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?
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!
Following on from my Ant-Man review and ‘Marvel Needs Women‘, I am planning post-Summer of Lovecraft to do a season of Marvel Cinematic Universe reviews. Before that, however, I thought I might as well do the almost obligatory ‘ranking the MCU’ post.
Originally posted at My Life as a Doge. I’ve put it here as well as part of a notion that I might review all of the MCU releases to date now that I’m not restricting myself to unequivocally bad movies.
It is not infrequently noted that it is a crying shame that the cinematic juggernaut that is the MCU doesn’t have more female headliners, and just as common for such rejoinders to be offered as: “But it’s got Black Widow,” or “The Captain Marvel movie is in the works,” or “Jane Porter is a strong female character, even if she doesn’t do much fighting,” and all of these are true, but it is still the case that there has yet to be a female headliner. As awesome as many of them are, all of Marvel’s female characters to date are supporting roles. The most common response when the absence of female characters in any given film is mentioned is ‘but this film is about [male character X], and you can’t hold this movie responsible for the general dearth of female leads in Hollywood’. This is, as far as it goes, true, but the thing about the MCU is that it isn’t just one film, it’s twelve films, with another ten already scheduled for Phase 3, and three ongoing TV series with four more in the works (and in fairness, two of those – Agent Carter and Jessica Jones have female leads,) plus one shots, tie-ins and a colossal presence in the cultural zeitgeist.
“It wasn’t like that in the comics” is a common enough rallying cry for the aggrieved geek community these days.
Let’s be clear: I’m not having a go at geeks. Have you read this blog? I’m a geek, or possibly a nerd; it depends if the geeks will have me. I’m talking about a particular facet of geek culture, which has as many flaws and foibles as any other cultural group.
So, increasingly I start to ask myself if it isn’t a good thing sometimes when an adaptation breaks away from the original text, especially in an original text as convoluted as a comic book continuity. After all, it isn’t as if the comic books themselves haven’t cleaned house from time to time, with either a universe shattering Crisis event or an outright reboot. It’s needed too, with the two main continuities – DC and Marvel – each spanning dozens of titles and decades of publishing history, including a lot of highly contradictory, controversial, and on occasion just plain dumb stuff.
So, what change is okay when adapting a comic book for the screen? What change is too much change?