Greetings from the Ether,
As the first part of our “Lovecraft in Film” series, we will be exploring 25 films that, while not direct adaptations, are inspired either partially or greatly by Lovecraft’s fiction. Prepare for madness as we embark into the unknown. These films are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER. This is not a ranked list.
100. UZUMAKI (SPIRAL) (2000)
Based on the manga of the same name by Junji Ito, Uzumaki has been called “the scariest movie you’ve never seen.” The inhabitants of a small Japanese town become increasingly obsessed with and tormented by spirals. Containing the cosmic madness that Lovecraft’s fiction often portrayed, Ito has openly cited Lovecraft as an inspiration for his work. Uzumaki holds nothing back. Prepare for some astonishingly horrifying imagery.
99. CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)
Being more a satire of the horror genre, Cabin in the Woods is now considered a modern classic. When five friends go for a retreat to a cabin, they end up discovering a dark truth concerning their own lives and the fate of the world. While the the majority of the film isn’t Lovecraftian in nature, the end is where we get our big dose of Cosmic Horror. We won’t spoil it for you, but this is definitely a film all horror hounds and Lovecraftian enthusiasts alike should see.
98. PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
Discovering ancient artifacts? Check. Said artifacts can lead to the end of the world? Check. Everything you could hope for in a film inspired by Lovecraft’s work. You’ll be seeing John Carpenter’s name again in this series and it’s for good reason. He had a so-called “Lovecraftian trilogy” with this film, The Thing, and In the Mouth of Madness. Prince of Darkness is definitely the most underrated, but it nonetheless contains some shocking imagery and ancient evil that we can all love.
97. CRIMSON PEAK (2015)
Now, while we understand that this is a film that was largely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” we have to remember that Lovecraft was heavily inspired by Poe, and that director Guillermo del Toro was also pegged to direct the big-screen adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness. There’s still Lovecraftian themes in this film, concerning the despicable nature of mankind, the secretive nature of horror, and, of course, a bit of body horror. Lovecraft’s fiction was deeply inspired by Gothic ghost stories, and even with his lesser known works like the novella The Mound, which he ghostwrote, it’s not far off to say Crimson Peak took some inspiration from H.P., from the story aspect as well as from the director’s chair.
96. SLITHER (2006)
Long before Michael Rooker appeared on The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn (who also directed Guardians of the Galaxy) tackled a film that is by and large a Lovecraftian love fest. You have everything you could ever ask for: cosmic entities infecting people, grotesque transformations, body horror, tentacles, you name it. Incredibly underrated film.
95. TRUE DETECTIVE (2014)
While the startling first season that sent shockwaves through all viewing communities isn’t paranormal, one could certainly be mistaken for thinking otherwise throughout the season’s epic eight episodes. We follow two detectives through several timelines as they track down a serial killer who performs cult-like mutilations on their victims. The primary antagonist is known as the Yellow King, which is a blatant homage to Robert W. Chambers’ stories that revolved around Hasthur, the King in Yellow. Chambers was perhaps Lovecraft’s greatest influence, and the mentions of Carcosa and the Yellow King, as well as the pessimistic themes revolving around humanity and its insignificance are definitely Lovecraftian, even if only through the inspiration H.P. found in Chambers’ work. There have been critics, however, of creator Nic Pizzolatto’s “copying” of themes from Chambers and especially Thomas Ligotti. This article at the Lovecraft E-Zine where Mike Davis and Jon Padgett discuss the ethics of the inspiration is quite fascinating. Yet, it is impossible to deny how impacting that first season of True Detective was, and how it opened the door to a whole new generation of purveyors to the Weird.
94. CREEPSHOW (1982)
An anthology based on the E.C. comics of the 1950s, this film has two segments particularly inspired by Lovecraft in one way or another. “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” which is based on a short story by Stephen King titled “Weeds,” has echoes of Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space,” and “The Crate” reminds us of “The Dreams in the Witch House” in certain ways, but primarily bolsters that “hidden horror” that Lovecraft was so well-known for.
