Greetings from the Ether,
As the second 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.
75. ANGEL HEART (1987)
A film that was controversial as hell when it released, Angel Heart has since gained a cult following. Telling the story of a private investigator searching for a missing man, only to uncover horrifying occult secrets, this film remains a powerhouse in the 1980s horror genre. Its Lovecraftian influence stems from the unreliable narrative, the madness which ensues for our protagonist, and the occult dealings that determine Harry Angel’s (Mickey Rourke) fate.
74. ANNIHILATION (2018)
Based on the weird novel of the same name by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation was a welcome surprise last year. Straying far from the source material, director Alex Garland manages to successfully embody the disorienting and often confusing atmosphere of the novel. As we follow an expedition of women traveling into “the Shimmer,” the strange horrors that await are as memorable as they are beautiful. The novel is credited for ringing in the “New Weird,” and the film will undoubtedly inspire a whole new generation of filmmakers to embark into the peculiar. Our Lovecraftian influences lie within every second of this film, as the oddness and insanity perfectly illustrate why Cosmic Horror is such an enigmatic genre.
73. AKIRA (1988)
Perhaps the most groundbreaking anime film of all time, Akira explores what would happen if an emotionally unstable and bullied child acquired the abilities of a god. Lovecraft’s whispers are present throughout as we see technology usher in apocalyptic events, body horror on full display in the climax, and the madness that entering a new state of being can unveil.
72. SILENT HILL (2006)
One of the most beloved videogame franchises of all time may have birthed two lackluster films, but the Weird Fiction vibes are constant during their runtimes. When you throw in a missing child, a strange, sleepy and desolate town, inhuman monstrosities, and an underlying mystery, you have yourself a pretty Lovecraftian premise. Though we would encourage playing the videogames over watching the films, both movies still hold some pretty mesmerizing sequences. Who could ever forget the pyramid head monster?
71. THE WICKER MAN (1973)
The mother of all Wiccan horror, the original Wicker Man was a revolutionary testament to the deep horrors Judeo-Christian societies feel toward pagan followers. While the remake is undoubtedly one of the most disappointing yet hilarious Nic Cage outings of all time, the original remains terrifying to this day. Lovecraft’s fascination with the occult and pagan deities alone warrants this film’s place on the list.
70. PONTYPOOL (2008)
Flying under the radar upon release, Pontypool has all the ingredients for a Lovecraftian experience. Strange radio transmissions, a small town being plagued by a mutating virus, body horror, innovative uses of color and grayscale, and more. We’d definitely recommend checking this out if you haven’t already.
69. DARK WATERS (1994)
What do you get when you combine a traumatized protagonist, a strange island, a religious cult, and a menacing evil? You get an underrated Lovecraftian horror fest. Dark Waters is widely underappreciated and is definitely a film for Cosmic Horror and Weird Fiction fans everywhere.
68. PROMETHEUS (2012)
When you take away the fact that Prometheus is in the Alien universe, and you remove the connotations, what you have is a very underrated and unfairly criticized film. Ridley Scott’s endeavor into this story of scientists finding mankind’s creators, or Engineers, was definitely a twist away from his usual sci-fi outings, but there are so many Lovecraftian themes in this beautiful picture. Scott himself has said Prometheus was meant to be a stand-alone film, and if we treat it as such, the quality of this movie only heightens. The insignificance of mankind, the quest for knowledge, technology being not only the downfall for humans, but also the Engineers, all these things together create what is likely the greatest Cosmic Horror film made since The Thing (1982).
67. THE HOST (2006)
The Host was a major departure from most kaiju films. We have a grounded story that feels as real as a monster movie can, and this intertwined with a touching relationship between father and daughter culminate into a dazzling picture. The creature’s nature is Lovecraftian, reminding us of Cthulhu Mythos creatures, but the heart of this film lies in its human interaction, which is a welcome departure from Lovecraft’s more criticized themes.
66. THE WITCH (2015)
Reading like a combination of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Chambers, and Lovecraft, this strikingly realistic period piece could be credited for setting the precedent for films like Annihilation, Hereditary, and others. The Witch set the stage for indie horror films and its pagan roots, sense of paranoia, and religious radicalism combine for a mortifying ride through insanity and occult consequences.
65. THE DESCENT (2005)
Likely one of the most beloved horror films of the 21st century, The Descent capitalizes on our fears of claustrophobia and finds its most horrifying aspects deep within our tendencies toward human error. The creatures that terrorize our protagonists are evolved human monsters that are confined within a deep, uncharted cave system. If that doesn’t get your Lovecraftian spider senses tingling, there’s also a lot of delving into insanity to curb your appetite.
64. GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)
Okay, hear us out. Yes, the first two acts of Ghostbusters aren’t necessarily Lovecraftian, but think about the ending. Ancient gods, demons from other dimensions, physical manifestations of thoughts, pending apocalypse by an ancient deity, you get the drift. This film’s ending is chock full of Lovecraftian themes, and we think if you rewatch it, you might find even more than we mentioned.
