The 10 Best Movies with Lovecraftian Influence
6. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
This is the second entry in the list by John Carpenter and it deserves to be so, because In the Mouth of Madness is the ultimate Lovecraftian film. Needless to say, it stands strong by itself as any other Carpenter film, but it is most meaningful as a tribute to Lovecraft. A tribute to both author himself and his many common archetypal motifs.
The story revolves around a skeptical insurance investigator John Trent, brilliantly played by Sam Neill, inspecting the disappearance of the famous horror writer Sutter Cane, whose works said to have an effect on his readers. Skepticism gives way to existential fears as the sense of reality crumbles.
From the very opening scene at the psychiatric hospital to the final revelation, the whole feature is weaved as a Lovecraftian novella, sharing the common theme with arguably all the Lovecraftian stories: insanity. The film is full of references to Lovecraft’s bibliography and most of the quotations of Sutter Cane are taken or adapted from Lovecraft’s stories.
The titular book is also a tribute to many grimoires -such as the famous Necronomicon- that find themselves places in the Lovecraftian mythos. It is definitely a must-watch, not only for Lovecraft enthusiasts, but for every horror fan.
7. Cloverfield (2008)
We watch how a catastrophe affects the lives of ordinary men and women. We are unaware of who the adversary is, how it ended up in our world and what to do against it, except running away. Although we are drawing a similarity to works of Lovecraft here, all of these can be said -more or less- for the whole Kaiju genre where a giant monster attacks a city. But the fact that Cloverfield is a found-footage film is truly a game changer, we witness the story after it has already happened.
We don’t know what the government or the whole world knows about the incident. We don’t know how the military responded as we don’t know about the casualties. We are just simply following a group of friends that merely tries to survive.
The use of found footage technique profoundly creates and strengthens the feeling of unawareness, helplessness and uncertainty that is easy to stumble upon in Lovecraftian horror. In a sense, most of the stories of Lovecraft have used the “found-footage” by exposing the plot throughout some memoir.
So, it is not Lovecraftian in a general sense but it enjoys a similar narrative technique and an apocalyptic tone. Also, the notion we get that the creature has most probably came out of the deep sea is icing on the cake for the Lovecraft fans.
8. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
It won’t be possible to talk about Lovecraft influence on The Cabin in the Woods without giving any spoilers, because Lovecraftian elements do not come into the play until the climax. The film starts as a typical teen-slasher but we later see a facility that supervises and conducts the attack on the teenagers as part of a mysterious ritual. Near the end of the film we get to learn that the killings were in fact offerings to Ancient Ones, to please them and keep them in their sleep.
While the backstory with the Ancient Ones is a loaded criticism of the horror genre -from the audience to its clichés- it is also Goddard and Whedon’s way of paying homage to H.P. Lovecraft. The author created numerous deities and one them is famous Cthulhu, which is a gigantic octopus-like entity in a state of slumber, worshipped by cultists.
The Cabin in the Woods is a genuine entertainment that also offers a cleverly satirical viewpoint on the slasher genre. While it does its work, the film pokes fun at many horror movie tropes and makes countless references.
9. Prometheus (2012)
Most people are acquainted with the ancient astronauts theory thanks to Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, but it was Lovecraft who first thought that ancient humans may have encountered with extraterrestrial alien races, the idea that has been explored most terrifyingly in his “At the Mountains of Madness”.
The theory has found itself a place in fiction numerous times -from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Stargate universe- and Prometheus is the last piece of art to enjoy using this staggering idea.
The film is meant to share some ties with the Alien universe, but it is only loosely connected to the preceding works and rather explores a different range of themes. It asks a vast amount of questions through android David and rarely answers them itself. Prometheus and its plot did not live up to the hype, but its philosophical aspects plainly became the ace in the hole.
Prometheus wants you to ask yourself about our place in the universe and our reason of existence as humanity. It envisions a scenario in which we meet our makers and again asks us what should that mean, what is next for us? The tale it tells is of pursuit of knowledge that is not for us to learn and the devastating consequences of that search. This is where Prometheus gets all Lovecraftian and this is where it gets most worthwhile to watch.
10. Upstream Color (2013)
“A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.” says the synopsis, eloquently put.
This is only his second film, but director and screenwriter Shane Carruth slowly makes it sure that his name is known in science fiction circles. Upstream Color is a strange film that doesn’t give away its intents quickly. Like his debut “Primer”, it will make you scratch your head figuring the plot out.
It is not a Lovecraftian film in a classical sense, but the presence of some Lovecraftian elements is more than evident in many aspects of the narrative. The storyline’s similarity to “The Colour Out of Space” is plainly visible and even the title furtively hints to that. Loss of identity, more specifically invasion of consciousness by foreign entities, is also a commonly explored theme in numerous writings of Lovecraft, illustrated most notably in his “The Shadow Out of Time”.
With limited dialogue and even scarcer exposition it presents an narrative of communication. The film is unusual and it deserves a watch at least for the uncanny feel it carries.
Honorable Mentions: Hellboy, Hellraiser, The Mist, Under the Skin, Event Horizon, Prince of Darkness. True Detective’s first season is also sadly excluded, as only feature films were considered.
Author Bio: Doruk Çetin is currently studying Computer Engineering. He has no spare time as he’s either watching, playing, reading or listening some stuff. He even tries to write every now and then.
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