93. THE RITUAL (2017)
Based on the novel by Adam Nevill, The Ritual was a smash when it debuted on Netflix. This film has many of the unique qualities that make Weird Fiction so fascinating. The ancient evil of parts unknown, the dark nature of man, occult mysteries, and the overwhelming sense of uselessness that makes all Cosmic Horror fascinating. We follow several friends as they go on a retreat in the mountains after the death of their close friend, only to find hidden horrors beyond imagining in the woodlands. We highly recommend this film, if only so you can witness the mind-bending monster design toward the end.
92. EVIL DEAD (FRANCHISE) (1981-PRESENT)
An undying franchise that has remained relevant all these decades later, who could ever forget the low budget horror smash from Sam Raimi where a group of friends go to a cabin in the woods and discover an ancient evil? The evil book they find and read from is the Necronomicon, which is a direct reference to the tome from much of Lovecraft’s fiction. Add some body horror, gore, and a sense of hopelessness, and you have yourself one helluva film.
91. UROTSUKIDOJI: LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND (1987)
Yes, when we said film and television, we meant anime as well. Anime is an oft forgotten medium among genre fans that holds some of the most gripping storytelling out there. Legend of the Overfiend is no exception. Here we have an ancient god that is going to awaken after 3000 years to take back the world. Sound familiar? It’s definitely enough Cthulhu Mythos inspiration to pique our interest and to include it on this list. We encourage you to check it out as well!
90. HEMOGLOBIN (BLEEDERS) (1997)
With sparkles of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” Hemoglobin is definitely a film that flies below the radar. We have a man traveling to an island to meet his girlfriend’s family, discovering dark truths he wished he’d never uncovered. Check this one out even if only for the practical effects alone.
89. THE LAST WAVE (1977)
An older entry, this film contains several Lovecraftian themes, between hidden cults, end-of-the-world prophecies and premonitions, and a knack for Voodoo, which was seen heavily throughout “The Call of Cthulhu” among other stories, The Last Wave is an underappreciated gem among the older flicks. There’s a good bit of startling imagery, and for an older film, it holds up well.
88. MONSTERS (2010)
Four years before Gareth Edwards spearheaded the American Godzilla (2014), we were presented with an indie sci-fi/horror that navigated through a world ravaged by monsters. We don’t see them very often, but when we do, they are Lovecraftian as hell. Their apparent emergence from unknown regions is also an ode to Lovecraft’s works, and this is definitely a lower budget monster film that holds some unique qualities. It was successful enough to warrant a sequel, albeit one that isn’t nearly as good as the first entry.
87. MAREBITO (2004)
Perhaps the most underrated film on this first part of the series, Marebito is Lovecraftian in many ways, both directly and indirectly. We don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but we will say that there are the themes of madness, capturing otherworldly or cosmic experiences through technology, Lovecraftian visions, and even a direct reference when one of the characters mentions “mountains of madness.” This is a haunting film that warrants several viewings, if you can handle it.
86. VIDEODROME (1983)
Arguably one of David Cronenberg’s best films, Videodrome explores human nature and the evolution of mankind through technology. Both Lovecraftian themes when explored in the ways that Videodrome achieves. There are occult themes, madness, hallucinogenic experiences, body horror, everything you could ever wish for. We couldn’t recommend this film enough.
85. THE SHRINE (2010)
A film that flew under the radar, The Shrine tackles a story revolving around two journalists who are investigating mysterious disappearances in a small village. They uncover occult secrets, and we are offered a platter of horror and mysticism. Lovecraft’s affinity for the occult is well-known, and The Shrine does a great job of shining on our own curious predilections toward unknown horrors, which is what makes Cosmic Horror so damn interesting.
84. THE THING (1982)
Part of Carpenter’s “Lovecraftian trilogy,” The Thing is perhaps one of the most well-known Lovecraftian films of all time. While it was a box office failure, the horror epic has gone on to become a bonafide classic. Echoing At the Mountains of Madness, Carpenter’s The Thing follows a group of men in the Arctic discovering a horrifying entity that can shape shift and take on the likeness of other people. Brimming with paranoia and a sense of hopelessness, no other film truly captures Lovecraft’s themes as expertly as The Thing.
83. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)
Based on the novel by Mike Carey, this film isn’t your typical zombie flick. The undead are given humanity, and what makes this film Lovecraftian is the fact that a fungus is what mutates people, and spores launched from this fungus can end the world forever. When you first see the stalks covered with remnants of people that are transformed by the fungus, you’ll have no doubt where the inspiration may have come from. More endearing and heartfelt than most films in the genre, The Girl With All the Gifts is a gem that will have you coming back again and again.
82. DARK CITY (1998)
Now resting near the top of the pyramid in regards to cult classics, Dark City went under the radar for many when it first released. The mind-bending twists and turns, amnesiac protagonist, and the overwhelmingly cosmic themes are enough to anchor this sci-fi epic to the list. If you haven’t seen this film yet, we couldn’t recommend it more.
81. THE CREATURE BELOW (2016)
While this film isn’t quite as high quality as the other entries, it definitely deserves mentioning. A diver discovers an ancient, otherworldly entity in the deep ocean and it sets forth a string of events that could lead to the end of all we know. The Cthulhu Mythos inspirations are heavy, and for that alone it earns a spot on this list.
80. UNDER THE SKIN (2013)
A film that will blow you away upon first viewing, this arthouse flick is disturbing and has that special ability to make you feel queasy but intrigued simultaneously. The cosmic essence is present, and the human inclination toward monstrous behavior is also evident throughout. Our protagonist’s indifference toward mankind is equally Lovecraftian in its own way. Under the Skin is unique in the fact that, if viewed in a Lovecraftian lens, it’s almost as if the writers and directors flip a lot of Lovecraft’s more criticized themes on their proverbial heads. Xenophobia is flipped, as we’re given the perspective of the alien, and our character’s eventual sympathy is also opposite of Lovecraft’s usual visions. Even if you have trouble sitting through the film’s slow pace, there is one scene in particular that will catch you off guard and haunt you for years to come. For those of you who have seen it, we’re sure you know exactly which scene we mean.
79. UPSTREAM COLOR (2013)
A strange film, Upstream Color contains themes of body horror, immortality, and the insignificance of human mortality. What’s even more interesting is how given immortality, the humans in question wouldn’t know how to comprehend it. This is a heartbreaking, weird ride, and Lovecraft’s influence is present throughout. From how this immortality is achieved, to the insanity it brings upon the victims (gifted?).
78. PANDORUM (2009)
Though Lovecraft didn’t really explore the regions of deep space very often, and rather homed in on places he knew (no pun intended, Providence), it can’t be denied that his themes of Cosmic Horror can be excellently expressed in deep space horror. Pandorum is like a higher budget Event Horizon, though not as good. There are themes of quantum mechanics, insanity, monstrous evolution, and more, as we unravel a terrifying mystery experienced by the few survivors of a spaceship after awakening from hypersleep.
77. GOJIRA (1954)
We feel this may be the most divisive entry on this list, but we urge you to let us explain our reasons. Lovecraft’s opening lines in “The Call of Cthulhu” speak upon the nature of our understanding the universe and what horrors it will bring when we uncover this great knowledge. Many have said, in a way, that this might have been a prediction of nuclear war, the atom bomb, etc. It’s implied that we would usher in our own apocalypse by putting together the disassociated knowledge of the universe. Gojira was a societal response to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The kaiju rises from the aftermath and wreaks havoc, its very nature a metaphor for the destruction of those cities. Gojira is incredibly Lovecraftian in this essence. Almost directly so. Between the apocalyptic consequences of our scientific endeavors to the giant creature that was born of it, even if Gojira wasn’t “awakened” as Cthulhu was. This is why Gojira is decisively Lovecraftian, down to its very core.
76. THE HAUNTED PLACE (1963)
Based upon the poem by Edgar Allan Poe, the Lovecraftian influence lies in its use of Charles Dexter Ward’s name, played by the iconic Vincent Price. This film follows an ancient curse and the descendant who will carry on this curse on the village. While one might say it is loosely inspired by Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” H.P. is never credited, only Poe. By default, it earns a place on this list.