child, you simply weren’t capable of thinking that any of that other stuff might exist for your monster. But if you confronted a creature like that as an adult, a monster where all you knew about it was its location, its active period, and its diet of humans, but nothing else, you’d be freaked. Because a monster is scary, but a monster that you don’t know how to fight is even scarier.

And that can be applied to nearly any antagonist in horror. The less is revealed about it, the scarier it is.

Case in point: vampires. When I first learned about vampires, my knowledge of what they were was limited to that they came out at night and didn’t like the sun, that they drank human blood (which could sometimes create other vampires), and that they could turn into bats. For a few years, that was all I knew about vampires, and they terrified me. If I ever came upon one, the only recourse I had was to try and survive till daylight, or I was dead! But when I found out that vampires were susceptible to stakes, garlic, crosses, and required invitations into private residences, they became a little less scary. Why? Because they were easier to deal with, and things that are easy to deal with are less terrifying than those that aren’t easy to deal with.

Contrast that with many of the works of the manga artist Junji Ito. I’ve had the opportunity to look at a bunch more of his work since reading his masterpiece Uzumaki (read my review of the manga here, as well as my review of the film adaptation here), and his works rarely tell us the hidden history or how to deal with the monsters featured within. He only gives us enough of a look to get the modus operandi of the monster, and then weaves the story around that. One of his works, Tomie, revolves around an immortal girl whose beauty often drives people to murder her/for her, and who keeps coming back to life no matter how much you kill her. We never get a full explanation of how she is able to do that. Is she some sort of genetic aberration? An undead creature brought back by a grudge? Ito doesn’t tell us, and forces the reader to wonder at the possibilities, as well as how much is being kept from us about these mysterious monsters.

Tomie, one of Junji Ito’s signature characters.

And that is terrifying. And Ito is well aware of that. He knows that the less you know about an antagonist, the more possibilities there are, and that makes the horror more effective. And not just Ito: HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Adan Ranie, and other horror authors, including me, are well aware that adding a bit more mystery to our horror stories, and not letting the readers see beneath the proverbial hood of the monster, heightens the fear the reader will feel.

And this is the main reason why I was disappointed with Alien: Covenant this past weekend, as well as the catalyst for this post. Granted, that movie had a number of problems, but one thing that Covenant and its predecessor Prometheus both do is try to give an origin story to the films’ real stars, the Xenomorphs. When it comes to antagonists in horror getting origin stories, it’s on a case-by-case basis, and in the case of the Xenomorphs, I’ve actually come to dislike the idea of giving them an origin story. Part of their power is that, even for man-eating monsters, they’re so divorced from what humans perceive as normal. In fact, the name Xenomorph means “strange form,” and it’s that strangeness that makes them so terrifying and iconic.

So when Prometheus and Covenant try to explain them to us in origin stories, they put them in contexts that we can understand, robbing Xenomorphs of what makes them so amazing. Granted, it’s a question everyone who’s seen the original films has asked at some point: “Where do the Xenomorphs come from?” But it’s not a question that has to be answered. The fact that they had such a shady origin to them was part of their mystique, causing our minds to wander and wonder if maybe, somewhere in that until origin story, there’s a dark truth out there waiting to make us wet our pants. And now, that sense of wonder is gone, because these movies have given us an origin that, rather than being dark and terrifying, is at times confusing and at other times lame.

What I’m trying to get at is that sometimes–not all the time, but a significant portion of the time–you don’t need to reveal everything about your monster. Sometimes, keeping some mystery around adds more to the story, and keeps the source of our terror effective. And in a horror story, keeping things terrifying is one of the most important aspects of horror storytelling.

Back in January I got into another Lovecraft binge (see my thoughts on that here), and during that binge I read one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, “The Call of Cthulhu.” Around the same time, I found out there was a movie version of that short story that was made in the style of a 1920’s silent film, matching the period of when the story was written, and knew I had to see it. Which turned out to be easier said than done: it’s not on any streaming service I can find, copies at my library had all been lost or damaged to the point they needed to be taken out of circulation, and I did not want to illegally stream it on my laptop. Finally, with some Amazon gift card money, I managed to buy my own copy, and after Amazon lost the package and had to send me a new copy (was that Cthulhu’s work, I wonder?), I finally got to watch the film with dinner this evening!

“Call of Cthulhu” tells the story of a man as he recollects becoming the executor of his late great-uncle’s estate, and how he discovered his uncle’s research on a cult devoted to the worship of a being known as Cthulhu. As the man goes deeper into the mystery of the cult and even conducts some research himself, he finds himself falling deeper into a rabbit hole of madness and despair that has no way out, and some things waiting within.

Firstly, this movie looks and feels like a 1920’s silent film. It was filmed using Mythoscope, a process that combines older and newer techniques to produce a film that looks like a silent picture but with much better special effects, and it looks great. You can tell that a lot of work went into making this film just right. And what’s truly amazing is that this film was made almost in a DIY sort of way: sets were made with cardboard, tape, and even a few blankets, with cast and crew sometimes working in miserable condition and using props bought off eBay to make this work. If you watch the film and then watch the behind-the-scenes video, like I did, you gain such a deeper appreciation for how well executed this film is.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this film are the actors. They are great at their work! As it’s a silent film, much of the storytelling is done through expression and movement, like in a ballet. You never once doubt for a moment that the actor are feeling the emotions they are trying to convey to us, and that just makes the film all the more amazing. It also helps that these actors are not Hollywood stars. In a major motion picture, the narrator of the story might be cast as Tom Hanks or someone else who’s good at playing an everyday guy put into extraordinary circumstances. The actors in this movie, however, often look like folks you see on a daily basis, and that instantly makes them more relatable to me.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it might be Cthulhu himself. Or maybe I do care for him. I’m kind of split on my opinion of him when he finally appears. On the one hand, he doesn’t appear on film that much, even at the climax of the story, and when he does, it’s often very quick or he’s seen as a shadow. The stop-motion used to animate him is also very well done, and he looks like how he might be styled in a 1920’s film. That’s very good. But, he is the film’s big bad, and I like to feel even jut a little intimidated by the big bads I see in film. And whenever Cthulhu is on screen, I’m just not intimidated. I guess if I had lived in the 1920’s (an age where Lon Chaney’s version of the Phantom of the Opera was so terrifying to audiences, people actually fainted in their seats or ran out the theater screaming), I might have found the stop-motion terrifying, but I’m from the age of CGI, so it takes more to terrify me. So I’m honestly unsure of whether the stuff with Cthulhu himself adds or takes away from the film.

But all in all, this is a great film, an artistic masterpiece courtesy of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society (do they have a museum to the guy yet?). And when you consider that the original short story has been called “unfilmable,” and the conditions during production tried to prove that assertion, you learn to love it even more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving “The Call of Cthulhu” a 4.8 out of 5 (as well as the title of “one of my new favorite films”). Find yourself a copy, and enjoy the experience.

Now I just need a good adaptation of Shunned House. That story is SCARY! And it feels like the sort of story that would translate very well to film.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Join me next week when I watch another Lovecraftian-influenced film. No, not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (though I probably will see that next weekend with my sister). It takes more than a tentacled monster to make it a Lovecraftian story. No, I mean the film adaptation of Junji Ito’s terrifying manga, Uzumaki.