When I entered Middle School, I started reading the works of HP Lovecraft. If you’re a fan of Horror, especially horror in the vein of the fantastic, you probably know some of Lovecraft’s works, without actually reading them. Lovecraft has inspired many a horror writer and director, from John Carpenter (“In the Mouth of Madness”) to Steven King (“The Mist”). However, while homages to his work have been made off and on over time, direct adaptations of his work have generally sucked, and sucked hard.
I’ll be frank – Lovecraft’s work doesn’t lend itself to adaptation very well. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Lovecraft’s horror was derived from the idea that the human brain was incapable of realizing how insignificant humanity is in the vastness of space, and if we ever realized it, our minds would shatter – and they’d be even further destroyed if there were older, more powerful races than us, that thought in ways that we couldn’t possibly imagine. Now, putting aside the fact that humanity has recognized just how small we are in the universe, and not only has survived without mass hysteria, but had a response that could best be described as “apathy”, this type of horror just doesn’t film well. Far more often, Lovecraft had to try to convey this by having the cosmic terrors be something that words couldn’t describe, which is a bit of a cheat – though one that ages better. Still, this is something that doesn’t necessarily film as well either – and it’s something that, frankly, most directors haven’t tried to do.
Instead most directors have tried to go to the personal horror route. Perhaps the most adapted of all of Lovecraft’s stories is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which a reporter goes to the city of Innsmouth in New England to investigate, and discovers a great horror within the city. The barely escapes from the inhabitants, who have become less human and more something else. In his investigations from outside the city, he discovers a terrible shock to his identity, that he too carries some of the inhuman heritage of the residents of Innsmouth and returns. The idea with this adaptation is that the audience would be able to emphasize with this struggle over identity. This is not, however, Lovecraft’s most famous story, and the one which named his mythos. Continue reading