Have Your Say: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Most Lovecraftian Of Them All?

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Is The Most Lovecraftian Of Them All?
Last week saw the premiere of The Void, a quite icky horror film by Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. In it, a small group of people are stuck in an empty hospital, in the middle of a forest. Hooded strangers kill anyone who tries to leave, while inside the building... "things" come alive. Michelle "Izzy" Galgana gave the film a positive review, and mentioned that the film was (directly and indirectly) inspired by the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. She is not the only one who noticed this: reviews may vary, but across the board almost everyone mentions Lovecraft, and in the comments sections, this is mostly seen as a good thing.

But what does 'Lovecraftian' mean? People will lob the term at you whenever tentacles, elder gods and space monsters make an appearance, but the man sometimes wrote a mean ghost story as well. Often accused of racism and misogyny even beyond what was considered normal in the time he lived in, H. P. Lovecraft was a noted xenophobe, considered to have been literally afraid of everything which seemed 'different' to him. His talent was that he was able to translate this constant dread into words, and managed to convey these feelings through his stories.

According to Lovecraft's fiction, we're all just blundering in the darkness, like blind mice in a lion's cage. The only reason we still exist is that we haven't accidentally bumped into something hungry, something that's a million times larger than us and hasn't noticed us yet. And scientists? They constantly try to turn on the light...

So, with that in mind, what's the best 'Lovecraftian' film out there? It doesn't necessarily need to be an adapted story by him (or even horror for that matter...), but which titles get the atmosphere right?
Chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!

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  • Splashsquelch

    Die Monster Die!

  • Ard Vijn

    Oh blimey, I still have to see that one!!! Good of you to remind me, as it is indeed an adaptation (albeit loose) of Lovecraft's THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE.

  • Finnfangfoom

    You talking to me?

  • CosmicBaron

    Anyone remembers HBO's "Cast a deadly spell" with Fred Ward playing a PI named HP Lovecraft? Not a great TV movie but it had tons of good ideas, a good rubbery monster and was cleverly playing with the post war era where the high society was meddling with witchcraft and dark arts.
    Also of the top of my head and hoping not to get too redundant if the following already got mentioned before:
    -I also have a soft spot the 2 parts Spanish made "Valdemar Legacy" for the atmosphere
    - True Detective Season 1 (Yes... It is a Lovecraft inspired show)
    -Stephen Sommers' "DEEP RISING" ( I-LOVE-DEEP RISING!!!!) has a very Lovecraftian monster
    - PHANTOMS. A flawed movie with heavy HPL presence
    -SLITHER has HPL influences in monster design
    - Jacques Tourneurs' "NIGHT OF THE DEMON". More witchcraft than Lovecraft but the madness and paranoia are very much present.
    -ALTITUDE. So-so acting, small budget but if you like tentacled monsters you'll be in for a nice treat.
    - And finally, Jean Pierre mocky's "LITAN", with its city constantly bathed in fog and populated by masked figures

  • Ard Vijn

    DEEP RISING is awesome.

  • Finnfangfoom

    Second that! And Slither! And in risk of being banned from this discussion... Phantoms! ( there, I said it!)

  • Will Schuster

    In the Mouth of Madness and From Beyond are basically his visions transported to screen.

  • Finnfangfoom

    And since I'm at it, Netflix's Stranger Things owes some debt to Lovecraft don't you think?

  • Finnfangfoom

    Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter and J.T. Petty's The Burrowers should also make the list.

  • Ard Vijn

    I love how many underrated films make this list!

  • kidlazarus

    I can't believe I forgot Starry Eyes... as well as Last Winter. Love the Burrowers... and speaking of Western horror with a Lovecraft twist, Dead Birds.

  • Finnfangfoom

    It's always easy to list the obvious ones. It gets interesting when things pop up that I've never heard of. Even if some of the films are flawed, they most certainly are worth your time. Most of them are probably underrated because they are not your regular cookie-cutter stuff, and is often the reason why these small gems go unseen. But discovering the weird and wonderful ones is the one and only reason to visit sites like this, isn't it?

  • Łukasz Grela

    Mike Flanagan's ABSENTIA and Blair Erickson's THE BANSHEE CHAPTER! (The latter directly inspired by FROM BEYOND). Both perfectly capture the sense of mindbreaking despair-inducing horrors hiding just beneath the surface of banal life, something that pretty much defines the term "lovecraftian" for me. BANSHEE CHAPTER adds some real life eeriness and horror to the mix by using the DMT drug and CIA's MK-ULTRA experiments as important plot points.

  • Finnfangfoom

    Not the best but definitely of interest are La Herencia Valdemar and it's sequel La Sombra Prohibida from 2010. It features the last role of Paul Naschy. The acting leaves a bit to be desired, but if you've got some time to spare, you should probably give these spanish productions a shot.

