Friday, 11 October 2013

HP Lovecraftathon

Portrait of Lovecraft by Juhoham
That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.’

Howard Philips Lovecraft is a name that has become synonymous with macabre tales of cosmic horror, rife with the notion that just outside our realms of perception, is a cold, dark and nullifying world populated by unknowable and delirious beings that exist only to wreak chaos, destruction and madness. His work is guaranteed to disturb, provoke and chill the marrow of all who read it…

Keeping up with the literary theme kicked off by National Poetry Day, throughout the remainder of October I’ll be taking a look at a few film adaptations of Lovecraft’s work in the lead up to All Hallow's Eve. Despite his prolific output and formidable legacy, Lovecraft film adaptations are not exactly rife and his work has been notoriously difficult to translate to the screen. His plots are draped around lengthy descriptions of atmosphere, alien landscapes and the emotional and psychological strain his protagonists experience as they delve into forbidden texts and knowledge.

An unparalleled and queasily misanthropic purveyor of very weird fiction - saturated in such an abundance of bleak pessimism it renders the writings of Nietzsche seem positively optimistic by comparison - Lovecraft's anguished writings insist that our universe is fundamentally alien and ultimately incomprehensible to human minds. His tales are based around rational, academic and reasonable protagonists who obsessively probe into the dark corners of our universe seeking unattainable knowledge, only to be driven insane by the terror of the ultimate reality they momentarily glimpse. Knowledge is forbidden and very deadly in Lovecraft’s dank and morbid stories.

Lovecraft is perhaps famed most for his fetid Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interwoven stories wrapped around a self contained mythology that boasts a frenzied pantheon of sinister, life-extinguishing entities known as ‘The Great Old Ones’. These powerful beings from the outer reaches of space once ruled the earth, but now lay dormant – ‘dead but dreaming’ – waiting for a time when ‘the stars are right’ to return and eradicate human existence. The most famous of these is of course, Cthulhu itself – a hideous cosmic being of fathomless proportions that provokes madness and abject terror in all who are unfortunate enough to encounter its massive, tentacled and writhing presence. Titles which form the Cthulhu Mythos include The Nameless City, The Festival, The Call of Cthulhu, The Dunwich Horror, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Thing on the Doorstep, At the Mountains of Madness, The Shadow Out of Time and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. These tales contain malignant, lurid atmospheres and feverish situations - matched only by their evocative titles – in which scholarly narrators are plunged into insanity when they uncover the existence of The Great Old Ones and their followers.

Now regarded as one of the most influential Horror writers of the 20th Century, Lovecraft has left an undeniably haunting legacy that was only fully appreciated posthumously. His Cthulhu Mythos carries on as various writers such as August Derleth, Clark Ashton Smith, Ramsey Campbell and Robert Bloch have added to it over the years.

So, dear reader, I urge you to dust off your copy of the Necronomicon by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, tether your Black Goat of the Woods and join me, if you dare, as I delve into some cinematic adaptations/interpretations of HP Lovecraft's darkest visions...

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Die Monster Die (Based on The Colour Out of Space)
Castle Freak (Very loosely based on The Outsider)
The Dunwich Horror (Based on, well, The Dunwich Horror)
Dagon (Based on Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth)
The Haunted Palace (Based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
Cool Air (Based on the short story of the same name)
Re-Animator (Based on Herbert West: Reanimator)
The Resurrected (Based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
The Call of Cthulhu (Based on the short story of the same name)

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