Greetings from the Ether,
As the third 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.
50. THE RUINS (2008)
A pretty divisive film, we have a lot of Lovecraftian themes to boot. Most of them lying in the concept of an archaeological dig that uncovers an ancient evil. Definitely worth a viewing if you haven’t had the chance!
49. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)
A visually delightful treat, Beyond the Black Rainbow follows a telepathic patient attempting to escape an institute. Looking like it came from the mind of Nicolas Winding-Refn, this film is filled with twists and turns, and a Lovecraftian center concerning mad scientists and their unlocking terrible truths through experimentation.
48. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)
From legendary director Lucio Fulci, we follow a reporter and a psychic as they race to close the gates of hell after a clergyman commits suicide. Filled with the director’s trademark practical effects and enough ancient evil to fill any horror hound’s appetite, this film finds its Lovecraftian influence in eldritch horror, religious fanaticism, and apocalyptic repercussions.
47. WICKED CITY (1987)
A wildly underrated film and cult classic among anime purveyors, Lovecraft fans will joyously find a lot to love here. We have two different dimensions threatening to cross together, and one of them contains Cthulhu-like monsters fixed on destroying the world.
46. CHANNEL ZERO (2016-2018)
While this anthology series definitely covers a lot of different themes and concepts, it is undeniable to state that Lovecraftian themes are consistently present. In each season, we explore different Creepy Pasta (internet urban legends), and to terrifying results. Plus, who could ever forget the tooth fairy-like creature from the first season? The saddest part in mentioning this series on the list is that Syfy just announced its cancellation after four excellent seasons.
45. ABSENTIA (2017)
Before Mike Flanagan brought us The Haunting of Hill House, there was Absentia. A film that perfectly depicts a wild descent into madness. Lovecraft’s whispers are throughout, between a seeming resurrection and just how terrifying insanity can really be. This is one of the better indie flicks on this list, and we couldn’t recommend it more.
44. SUSPIRIA (1977, 2018)
With the recent sequel, Suspiria has come back into the spotlight. A roaring, gorgeous classic from Dario Argento, this film opens a Lovecraftian can of worms pretty early on. We have hidden occult motives, a grisly string of murders, body horror, you name it. Both films are excellent in their own way and would make a perfect double-feature night for any purveyor of the weird.
43. NYARUKO: CRAWLING WITH LOVE (2012-2013)
This is a fascinating entry, as we have an anime with comedic themes that directly draws from Lovecraft. A boy is visited by Nyarlathotep in the form of a little girl and she protects him from other Lovecraftian alien-gods, like Hasthur, the King in Yellow. This is a light series with plenty of humor, and an interesting concept since the creator Manta Aisora chose to foster humor with Cosmic Horror instead of terror. Check it out!
42. THE BEYOND (2017)
A love letter to Event Horizon, this film follows astronauts after they return from an expedition through a wormhole. We have the makings of great Cosmic Horror and a deep space setting that is as terrifying as ever.
41. THE NINTH GATE (1999)
Though we’re sure just about everyone hates Roman Polanski, this film deserves mentioning. A rare book dealer searches for the last two copies of a demonic book (sound familiar?) and stumbles into a supernatural conspiracy. This film has that noir feeling that we loved in Angel Heart and a decent performance by Johnny Depp. Definitely not an all-time great, but worth a viewing for Lovecraft fans.
40. CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984)
The film that traumatized generations. When will Stephen King stop making children horrifying? Lovecraft’s small town horror themes are present, and the cult of evil children who terrorize adults is excellently portrayed. We have cults, pagan-like rituals, and the darker nature of mankind all on display. Not to mention a young Linda Hamilton! This actually released the same year as The Terminator. Between the two, I’m sure we know which was more successful, but Children of the Corn will always remain a testament to how screwed up children really can be in horror.
39. LORD OF ILLUSIONS (1995)
A trippy, maddening ride, Lord of Illusions follows a private investigator as he stumbles upon a fanatic cult looking to resurrect their leader. There’s all the makings of a Lovecraftian horror fest in this one, with the cheese of 90s horror we all love. The practical effects are pretty great, and the surreal, mind-bending sequences have surprisingly aged pretty well. Did we mention it’s a Clive Barker film?
38. A QUIET PLACE (2018)
This film blew the collective minds of audiences in 2018. A picture that truly finds its foundations in the relationships of its lead family, A Quiet Place is excellent in a way most horror films aren’t: it has an original concept. At least, original in regards to its competition. The Lovecraftian aspects are found in the creatures who suddenly appeared and nearly wiped out mankind. Their origins are definitely cosmic, as we have no idea where they came from. Try your hardest to think of another film that actually succeeded in keeping theater audiences quiet. We’ll wait.
37. HELLRAISER (1987)
Ah, yes. Clive Barker’s most memorable contribution to horror film. Hellraiser is like if Lovecraft wrote a horror erotica. Barker is known for his sexual themes, and Hellraiser takes that to a new level. The sexuality lies in pain and suffering, which is disturbing as hell. The body horror is some of the best ever put on film, and still to this day it is breathtaking and stomach-churning to see. Pinhead may be the shining star in this film, but the sadistic relationship between Frank and Julia remains as haunting as ever. How much closer to Lovecraft could you be with a puzzle that, when solved, unlocks a dimension of pure blasphemy?
