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10 Best H.P. Lovecraft Movie Adaptations


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Summary

  • H.P. Lovecraft’s work has been adapted for the big screen with varying levels of success, but the best adaptations are often cinematic triumphs.
  • Some of the most notable Lovecraft-inspired films include “The Dunwich Horror,” “From Beyond,” “In the Mouth of Madness,” and “Color Out of Space.”
  • Stuart Gordon is one of the best directors to tackle Lovecraft adaptations, with his films “Re-Animator” and “Dragon” standing out as must-sees for fans of Lovecraftian horror.

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The work of American horror writer H.P. Lovecraft has been adapted for the big screen countless times with various levels of success. With dozens of short stories, as well as novellas and novels, Lovecraft developed an eerie style that was completely his own and created the influential Cthulhu Mythos, which gave his writing its unique characteristics, identity, and lore. Along with terms such as Shakespearean and Kafkaesque, the phrase Lovecraftian has come to represent its own signature style of horror that can be seen across his adaptations and within the entire horror genre.

From films loosely inspired by Lovecraft stories to more faithful adaptations, the cinematic work based on Lovecraft can vary in quality, but one thing was always consistent and that was the grand ambition of anyone who attempted to adapt one of his stories. Lovecraft’s work was notoriously difficult to translate into the medium of film as it often dealt with cosmic horror and the unknowable. The work of Lovecraft was an incredible source of horrific inspiration and the best adaptations of Lovecraft’s work are often cinematic triumphs.

10 Bleeders (1997)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Lurking Fear”

A still of a deformed creature in Bleeders 1997 based on H.P. Lovecraft

A disturbing story of incest, inbreeding, deformation, and depravity, Bleeders was a low-budget horror that explored the most disturbing aspects of the work of H.P. Lovecraft. An over-the-top spectacle, Bleeders was the last original script by Dan O’Bannon who was also responsible for the Lovecraft adaptation The Resurrected. Bleeders kept up the suspense and was relatively fast-paced, but unfortuently was one of the weaker adaptations of a Lovecraft story. A nasty and grotesque extravaganza, Bleeders was interesting enough to keep viewers engaged but not nearly clever enough to truly stand among the greatest Lovecraft-inspired movies.

9 The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Dunwich Horror”

The-Dunwich-Horror movie

A 1970s horror spectacle, The Dunwich Horror brought H.P Lovecraft’s supernatural short story of occult Necronomicon-based ritual to the big screen, complete with excessive psychedelic imagery and a foreboding sense of dread. An important entry in Lovecraft’s ongoing Cthulhu Mythos, The Dunwich Horror was a good old-fashioned B-horror movie whose special effects may be outdated today but still maintained its eerie atmosphere and over-the-top performances. The Dunwich Horror was an early example of a successful Lovecraft adaptation on the big screen.

8 Dragon (2001)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “Dragon” and novella The Shadow over Innsmouth

Macarena Gómez as Uxía Cambarro in Dragon 2001

Stuart Gordan’s Dragon was an over-the-top horror spectacle that acted as an homage to all things Lovecraftian. With a story loosely inspired by both H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “Dragon” and his novella The Shadow over Innsmouth, Dragon was a relentless dark story of an ancient sea god and its grotesque half-human offspring. Dragon was a must-see for any admirers of Lovecraftian horror and acted as one of the campiness adaptations of his work. Dragon was just one of many Lovecraft-inspired movies made by Gordan.

7 The Resurrected (1991)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

A scene of a monster attacking a man in The Resurrected

The Return of the Live Dead director Dan O’Bannon followed up that film with his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward titled The Resurrected. A harrowing tale about a man who conquered death through necromantic experiments and has been alive for hundreds of years, The Resurrected succeeded in bringing the classic tale to the big screen. With a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue, The Resurrected was a bloody gore fest that deserved a larger audience among horror enthusiasts.

