Today is HP Lovecraft‘s Birthday. The horror icon was born on August 20th 1890. His legacy has expanded well beyond his work and gone on to influence some of the greatest minds in horror including Clive Barker, Stephen King and John Carpenter. In fact his influence is so pervasive in the horror genre that you will routinely hear the word ‘Lovecraftian’ used to describe works with an obvious bit of the writer in them. To celebrate what would of been his 124 birthday, I bring you a list of some of the best Lovecraftian horror. Please note that only a few of these are adaptations of his work, many are films which draw on the themes pioneered in Lovecraft’s work.
In The Mouth Of Madness Part of master of horror John Carpenter’s loose ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’, it is often hailed as the best Lovecraft movie ever, despite being an original concept. It tells the story of a man tasked with tracking down a Stephen King-esque writer who has disappeared without turning in the latest manuscript for his series of novels. The novels have been driving people to commit violent acts and have become best selling books, with film rights already sold for the latest volume which no one has even read. Darkly funny, gruesome, bizarre and with way more to say than any movie made in 1994 has any business having.
The Thing The best of Carpenter’s trilogy. Critically panned upon it’s release, The Thing is now considered one of the greatest horror films ever made. A group of researchers stumble upon something from outerspace. When it begins to replace the men one by one, chaos begins to erupt. Come for the best practical effects ever. Stay for the nihilistic study of identity.
Prince of Darkness The weakest of Carpenter’s trilogy, it oozes with the eerie references to ambigous evil that permeate Lovecraft’s work. Rather than trading in standard religious imagery, Carpenter gives us pillars of green ooze, inter-demensional portals and transmissions from 1999 (which in 87 was the future). Definitely worth checking out even if it is the weak middle entry.
The Re-Animator Pretty much what it says on the box. Adapted from the titular story, it tells the story of a scientist who discovers a process by which to re-animate the dead. A classic flick that started one of the longest spanning horror franchises.
From Beyond Stuart Gordon brings us the classic tale of a scientist who ends up creating a way to see beings from other dimensions. It’s got psych wards, some fantasticly gooey practical effects and is an incredibly colorful movie, awash in pinks and neon colors.
Banshee Chapter From Beyond is retold as a paranoid found footage thriller about government experiments, number channels, LSD and the horrors of the unknown. Going into it, I was unaware it was a Lovecraft adaptation and as a result nearly went full blown Scanners. I often poo-poo found footage but I love this terrifying little gem.
Absentia This baby shocked me when I checked it out on Netflix one day. It takes a shoe string budget and crafts a terrifying story of insectoid monsters from another dimension who steal people from our world. It starts off as any good Lovecraftian horror should, low key before building to a wild conclusion.
Midnight Meat Train This movie left a lot of fans pissed. SPOILER ALERT the butcher kills people to be fed to giant evil monsters living under New York. That’s right bitches! Full blown Ancient Ones slumbering under the city that never sleeps! While it isn’t the greatest movie, it’s definitely a lot of fun. One of those horror movies that was dumped direct to video, but could have totally done well in theaters. It also is the only movie where Bradley Cooper didn’t get on my nerves other than Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Mist All good Lovecraftian horror has to be about the human drama. It can’t all just be death cults and tentacles. When a thick fog blankets a town, a group of people are trapped in the local grocery store. In the mist lurk various monsters which mostly go un-glimpsed. Frank Durabont (aka the dude who ran The Walking Dead when it was still good) gives us everything we could want. We have the woman who insists on leaving despite the clear and present danger, the survivors split into two opposing groups, Marcia Gay Harden chewing scenery like her daughter Carrie just asked to go to the prom and Sam Witwer in uniform! But most importantly, that ending! Bonus points if you can get a hold of the DVD that features the movie in Black and White.
Enemy Beards, strippers, spiders and doppelgangers. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an actor and a history professor who happen to be identical. Life swapping ensues. A slow burn thriller that will leave you with so many questions. Come for the Donnie Darko-bearded twin wank bank material and stay for a disturbing and insane movie about identity and spiders.