Greetings from the Ether,
As the final 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.
25. THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN (2014)
Talk about a sleeper hit. Probably the only found footage film that is criminally underrated, The Taking of Deborah Logan follows college students as they film a documentary on the effects of dementia. The eponymous patient in question, Deborah Logan, begins to exhibit far stranger behavior than typical dementia, and we quickly descend into madness with her, only this is a madness of the occult kind. Lovecraft’s voice is found in the ending, where we finally discover what exactly is happening. And it is shocking.
24. THE CITY OF THE DEAD (1960)
A student uses her winter break to research witchcraft in a sleepy Massachusetts town. What could go wrong? Well, a lot. One of the older films on the list, this 1960s romp finds its Lovecraftian themes in its use of small town horror, occult rituals, and, of course, sacrifice! Definitely worth a viewing.
23. THE SPIDER LABYRINTH (1988)
Incredibly underrated, this Italian horror film follows an American researcher who travels to Budapest to meet an old pal. Throw in an ancient, evil tome, and you have yourself a Lovecraftian horror flick. Reality bends and folds throughout, and there’s a lot of great horrific imagery. Definitely worth seeing if you haven’t had the chance and/or haven’t heard of it.
22. CLOVERFIELD (2008)
Who could ever forget the initial viral trailers for this J. J. Abrams blockbuster? Here we follow a group of young people as they record an apocalyptic event in New York. There are many unforgettable scenes in this film, from the tunnel scene, to the decapitated Statue of Liberty. But the Lovecraftian themes lie in the monsters themselves, their unknown origins, and the little hints and clues we get throughout that point to this atrocity possibly being man-made.
21. YELLOWBRICKROAD (2010)
An entire village population disappears after taking a winding mountain trail. Some 70 years later, a group of people travel there to find out why. Definitely cliche, but there are a lot of Lovecraftian themes in this film. Most of which can be found in the twist of an ending. A lot of audiences found the twist to be distracting and an unwelcome departure from the rest of the film, but we’ll let you decide.
20. CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)
The only TV movie on the list, this film follows a detective as he navigates through an alternate 1940s world where everyone uses magic. His task? Investigating the theft of a mystical tome. Even though it’s R-rated, this is definitely a cheesy comedy. The Lovecraftian themes involve the tome he’s searching for, and some of the darker sides of the film as the mystery unravels.
19. THE CORRIDOR (2010)
Teens partying in the woods. They get lost. Bad stuff happens. Yeah, yeah, we’ve seen it all before. But what makes this cinematic experience different is how it’s this “corridor” that is causing all the madness and insanity. In a very Lovecraftian twist, it’s not some yeti or reptilian creature terrorizing them, but rather an unexplainable, cosmic presence that is as powerful as it is deadly.
18. POSSESSION (1981)
A man’s wife asks for a divorce. He suspects infidelity. As her behavior become stranger and stranger, a deeper mystery unravels. This film is a classic, no arguments. Containing one of the most beautiful, disturbing, and powerful sequences ever put on film, there isn’t any doubt why it’s regarded so highly. We find our Lovecraftian influences in the ending, where plenty of tentacles await.
17. HELLBOY (2004)
With the new remake coming out this year, it may be a good time to watch the first two films if you haven’t. Hellboy is special in its inclusion due to it being the only superhero flick on the list. The first film definitely had way more Lovecraftian vibes then the second, with ancient gods, tentacled creatures, apocalyptic events, etc. While the effects haven’t aged dramatically well, this film is definitely worth watching. Classic popcorn action.
16. MIRRORS (MARIANNE) (1978)
Perhaps the least known film on the list, Mirrors follows a couple as they stay at a hotel, only to have a Voodoo priestess place a curse on it. You have your Lovecraftian mind-bending madness, with a good bit of old-fashioned Voodoo horror.
15. PHANTOMS (1998)
Based on a Dean Koontz novel, this film explores a strange event in a tiny mountain town after hundreds of people either die or go missing. Not the best film on the list, Phantoms still has a lot of Lovecraftian undertones. There’s an interesting mystery and a good bit of old-fashioned body horror.
14. ALIEN FRANCHISE (1979-)
What is left to be said about this legendary film? Originally panned by critics, Alien has gone on to become one of the most iconic sci-fi/horror films of all time. The very fabric of this film’s skeleton is a cosmic feast. We follow the crew of a ship as they investigate a distress call, only to discover a dangerous extra-terrestrial that may just spell death for the entire crew and possibly all of humanity. The Lovecraftian themes lie in the presence of a cosmic entity being horrid, while some find fascination with it (similar to the Cthulhu cultists), and the sexual undertones of the xenomorph’s design. While the alien isn’t godlike, it is definitely a far superior organism to the humans. With countless iconic scenes, this Ridley Scott film will always remain relevant.
13. THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)
Based on a Clive Barker story, Midnight Meat Train follows a photographer as he seeks darker and darker material. What seems at first to be a serial killer on a train soon transforms into something otherworldly. The majority of this film isn’t Lovecraftian, but man, oh, man, does the ending ever compensate for that.
12. IT (1990, 2017)
Definitely the most Lovecraftian work from Stephen King other than Revival, IT follows a group of kids all the way through adulthood as they try to put an end to a cosmic entity that terrorizes a town every 30 or so years. Readers of the book will know just how Lovecraftian this tale is. The origins of Pennywise and how he came to Earth, the true nature of his physical form, the Dead Lights, and his monstrous, godlike presence are all enough to satisfy any purveyor of the weird. The 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry in the lead is classic, Curry’s performance standout, but we have to give it to the 2017 film due it truly capturing the relationships of our ragtag group of friends, and due to the miniseries not aging very well. All in all, a marathon couldn’t hurt.