6 From Beyond (1986)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “From Beyond”

A monster attacking in From Beyond

The grotesque story of scientists who developed a machine that allowed humans to see beyond normal human perception with devastating consequences, From Beyond was an exploitative gory spectacle of shape-shifting monsters that managed to adapt H.P. Lovecraft while maintaining a unique sense of humor. Director Stuard Gordan cast Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who were in his previous Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator, in the lead roles and they delivered compelling low-budget horror scares. It was works such as From Beyond that cemented Gordan as one of the best directors to ever tackle a Lovecraft adaptation.

5 The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

Based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Call of Cthulhu”

A scene from the 2005 black and white silent film The Call Of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu

Release Date
June 6, 2005

Director
Andrew Leman

Cast
John Bolen , Chad Fifer , John Klemantaski , Jason Owens , D. Grigsby Poland , David Mersault , Matt Foyer

Runtime
47 Minutes

H.P Lovecraft’s short story “The Call of Cthulhu” was widely believed to be unfilmable before the release of the 2005 silent movie of the same name. However, The Call of Cthulhu managed to achieve the impossible and faithfully recreated Lovecraft’s story using a blend of vintage and modern filmmaking techniques that made the movie look like it was produced in the 1920s, the same era the original story was written. Telling the tale of a man freeing an ancient unspeakable horror, The Call of Cthulhu was impressive for the eerie grandeur its makers put on screen in a low-budget film.

4 The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

Based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name

A scene from The Whisperer in Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness was an independent film distributed by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society that used both modern and vintage filming techniques to create an authentic and faithful adaptation to Lovecraft’s original story (via HPLHS). With the aim of mimicking 1930s horror films like Dracula, Frankenstein, and King Kong, The Whisperer in Darkness was a black-and-white tale of a folklorist investing reports of mysterious creatures. The Whisperer in Darkness achieved its goal and captured the essence of Lovecraft’s story while remaining entertaining and engaging.

3 In The Mouth of Madness (1994)

Influenced by H.P. Lovecraft’s novel At the Mountain of Madness

The modern horror styling of Halloween and The Thing director John Carpenter paired well with H.P. Lovecraft’s supernatural explorations of insanity in In the Mouth of Madness. The film starred Sam Neil as an insurance investor whose sanity crumbled as the lines between reality and fiction blurred, In the Mouth of Madness was choke full of allusions to the work of Lovecraft and was an intriguing slice of 1980s horror fun. In the Mouth of Madness stood as one of Carpenter’s most accomplished films and, due to the debt it owed to Lovecraft, was also one of his most clever.

2 Color Out of Space (2019)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Color Out of Space”

Director Richard Stanley made a triumphant return to the world of feature filmmaking with Color Out of Space, his first movie in more than 25 years. An adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Color Out of Space”, it starred Nicolas Cage and followed a family on a scheduled farm after a strange meteorite crash-landed at their property. A mind-bending body horror of Lovecraftian proportions, Color Out of Space was a slow burn that expertly walked the fine line between horror and existential dread and stood as one of the best Lovecraft adaptations ever committed to screen.

1 Re-Animator (1985)

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s novelette Herbert West–Reanimator

Re-Animator

Release Date
October 18, 1985

Director
Stuart Gordon

Cast
Jeffrey Combs , Bruce Abbott , Robert Sampson , David Gale , Barbara Crampton

Runtime
105 minutes

The extraordinary tale of a scientist who discovered how to reanimate dead bodies, Re-Animator was the first of many H.P. Lovecraft adaptations by Stuart Gordan. Re-Animator was a hilarious Lovecraft adaptation that managed to deliver humor and horror with equal measure and kept the scares coming while maintaining its deadpan comedic style. The book Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft outlined that when Re-Animator was released some H.P. Lovecraft readers took issue with the film’s comedy style. However, Re-Animator remained true to the original story’s exploitative nature and was a relatively faithful adaptation.

Sources: H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, Lurker in the Lobby: A Guide to the Cinema of H. P. Lovecraft

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