H.P Lovecraft has given horror fans so much in the way of the occult. Including one of the best fictional books of all time, "The Necronomicon". Found in the 1924 short story, "The Hound" and said to have been written by the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred, this book contains the history of the "Elder Gods" and it can be used to summon them. The book has shown up in so many great movies, but the most recognizable is the Evil Dead franchise. Also the short story, "The Call of Cthulhu" which was published in 1928 in Weird Tales, generated so much excitement that even today, we have writers adding their own spin on the myth, like the creators of South Park. Many Sci-Fi horrors, like Aliens and The Thing, have taken imagery from these stories and built there own creatures. Like Poe, direct translations of his work to film seems to be far and few between.
Here are 5 Films inspired by H.P Lovecraft
5. The Dunwich Horror (1970) - Dr. Henry Armitage is at Miskatonic University concluding a lecture on the very rare and priceless book, The Necronomicon. After the lecture he hands this priceless book off to his student, Nancy and her friend, Elizabeth to return to the library. When they put the book back in the library, an odd fellow named Wilbur Whateley asks if he can see the book. The girls apologize and tell Wilbur that the library is closing and to come back tomorrow. Wilbur uses his hypnotic gaze and Nancy gives in and tells him to sit over there. Dr. Armitage comes down to the library and sees Wilbur paging through the Necronomicon. In his best outraged that anyone could be touching this priceless book tone of voice, Dr. Armitage asks who he is and what he's doing. Wilbur tells him his name and lets the doctor know that his great great grandfather, Oliver Whateley had a copy of this book back in the day and was hung for it. The girls come over to see what all the hub bub is about and Dr. Armitage, now pleased as punch invites everybody out for diner. After diner, Wilbur realizes that he just missed his bus back to Dunwich, so Nancy offers to give him a ride home. When they get to his house, Wilbur invites her in for tea and she meets Grandpa Whateley, who pulls Wilbur aside and asks what he's doing and how he doesn't want her to find out about you know who. Wilbur tells him to relax and to leave him alone. So he does and Wilbur disables Nancy's car. When she goes to leave, she can't cuz her car won't start, so Wilbur invites her to have some tea and stay the night. She does and he drugs her tea. That night, she starts having these crazy acid dreams about rituals and naked people and when she wakes up, Wilbur asks her to go for a walk in the park and shows her a ritual alter. Best date ever! Elizabeth is worried about her friend, so she grabs Dr. Armitage and they head out to Whateley's house. When they arrive they find that Nancy is in good spirits and is staying the weekend. The two do not give up though and investigate the Whateley family and find Wilbur's mother, Lavinia is in a mental institution. Dr. Cory tells them that Lavinia had 2 babies that night, Wilbur and the other was stillborn and this drove her mad as a hatter. On the advice from Dr. Cory's nurse, Elizabeth goes to Wilbur's house to get Nancy out of there but ends up running into a psychedelic monster in the upstairs room and is killed. Can Nancy be saved from these crazy dreams by Dr. Armitage and can Wilbur be stopped in whatever it is he's doing? And what the fuck is in the room upstairs? This is director Daniel Haller's second and last kick at the Lovecraftian cat because he did "Die Monster Die" a few years before with Boris Karloff but he still doesn't seem to be able to capture the horror of it all. The cast is okay with Dean Stockwell putting in a much better performance as Wilbur, than he did for "The Werewolf of Washington" and Sandra Dee as Nancy, which is refreshing to see her moving away from comedy and doing her first horror movie. The story seems mixed up and the special effects are cheap and hokey. Too many dream sequences and the characters aren't authentic at times. Was bored for some of it, but I did enjoy the end. Some people consider it a classic, you can watch it if you want but don't say I didn't warn you.
4. The Lurking Fear (1994) - It's Christmas! John Martense is out of jail and he has half a map to a buried treasure. He goes to visit his old family friend, Knaggs the mortician. Knaggs has been holding onto the other half of the map since John's father died. Apparently, John's father ripped some guy named Bennett. He had Knaggs sew it up in a corpse and then John's father buried the body at the Leffert's Corners Cemetery. Unfortunately, Knaggs has some work to finish but he'll meet John up at the cemetery in a little bit. John heads out to collect his fortune with half the map but just as John leaves, Bennett and his gang pay Knaggs a visit. They kill Knaggs and take his half of the map and head out to meet John. When John gets to the cemetery, he notices that a lot of the graves have dynamite on them and when he tries to remove one of the charges, he is met with a gun to the face. John is lead into a church by Cathryn. There he meets her rag tag group of church people, who are trying to get revenge on the humanoid creatures lurking under the floorboards. And if things couldn't get any worse, Bennett and his gang arrive, take everyone hostage and threaten to kill everyone unless John gets him his money. Can John get the money and survive Bennett and even if he does can they all get away from the humanoids lurking below? This movie was produced by Charles Band and his Full Moon company, so I wasn't really expecting too much. Even Lovecraft movie staple, Geoffry Coombs (Re-Animator), Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser) or Vincent Schiavelli can't save this mess. The story is all over the place and by the end of the movie the creatures don't even care anymore. The make up on the creatures is pretty good but that's really the only thing going for this film. This one is even disappointing for a Full Moon picture, but check it out if you got the guts.