  • Václav Urbánek

    In the Mouth of Madness might not be the best, but it is I think the most Lovecraftian movie ever made.

  • Ultra_Mag

    Carpenter went full on HP for ITMOM, it's finally getting its due credit, a lot of re-evaluation over the last few years. Watched it last night after a long break, it's refreshing. Same goes for 'Prince of Darkness' but that's another discussion. Both strayed from the derivative Horror/SF of its era.

  • Funny that no one's mentioned the Yuzna produced NECRONOMICON, with Jeffrey Combs as HPL. It's not bad!

  • Colton Daggett

    In the Mouth of Madness has to be one of the better Lovecraftian films that isn't a direct recreation of his stories like TLHS's Call of Cthulhu, as John Carpenter apparently grew up reading Lovecraft's stories and had a bunch of respect for the material that inspired him.

  • ITMOM is so close to Lovecraft that it actually feels like an adaptation rather than just "Lovecraftian".

  • Ultra_Mag

    And it's still a "Carpenter Film" at the same time. It never feels like a rip-off in style. It's most definitely HP at its core but on the screen, it's Carpenter at his best. Might be the best combo for the genre outside along with SRS and HR Giger. Match made in Heaven(OR Hell?)

  • SRS = Sir Ridley?

  • Ard Vijn

    Agreed

  • Ard Vijn

    I also like PHANTASM, and JOHN DIES AT THE END for aiming in this general direction as well (though the book nailed the 'dread' part a lot better than the film did).

  • Ultra_Mag

    'John Dies At The End' was fantastic. I wasn't sure how that would be pulled off, and TBH, it really isn't a faithful adaption, but nonetheless it's a great ride of a film.

  • Yup, two more solid picks there!

  • Billy D.

    In The Mouth Of Madness, for my money is the greatest Lovecraft inspired film. It really does a great job of conveying the existential dread of Lovecraft's work.

  • ArmitageX

    Though not a feature-length film (it's just about an hour), Raymond Saint-Jean's "Out of Mind" captures the mood and feel of a Lovecraft story better than just about anything else I've seen. Doesn't hurt that Christopher Heyerdahl's performance as Lovecraft himself is just eerily realistic. You feel like you're watching the man himself.

    Other great ones mentioned here that I totally agree with are "In the Mouth of Madness," "The Resurrected," "Malefique," "The Beyond," and "Possession" (and, of course, Stuart Gordon's work - "Re-Animator," "From Beyond," "The Evil Clergyman," "Dagon," and "Dreams in the Witch-House").

    I'm surprised that no one's mentioned the Lovecraft Society's films - "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer in Darkness" - both fantastic. Also "Die Farbe," a German adaptation of "The Colour Out of Space" is another almost perfect representation of Lovecraft's work.

  • StrokerX

    Malefique was a great surprise. Loved it!

  • ArmitageX

    I'm surprised more people aren't aware of that film. It's not just a great Lovecraftian film, but also just a great horror film.

  • Ard Vijn

    I was convinced Clovis Cornillac was going to be this big new international star after seeing MALEFIQUE.

  • I've been meaning to check out DIE FARBE, and a mooted project that I want to see come to fruition is Richard Stanley's COLOR OUT OF SPACE. I hope it happens.

  • ArmitageX

    Yes, me too! In fact, I'd love to see pretty much anything by Stanley get made at this point.

  • kidlazarus

    those Lovecraft Society films are excellent. Love the way Call... is presented and the caligari-esque look to R'lyeh is a great touch.
    Even the 2007 Cthulhu flick by Dan Gildark is underappreciated.
    some of the Steve Daniels shorts such as Dirt Dauber and the Gibbering Horror of Howard Ghormley are solid. Especially enjoy Dirt Dauber.

  • ArmitageX

    It's been years since I saw "Cthulhu." I'll have to give it another go. I remember thinking it was pretty decent, but that the acting was a little sketchy.

  • Mehliens

    Another obvious one: A Stuart Gordon picture called DAGON (2001). Its a horror comedy directly derived from Lovecrafts work. All the tentacles you can hope for!

  • Finnfangfoom

    One of the more recent ones that I wished I liked a bit more is Gore Verbinski's A Cure For Wellness. Truly great visuals and most definitely captured a Lovecraftian mood. To bad it was struggling so much with its internal logic.

  • stripey

    Really really was looking forward to the Void, and having seen it it sort of felt like a mashup between Carpenter's original Thing and Hellraiser's Pinhead or Doctor Chanard out of the second in the trilogy.

    How about EVENT HORIZON?

  • StrokerX

    Yet not nearly even close to as good as The Thing or Hellraiser unfortunately

  • Ard Vijn

    Definitely a contestant.

  • Ben de Klos

    Another one I almost forgot: Marebito

  • Ard Vijn

    Good one!

