The Summer of Lovecraft: What Have We Learned?

HPL! HPL! Is the source of all our pain!
HPL! HPL! Is the source of all our pain!

Well, it’s been over a month and we’ve finally come to the end of the Summer of Lovecraft! We’ve watched a lot of Lovecraft adaptations (and a few that weren’t actually Lovecraft adaptations at all) and what have we learned from the experience?

  1. There are a lot of shitty Lovecraft adaptations out there.
    Okay; you may say this isn’t news, but damn there are a lot of these things. The appeal to filmmakers seems to be endless, despite the fact that 80-90% of the finished products are complete dingus.
  2. The best of the bunch are the ones that can fit into another genre.
    Those adaptations that make decent films are basically those based on the stories that can most easily be turned into a story in an extant film genre (Herbert West: Re-Animator and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,) because pretty much all of the adaptations do this. As we noted at the start, Lovecraft is not a very cinematic writer, so with very few exceptions (Cool Air) to make a film the writers and directors have to put the essentials of the plot into a gothic horror, slasher, splatter movie or contemporary horror, along with liberal helpings of gore, jump-scares and boobies.
  3. New interpretations work.
    When Lovecraft inspires people to go in new directions, that’s pretty cool — whether that’s the over-the-top horror-comedy of Re-Animator or the introspective examination of outsider-ness of Cthulhu. Heaven forbid that we only get story-accurate retellings for ever and ever. One or two are nice, though.
  4. “Lovecraftian” is a very elastic term.
    Some horror fans use “Lovecraftian” as a sort of generic compliment — any reasonably intelligent horror movie is Lovecraftian, no matter how unrelated to Lovecraft’s work. For others, it just means tentacles. For others, it just seems to mean … I don’t know what. If you can associate the name with something like “Whispers,” it can mean anything.
  5. Lovecraftian fiction is contemporary fiction.
    Stuart Gordon is insistent on setting his adaptations in the modern day, as do many others, because Lovecraft wasn’t writing period fiction. Given the misanthropy of many of his protagonists, even the manners of the age have little impact, and the horror of most of his pieces lies in the here and nowness of the setting, the conflict of ancient and modern, familiar and alien (be that literally alien or just newfangled,) and that loses something when the setting isn’t here and now.

It’s been a blast, and sometimes a chore. I’m looking forward to our next project, to be announced… soonish. Until then, there will still be our regular views. Happy reading, happy watching!

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