3. Dagon (2001) -Paul Marsh and his girlfriend, Barbara are vacationing off the coast of Spain with their friends, Howard and Vicki. A massive storm rises and knocks the boat into some rocks. Everyone is OK, but Vicki's leg is trapped under some debris and the water is rising. Paul and Barbara volunteer to take the life raft to the nearest village and bring help. When they reach the village, it seems deserted and just when they are about to give up, they are finally greeted by an old strange looking priest. They explain to him what has transpired and he tells them that this fishing boat, who now has a crew, will bring Paul over to save their friends and Barbara can go to the hotel in town to call for help. They agree and Paul heads out to save their friends. While at the hotel, Barbara is grabbed and taken captive by the hotel clerk and the priest. Paul gets back to their boat but his friends have mysteriously vanished, so he gets back on the boat and heads back to shore. Once on shore, Paul goes to the hotel, finds Barbara's lighter and has the worst conversation in the world with the Hotel clerk. He finally gives up and heads up to his room to wait for Barbara. While there, he looks out the window and sees an angry mob of strange looking villagers, pointing at him and growing in numbers. Paul high tails it, just as the mob is breaking down his door. He eventually runs into a room, where he finds Howard. Or at least what was Howard! Apparently these people took all of Howard's skin off him and have it up to dry. Can Paul find Barbara and get off this island and unlock the mystery of this strange place before they pull his skin off? This movie is directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-animator) and produced by Brian Yuzna (Bride of the Re-animator) and who have a pension for working with Lovecraft themes. Although the story is based more on "The Shadows Over Innsmouth" and less on the title story "Dagon", it's still an OK movie. The acting isn't great but some of the special effects are pretty cool and there are some humorous moments that make the film better. Not the best Lovecraft, but still worth a view.
2. Necronomicon (1993) - H.P Lovecraft arrives at a monastery, that he's been going to for years to study and requests to read a book. While the monk gets him the book, Lovecraft steals a key from the monk. Once the monk has left the room, Lovecraft slips away from his study and down the hall to retrieve what he really came for, the Necronomicon. He opens the door with the key and opens the vault. He grabs the book but he there's a sound that spooks him and he drops the key into a grate. No matter, Lovecraft sits down and begins reading the tales of the Necronomicon. The first being "The Drowned" Upon the tragic death of his uncle, Edward De La Poer returns to New England to inherit the old hotel. He is told that his uncle Jethro's family had perished in a boat accident and after their deaths, Jethro renounced God and began dealing with black magic. Jethro invoked the spirits using the Necronomicon and tried to bring his wife and child back from the dead but this only lead to his madness and suicide. Edward, who is still distraught over the death of his wife, thinks this could be a great way to bring her back. He finds the Necronomicon and performs the ritual, but will he have the same luck as his uncle or will everything work out? In the next story, "The Cold", top notch news hound, Dale Porkel is investigating a string of strange murders in the Boston area that have occurred over the past years. This brings him to a boarding house, where a mysterious woman with a rare disease tells him the story of Emily Osterman, who she claims was her mother. She says that her mother arrive here looking for a room and was told by Lena, the house owner, that one was available but she could not disturb Dr. Madden upstairs. She agreed and life was good until her step father tracked her down and tried to rape her again. Luckily, Dr. Madden steps in and stabs him with a scalpel. The step father falls down the stairs and dies. Yeah! Emily is bandaged up and sent to bed, but she hears strange noises in the night and goes to investigate. She follows the sounds up to Dr. Madden's room, opens the door and sees Dr. Madden and Lena cutting up her step father into pieces. Yeah!? She screams, then faints and when she wakes up Dr. Madden reassures her that it was just a dream. The next day though, the cops are asking about the death of her step father, so Emily rushes to Dr. Madden and he comes clean. He shows her the Necronomicon and the great recipe it has using spinal fluid and cold air to maintain a youthful appearance. He injects a rose with the serum and tells her as long as it doesn't see sunlight it won't die. He gives her the rose and then they have sex. Lena, who was in love with Dr. Madden finds out and chases Emily away. Months later, after realizing she is pregnant she returns to find Dr. Madden and Lena killing more people to survive. Can Emily survive this relationship? Is the reporter going to bring them all in? The last story, "Whispers", two cops are on a high speed chase to catch the notorious killer known as "The Butcher" . Officer Paul and Officer Sarah have just