36. THE NEW DAUGHTER (2009)
A sleeper in 2009, The New Daughter sees Kevin Costner take on one of the only horror films of his career. A single father watches his daughter act stranger and stranger, while he learns their house is built on an Indian burial ground, among other mysteries. Not uniquely Lovecraftian, this film still retains some of the themes H. P. explored, such as ancient evil, upsetting the dead, curses, etc.
35. THE FLY (1958, 1986)
Perhaps the king of all body horror films, Cronenberg’s The Fly is legendary, and deservedly so. We see Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who is experimenting with a mechanism that can teleport objects and maybe even people. He uses it on himself, but neglects to see that a single fly has landed in one of the stations, combining his DNA with the insect. This film contains one of the most horrifying, putrid transformations ever put on film. The original 1958 film had a stellar performance from Vincent Price, and the Lovecraftian themes of technology unlocking horrible events, gruesome transformations, and mankind’s inability to understand their naivety, are all present throughout both films. Bring a puke bag for this one. It’s absolutely disgusting, in the best of ways!
34. SPRING (2014)
While a comedic anime with Lovecraftian themes is absurd, imagine a romance! Spring is an indie picture from Lovecraftian champion directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, that follows a man who meets a lovely woman and engages in a relationship with her only to discover she may not actually be human. This film is excellent in many ways, and its ability to retain Lovecraftian concepts while depicting a believable romance is unparalleled by any other horror film. These directors are talented beyond imagining, and you’ll see in the final part of this list a film from them that topped even Spring.
33. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956, 1978)
Talk about a classic. This picture says it all. When you have Leonard Nimoy, Donald Sutherland, and Jeff Goldblum all together in one shot for a horror film, you know it’s going to be one helluva journey. This film perfectly encapsulates paranoia with a Lovecraftian twist, as we watch a group of people who realize the human race is being taken over by aliens that can imitate other people, albeit replacing them with emotionless, identical husks. Who could ever forget the ending scene, and that awful, unforgettable scream.
32. STRANGER THINGS (2016-)
One of the most obvious entries on this list, Stranger Things has become a cultural phenomenon. We follow a band of geeky kids who uncover a government conspiracy after they encounter a strange girl who just escaped from a laboratory. We have all the makings of a Lovecraftian love letter, from tentacled god-like entities, scientific experiments that usher in apocalyptic events, a different dimension known as “the Upside Down,” and a method of communicating through to this other dimension via technology. Hands down the most critically successful series on this list, we recommend any readers who haven’t watched this show to schedule a binge on their next day off.
31. BANSHEE CHAPTER (2013)
There are a lot of underrated films on this list. Banshee Chapter is undoubtedly the highest in quality among these. A homage to H. P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond,” we follow a journalist investigating disappearances, an experimental chemical, and a strange radio transmission. This film perfectly captures isolation and the paranoia it can bring. The desolate locale and the maddening journey through these freaky events is enough to earn its spot among some of the most Lovecraftian films of all time.
30. MIMIC (1997)
Long before Guillermo Del Toro brought us The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, he gave us this cheesy horror flick about mutated insects that evolve into giant creatures hellbent on wiping out mankind. This film may not be one of the best, but it certainly knows how to make us feel filthy. There are some good scares and gory scenes, but its the Lovecraftian concept of science creating evil abominations that puts it on the list.
29. JACOB’S LADDER (1990)
Adrian Lyne was hot off the success of Fatal Attraction when this film released. It was a decidedly massive departure from his previous effort, and while it wasn’t as successful as it should’ve been, there is no doubt Jacob’s Ladder has gone on to become the archetype of psychological horror films with a supernatural bent. The Lovecraftian themes of madness and the supernatural nature of death are pretty spot on, but more than anything, this film transcends the inspirations it may have had from H. P. It’s definitely among the best psychological horror films of all time, and at its core, we have an emotional story of salvation and acceptance. This film actually went on to inspire the Silent Hill franchise, if you needed proof of its legacy. There are some dreadfully morose scenes and groundbreaking effects (check out the “demonic head shake“) in play here. Do we even have to mention the hospital scene?
28. IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
This is definitely the most overtly Lovecraftian film on the list, and the third of John Carpenter’s “Lovecraftian trilogy.” We follow a man investigating the effects a horror author’s books are having on the general public, only to uncover terrifying truths that may lead to the end of the world. There are so many Lovecraft callbacks throughout this film, from the covers of Sutter Cane’s books to the Pickman Hotel where our protagonist stays. There are inter-dimensional gateways, ancient evils, tentacled-monsters, cult-like gatherings, small town horror, body horror, everything you fiends could ever ask for. We imagine most of you have seen this film, but if you haven’t, now’s the time to give it a viewing.
27. ALTERED STATES (1980)
A widely overlooked film, Altered States follows a college professor as he embarks on a mission to transcend human consciousness. Far beyond its time, this film has some remarkably insightful concepts. Our protagonist engages in a variety of activities to achieve his end goal, from taking Native American drugs to locking himself up in a sense-deprivation tank (while doing more drugs). The hallucinations are terrifying, and the implications of what happens when he starts to unravel the genetic code of his own DNA are utterly mind-boggling. This is one film we’d die to see a great remake of, and Lovecraft would be proud of its story, considering it explores the dangers of unlocking the human consciousness’s potential.
26. BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE (2014)
Black Mountain Side has those classical Lovecraft themes we all love: archaeologists discovering a strange structure, mountainous settings, ancient evils terrorizing the poor human characters, what more could you ask for? While an overlooked indie film, this picture definitely deserves a spot on the list.