11. THE BLOB (1958, 1988)
Perhaps one of the earliest examples of Cosmic Horror reaching mainstream audiences through film, The Blob follows a town after a meteorite lands that oozes a gooey substance which ends up devouring each person it comes across. As it eats more and more people, it grows larger and larger. The 1988 remake is definitely a class act, with some spectacular effects. A lot of Lovecraftian themes come into play, with the plot itself mirroring “The Colour Out of Space.” The Blob is a classic, and rightfully so.
10. AM1200 (2008)
Okay, we lied. There are two short films on this list. AM1200 has a lot of themes we saw in Banshee Chapter, with a strange radio frequency, some great Cosmic Horror interlaced throughout, and thoughtful philosophies on our place in the universe. At only 39 minutes, this film shouldn’t go unseen for fans of Lovecraft.
9. KILL LIST (2011)
A violent, bloody picture, Kill List is one of those films that likely didn’t garner the attention it deserved. We follow two hit men on a mission for a big score as they stumble into something dark and occult. While the first two acts are just brutal violence with two less-than favorable protagonists, the last act is complete insanity. Who could ever forget that final ritual scene? Gives us chills even thinking of it. Our Lovecraftian voice comes through the occult themes and the descent into madness during the ritual.
8. HEREDITARY (2018)
What is likely going to become an all-time classic in horror, Hereditary is one of the most unique and stunning films to come out in the past 20 years. Our story begins with the funeral of Annie’s (Toni Collette) mother, and from there on out, it is a rapidly paced descent into insanity. Enough can’t be said about Collette’s performance here, coming off so real we couldn’t be remiss to think we’re actually watching the process of her losing her mind on camera. The ending is what really sticks out as Lovecraftian, with enough pagan deities, off-the-wall body horror, and disturbing madness to satiate anyone’s hunger for weird.
7. KAIRO (PULSE) (2001)
A commentary on mankind’s dependency on technology, Kairo is a slow-burning, creepy horror film that follows two groups of people as they discover otherworldly entities using the internet to invade our world. This is an original premise, with some fantastic scenes that dread the viewer. We needn’t mention the atrocious remake. Doing so would be shaming this classic of Asian horror cinema. Our Lovecraftian themes lie in the use of technology to bring upon the end of the word, inter-dimensional entities with nefarious intentions, and the uselessness of mankind’s efforts to stop it.
6. THE ENDLESS (2017)
Remember us mentioning how Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson would appear again on this list? Yeah, this is the film that tops Spring, their previous effort. These two directors are the Lovecraftian duo in cinema, and The Endless cemented their reputation. We follow two brothers who escaped from a UFO death cult when they were children, as they are drawn back to the compound. This film does so much with a limited budget, and the cosmic sequences are breathtaking. As our plot unravels, and the explosive ending comes, we are already strapped to our seats. If anyone was ever looking for a film that truly captured the weird essence of Lovecraft’s fiction, this would be the film we’d recommend.
5. BIRD BOX (2018)
A cultural phenomenon, Bird Box is based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman. We follow a pregnant woman as the world ends and she traverses the apocalyptic landscape with two children (one is her son). The catch? You die if you see the creatures responsible. There’s plenty of Lovecraftian whispers in this film, from the madness these entities cause, how seeing them is too much for the mind to comprehend, and how the mentally ill are somehow capable of functioning after seeing the cosmic entities. Definitely a film worth seeing, and we couldn’t be happier to see it on this list.
4. FINAL PRAYER (THE BORDERLANDS) (2013)
A film that was sadly seen by few, Final Prayer follows Vatican investigators on a case that soon takes an occult turn. There are a lot of good jump scares here, and some truly riveting sequences. The Lovecraftian themes lie in the occult tones, the madness our characters experience, and the mind-bending events they experience.
3. THE BURROWERS (2008)
Equal parts Tremors and Roanoke, this film follows a crew of men as they investigate the disappearance of settlers that have mysteriously vanished from their homes. The Lovecraftian themes are light, but they’re still present. We don’t want to spoil too much, but this film definitely hits the mark on themes of small town horror and unexplained phenomena with a bit of monstrous creatures to boot.
2. PITCH BLACK (2000)
One of the best sci-fi/horror films in recent memory, Pitch Black follows a commercial transport that crashes on a world where a month long eclipse takes place, and with it, monstrous creatures awaken. There are many Lovecraftian themes in this hit, including the use of senses (in this case, sight) to nurture horror, alien creatures that could almost be considered “tentacled,” and the use of cosmic nature being more than enough to wipe out humans. The strange nature of the planet itself is also Lovecraftian, the de-familiarization of sunlight and the exploitation of our fear of the dark.
1. INSIDIOUS FRANCHISE (2010-)
Everything about Insidious is Lovecraftian. Echoing “Beyond the Wall of Sleep,” we have a child who astral projects into another dimension known as “the Further,” and when he leaves his body, supernatural entities want to take over his vessel to live again. This film is from James Wan (director of The Conjuring), and has a very special tone to it that pays homage to classic horror from the 60s and 70s. The jump scares are exceptional in that they’re earned rather than forced, and the premise is one of the most original we’ve ever seen. As of this article, there are four Insidious films in the franchise, and a binge would make you keep the lights on for nights to come.
Do you agree with our list? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.