Tuesday, 10 September 2013

H.P. Lovecraft: A guest post by Brandon Engel

Top 5 Films Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft

Within the realm of fantasy and horror literature, Howard Phillips Lovecraft is a force to be reckoned with.
It’s been 12 years since the release of The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, a wonderful compilation of Lovecraft’s most popular writings, including “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, “At the Mountain of Madness,” and “The Dunwich Horror.”
Although he didn’t achieve any monumental commercial success during his lifetime, the stories he wrote went on to inspire countless other authors and filmmakers.

Here is a look at the top 5 films inspired by H.P. Lovecraft:

5. The Call of Cthulhu (2005) -- This is director Andrew Leman’s interpretation of Lovecraft’s story by the same name, which was originally published in the Weird Tales pulp magazine in 1926. The film attempts to replicate the aesthetic of silent films from the twenties. It tells the story of a young man who, while investigating the death of his uncle, learns about Cthulhu, a large, winged, evil sea-god with a head shaped like an octopus who slumbers under the sea, and is worshipped by violent cultists. Leman said he wanted to make the film look like it might have if it had been made in 1926, when the story was first published.

4. From Beyond (1986) -- It’s entirely possible that we haven’t included enough films directed by Stuart Gordon, so here’s another one just for good measure. This one is reminiscent of the work of David Cronenberg, and serves to highlight the degree to which Lovecraft inspired the “body horror” subgenre which Cronenberg championed (“body horror” films deal theoretically with anxieties surrounding bodily harm, parasitic bodily growths, and bizarre medical practices).
In From Beyond, a group of scientists are experimenting with a device which stimulates the pineal gland. What they don’t realize is that this treatment enables patients to connect with monstrous entities who live in a parallel universe. Those creatures begin to cross over into our reality, to wreak havoc amongst the scientists: talk about “unintended consequences!”

3. In the Mouth of Madness (1994) -- This is director John Carpenter’s most direct tribute to Lovecraft -- and I only say “most direct” because so many of his films have clearly borrowed from other works by Lovecraft. This one borrows very clearly from The Shadow Over Innsmouth and At the Mountains of Madness. The film follows the story of insurance investigator Josh Trent (Sam Neill) who is hired to investigate the disappearance of Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow), a popular horror novelist. Cane disappeared right before the deadline for his last novel, and Trent has been tasked with recovering the manuscript. Trent is eventually sucked into Hobb’s End, the fictional location of Cane’s novels, where he learns that he is but a character within the artificial reality of one of Cane’s novels. An imaginative, well-constructed, and self-reflexive horror film, this one is loaded with all sorts of confusing twists and elaborate special effects.

2. Dagon (2001) -- Another Stuart Gordon outing. Despite what the title would lead you to believe, the film is actually more of an adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth than it is his short story, Dagon. The film tells the story of a man and woman who  wind up stranded in a remote Spanish fishing village after a boating accident. They soon learn that island is inhabited by strange human/fish hybrids, who are the children of Dagon, an underwater sea god. As a work of literature, it’s a fascinating piece of what would later be dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos -- Lovecraft’s pantheon of (commonly) malignant gods who are completely indifferent to humanity.

1. Re-Animator (1985)-- Stuart Gordon’s cult classic adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story, Herbert West-Re-Animator, a story which was originally published in 1922. The story follows the exploits of Dr. Herbert West, a mad scientist who has developed a serum which reanimates dead bodies -- although, he hasn’t quite perfected it. One of the major issues he comes up against is brain decay. The body has to be re-animated before rigor mortis sets in, or the re-animated corpses are hostile, unpredictable, and don’t seem to be inhibited by any sort of conscience. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, it’s a grim sort of musing about individuals in the medical field “playing God.” Ethical ponderings aside, the film itself will probably best remembered for the scene where a severed, re-animated head makes advances on a restrained woman (Barbara Crampton). Pretty gross!

Author Bio: Brandon Engel is an entertainment blogger with GetDirectTV.org whose primary interest include cult horror movies and classic works of fiction. Brandon's favorite Lovecraft story is "The Dunwich Horror"

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