  • dustin chang

    Possession

  • THE VOID surprised me. I was sure that its strong point would be the creature fx and gore, and that the cosmic horror stuff (requiring expensive cg) would be an afterthought, but it turned out to be the other way around. The shots of ominous nebulas, roiling clouds and the final shots ripped straight from the ending of THE BEYOND are actually the film's strongest moments. Very faithfully Lovecraftian.

    Anyway, my fave Lovecraftian movies (and straight up adaptations), the ones I think get it right in terms of tone and creatures:

    - FROM BEYOND; DAGON; DREAMS IN THE WITCH-HOUSE
    - THE FOG; THE THING; IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
    - SPRING (and RESOLUTION has strong Lovecraftian undertones too)
    - A L I E N
    - THE MIST
    - CABIN IN THE WOODS (light hearted, but it GETS Lovecraft)
    - THE EVIL DEAD (only the first one!)
    - THE BEYOND; CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD; HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
    - THE CHURCH
    - THE DESCENT
    - THE KEEP
    - DEAD AND BURIED
    - HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II

    ...etc

  • StrokerX

    yeah the best parts were cutaways of mountains and clouds. Other than that...movie kinda sucked.

  • Ard Vijn

    That's a great list!
    Also: that spoiler-blocking in your comment is a neat trick, I'll be doing that a lot from now on.

    (For those who wonder and do not fear html: it's done by typing < spoiler > . . . . . < / spoiler > around the text you want hidden)

  • Yeah it's a nifty feature!

  • Mehliens

    In my opinion still nothing touches Carpenters Apocalypse Trilogy. The Void was a lame joke, such a terribad movie.

  • Finnfangfoom

    Oh, and of course Noroi.

  • Finnfangfoom

    I'm probably alone in this, but somehow I've always had a soft spot for Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected. The Call of Cthulhu is probably one of the adaptations most true to Lovecraft's work. I love Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness. As for Lovecraftian ambiance; Uzumaki comes to mind. And probably Spring.

  • I have yet to see THE RESURRECTED, it's been on my list forever, but ALIEN and DEAD AND BURIED prove that O'Bannon really had a firm grasp on Lovecraft. I wish he could have written a direct adaptation at some point.

    Who directed THE CALL OF CTHULHU that you mention?

  • Finnfangfoom

    It's a silent black and white DIY movie from 2005, directed by a guy named Andrew Leman. I think they made it for around 50,000 bucks but it is very imaginatively done.

  • Ah, I think I remember that one, but I haven't seen it. Cheers.

  • Ard Vijn

    I was lucky enough to see THE CALL OF CTHULHU screened theatrically at an HP Lovecraft evening (together with some shorts, exhibitions and live performances). Really liked it a lot!

  • kidlazarus

    other than the usual suspects of Fulci, Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Carpenter, O'Bannon... Mariano Baino's Dark Waters comes to mind.
    enjoyed the Void. made me think Hellraiser meets Assault on Precinct 13 with The Thing's bestiary and a touch of the Beyond. The gore certain creatures were spewing after axe attacks reminded me of the the 1982 Forbidden World. Also makes me think of another Corman production that is fun, gutter-level Lovecraft: Humanoids from the Deep.

  • So DARK WATERS is really worth a watch?

  • kidlazarus

    It's a flawed film, but, has its moments.

  • Lanceyd

    From Beyond!

  • Tom Alaerts

    A few good candidates come to mind. Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness, though sadly it is not scary, only entertaining.
    Also, Michael Mann's The Keep .

  • Ben de Klos

    The French horror film "Malefique" gets it best. And yes... It's not a perfect film. But the best of the Lovecraftian bunch by far (am a big Lovecraft lover)

  • Yes!! If I'd remembered, MALEFIQUE would have been on my list too. Perfectly Lovecraftian, both tonally and visually. That film is a gem that never gets talked about when people discuss recent French horror.

    Sadly Vallete never followed it up with anything good again.

  • ArmitageX

    Nice to see "Malefique" get some love. Always thought it was such a fantastic and overlooked film.

  • bricriu .

    I wouldn't say it was the best, but off the top of my head I'd say The Beyond by Lucio Fulci. It had an ending that really captured that absolute despair Lovecraft portrayed so well.

    Also, a shout out to the first season of True Detective. It really made me want someone to talk Thomas Ligotti into writing a screenplay

  • Mateusz R. Orzech

    I had Lovecraftian feelings also while watching "City of the Living Dead". I'd throw "Blood Tide" (1982) into this Lovecraftian mix too, even if it's a flawed film.

  • Tom Alaerts

    Well, actuallt Ligotti wrote the excellent Crampton screenplay, originally designed as an X files episode, later expanded. It is very good.
    I read that he wrote another screenplay, Michigan Basement, but that one was not made public.

  • bricriu .

    Interesting. Thanks for the head's up. Will definitely be looking into it!

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