63. THE MIST (2007)
A Lovecraftian film before the new wave of Lovecraftian films. The Mist is based on a Stephen King story and is the perfect recipe for cosmic disaster. Another dimension crosses our own and with it, tentacled monstrosities and insect-like creatures terrify a small town as survivors find refuge in a supermarket. Add some religious fanaticism, and you couldn’t ask for more. Plus, how could anyone forget possibly the most upsetting ending ever put on film?
62. PHANTASM (1979)
It hasn’t aged well, but the Tall Man remains one of the most iconic horror film villains of all time. This film is weird, and we don’t say that lightly. Flying spheres, shrinking dead bodies, reanimating them into slaves, trippy sets, you name it. The Lovecraftian influence lies in that horrible secret and otherworldly discovery our protagonist finds when he foolishly investigates the Tall Man.
61. DIRT DAUBER (2009)
The only short film on the list, Dirt Dauber has it all: Isolated mountainous region, a religious cult, an ancient insect-like deity, and more. In 35 minutes, this film is more Lovecraftian than almost any other entry on this list.
60. WE ARE STILL HERE (2015)
With vibes like a 1970s horror film, We Are Still Here echoes “The Dreams in the Witch House” with its animate house demanding a sacrifice every 30 years. Ancient evil and disturbing sequences culminate into a truly innovative and one-of-a-kind film that honestly deserves a bigger audience than its received.
59. THE FOG (1980)
The Fog isn’t super Lovecraftian, but it still has some themes we all love. After an unearthly fog rolls into a small coastal town 100 years after a ship mysteriously sinks in its waters, all hell breaks loose. You have vengeful spirits, historical curses, and weak humans trying to survive amongst it all. Definitely worth seeing as a classic of horror let alone a slightly Lovecraftian piece.
58. THE CURSE (1987)
Definitely inspired by Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space,” The Curse follows a family farm after an alien meteorite lands and starts to mutate their animals and even the family themselves. Some great practical body horror and that campy cheese we all love are enough to give this film a shot.
57. NIGHTBREED (1990)
Possibly Barker’s most underrated film, Nightbreed is a journey unlike any other. With enough practical effects, bizarre creature designs, and that classic erotic horror that Barker is known for, this film is significantly different than what you may expect going in. We have two primary storylines, one of a boy becoming drawn to a mythical city with a variety of strange creatures, and another of a serial killer on a rampage. What more could you ask for?
56. EUROPA REPORT (2013)
Told from a realistic point of view, through recordings and interviews, Europa Report perfectly defines the “curiosity killed the cat” saying while maintaining Lovecraftian themes of doomed explorations and the horrors of the unknown. More sci-fi than horror, this film is still a great example of Cosmic Horror and why Lovecraft’s themes often suggested that what we don’t know can’t hurt us.
55. THE LAST WINTER (2006)
What is with Lovecraft and the cold? The Last Winter follows an expedition in the Arctic as the crew unearths ancient horror and subsequently delve into insanity and horrid fates. Not the best film on this list by any means, it still deserves a viewing.
54. A CURE FOR WELLNESS (2016)
While Gore Verbinski is best known for his Pirates of the Caribbean films, a lot of people forget his inclination toward horror. They also often forget he brought us the unforgettable American adaptation of The Ring back in 2002. In A Cure for Wellness, Verbinski goes all out with the weird. We follow a young man who investigates a wellness center that he soon suspects isn’t quite what it appears to be. While divisive critically, this film definitely had some of the most breathtaking cinematography we’ve seen.
53. OTOSHIMONO (GHOST TRAIN) (2006)
While the film appears to be a typical ghost story at first glance, its Lovecraftian themes soon reveal themselves in the ending. There are plenty of unsettling sequences for any fan or purveyor of horror, further proving Asian cinema as the immortal champion of innovative horror in film.
52. EVENT HORIZON (1997)
While a bit more biblical than anything Lovecraft would have written, one cannot deny the effectiveness of Cosmic Horror in Event Horizon. Critics despised this film when it released, but it has since developed a loyal following. Holding the distinction of being the best film Paul W. S. Anderson has ever directed (sorry, Resident Evil fans), the film follows an expedition to salvage a ship that mysteriously disappeared after its first journey. What we soon find is that it hasn’t been in our dimension during its absence, and it brought something terrible back with it. Dr. William Weir’s (Sam Neil) tunneling into insanity is thrilling to behold, and the glimpses we see of the other dimension remain some of the most stomach-curdling and upsetting sequences of the past 30 years.
51. THE VOID (2016)
A film that was funded by a Kickstarter, The Void is a love letter to 1980s horror films, Lovecraft, and Cosmic Horror. If you wrote down every Lovecraftian theme you could think of, this film would contain them all. We follow several people in a hospital as they are attacked by a cult. What soon partakes is a masterwork of practical body horror, insanity, and enough Cosmicism to quench your thirst for years to come.