broken up and Sarah tells Paul she is pregnant. Paul wants her to slow down but she wants to catch the killer. The argument leads to Sarah flipping the car. When she comes to, she sees Paul being dragged away and she quickly calls for back up. She gets out of the car and follows the bloody trail into a warehouse. In the warehouse, she comes across a older man in glasses claiming to be the warehouse owner, Mr. Benedict. He says that "The Butcher is just a tenant of his and he can lead her to him. She follows him and they are shot at, but it's only Mrs. Benedict, the blind wife of Mr. Benedict. Sarah takes the shotgun away from the blind woman and Mr. Benedict leads her into the bowels of the building. Can Sarah find her ex lover and escape the Butcher? Back to Lovecraft, he is now discovered by the monks and by reading these stories he has summoned a Demon! The demon is rising and he and the monks have to stop it in time but can they? This is a pretty good anthology of Lovecraft themed shorts. Headed up by Brian Yuzna who directs Lovecraft piece and the "Whispers" and all the "Library" pieces with Geoffry Combs as Lovecraft. I really liked director Kazunori Ito's "The Cold" , it has some of the best special effects I've seen in these films. The only one I wasn't that crazy about was "The Drwoned" that left me a little flat but the other stories make this one worth checking out for sure.
1. The Haunted Palace (1963) -In 1765, the townspeople of Arkham, New England watch as another young girl wanders helplessly through the streets heading towards the Curwin Mansion. Tonight though, they're fed up with Joseph Curwin and his mistress, Hester, so they pick up their torches and pitchforks and head over to confront them. Lead by local yokel and ex fiance of Hester, Edgar Weeden, the townspeople confront Curwin and after very little deliberation decide to burn him. Before Curwin is set aflame, he curses Weeden and the rest of the town and tells them that he'll come back from the dead and kill them all! Fast forward 110 years, Curwin's great great grandson, Charles Dexter Ward and his wife, Anne arrive in Arkham to look over there new mansion that they inherited. When they walk into the local pub to get directions, the townspeople give them the cold shoulder, and only Dr. Willet is willing to give them directions. Once at the mansion, they notice a painting of the late Joseph Curwin and cannot believe the resemblance to Charles. The are greeted by the caretaker, Simon and is shown around mansion. The next day, Anne is preparing to leave and Charles tells her that he has changed his mind and thinks they should stay for a bit before they sell the house. Anne is disappointed but she says fine and they stay. As time goes by, Anne notices that the town is full of deformed children and her husband is totally obsessed with the Joseph Curwin painting. Dr. Willet comes over and explains that the town believes that the deformities are the cause of the Curwin curse. He tells them, that the towns people believed the Joseph Curwin had in his possession the Necronomicon, an evil book of spells! The towns people also believed that Joseph Curwin and two other warlocks using this book were going to try and summon the elder gods and try and mate women to create a race of super beings! So, the towns people burned him alive. He tells them that seeing Charles reminds them of the horror that Curwin brought and it might be best if they leave. Anne is agrees with Dr. Willet but Charles decides that he shall stay and if Anne wants to leave then she should do so. Anne stays because she loves her husband and sees that he is changing but doesn't understand why. She is right, it seems as though that the spirit of Joseph Curwin has been slowly taking over Charles body. The ghost of Curwin and Simon must keep him in the house until the transformation is complete, then and only then can they summon the elder gods and create their race of super humanoids! Can Anne's love save her husband with the help of Dr. Willet and somehow release this town from this awful curse? Watch and see! Although it is named after an Edgar Allan Poe poem, "The Haunted Palace", the story itself is loosely based on Lovecraft's short novel "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward". Roger Corman does a nice job, giving it a gothic feel and the sets are similar to those he used during his Poe films. Vincent Price is killer and gives a terrific performance as both the ever loyal and pleasing husband, Charles Dexter Ward and the evil warlock, Joseph Curwin. Lon Chaney Jr and Elisha Cook Jr are also excellent in smaller roles but still give stand out performances. There isn't any blood in the film but it's an interesting take on the Charles Dexter Ward story. Great film and totally worth watching.
So after watching these films, one can see the difficulty in creating the special effects that would compliment Lovecraft's written word. How can someone create something that is so horrific that it can't be named or even imagined? Maybe unseen horror is better left to the minds of the audience and that is where the true terror lies.
P.S - I love the Re-Animator but I already wrote about it in a previous blog. If I hadn't I would be on this list.