Lovecraft Mythos Inspires New Wave of Cultists

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents ... but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."

-- The Call of Cthulhu, 1926

It's observations such as this which have led to H. P. Lovecraft's revival as the pop-prophet of secular twenty-first-century doom. And kids love him! They buy "Sea Creature" masks and chant "Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl ftaghn!" on the playground. When they send their ftaghn's via text message, they add emphasis with eldritch emoticons: (;,,;)/

As they grow more sophisticated, they play diabolically complex board games – like Arkham Horror, which comes with dozens of individual decks of cards and moving markers, and which Rock, Paper, Shotgun sums up (not unaffectionately) as a "million moving parts coming together to simulate a terrible alien intelligence," or alternately, "a clockwork terror machine, designed to break you the fuck down." They begin to lament how few film adaptations have really managed to capture the artful squalor and dread of the Lovecraft mythos. Usually John Carpenter's “The Thing” is mentioned reverently, despite it not technically being based on any of the stories.

Eventually some of these kids take that challenge upon themselves. Guillermo del Toro has spent most of the last decade trying to bring At the Mountains of Madness to the silver screen (and now thanks to James Cameron, it looks like he will succeed). For those operating outside the studio system, the way is even darker and more perilous – and yet the results can be so satisfying. The silent, fan-sourced adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society in 2005 (streaming at Netflix "in genuine Mythoscope!") runs a lean, clean forty-seven minutes and has gathered a healthy following among everyday humans as well as cultists. This success has inspired the same team to tackle a much larger, broader project: a full-length talkie based on The Whisperer in Darkness, in which a professor researches the astonishing claims of a possibly deranged mountain man (trailer above).

Another very creepy trailer here. The team's production blog suggests that Whisperer is imminent, and director Sean Branney had this news to share with Signature: "Our composer is working his fingers to the bone ...  Barring serious setbacks, the film should be in its final state in about three weeks. We're finalizing the preliminary poster design and will have new Whisperer shirt available in the next week or so. We can't tell you how excited we are to be so very close to the finish line. We're pleased with the film and are eager to share it with the world. It's been a long time in the making."

Could be just the thing to tide fans over until del Toro's big-budget 3-D monstrosity is unveiled. Keep an eye out for Whisperer at festivals in 2011 – or if you aren't "out" as a Lovecraftian yet, screen at home with a few carefully chosen friends, a seafood buffet, and some green Charteuse. Sea creature masks optional.

  • HP Lovecraft's new following is nothing short of impressive. However, I don't think it would have happened this way (or, at least, not this quickly) without the internet. Productions like Whisperer wouldn't have the ability to raise funds and get off the launch pad without support from online Lovecraftians.

    It's also worth mentioning the Lovecraft renaissance has spread to weird fiction as a whole. Today, there's a previously unseen flowering of specialty presses, highly talented writers, and art inspired by the same rich tradition that pre-dates HPL. I'm not sure that Lovecraft is solely responsible for this effect, but he's definitely spearheading wider interest than ever before in weird horror.

  • I was a volunteer extra the Bellows Falls, Vermont railway scenes and can't wait to see Whisperer. The director, cast, and crew were all highly professional but also fun to work with, and as a writer I'm looking forward to seeing their adaptation of HPL's great short story.

  • I just wanted to drop a note about our Lovecraft inspired film "The Cthulhu Key: Legacy" that will be available in May of this year!

    Great article, definitely a good read.

  • matt stone

    i really hope "mountains of madness" gets made! that is one of my favorite stories ever. can't wait to see "whisperer in darkness" too, yet another awesome story.

  • Tom

    I think it was stumbling across the HP Lovecraft Historical Society website back in 2004 that really piqued my curiosity about the actual writing -- which at that time I hadn't really sampled. Their mix of creative passion and humor was a nifty gateway into the work itself.

    Now I'm a huge Arkham Horror freak, to the point of trying to rig a wall-mounted board so we can actually play in my tiny Brooklyn apartment.

    *Hint* velcro will just tear the top layers of paper off of your gameboard :'(

    • walker

      Magnet strips dude. work really well. Did that when I was a kid trying to made a working Jumanji board.

  • Tom

    ALSO! I have always had a secret theory that the Elizabeth Taylor/Katharine Hepburn movie "Suddenly Last Summer" was a Lovecraft film on the down-low. All those asylum set-pieces, monologues about ravenous devouring gods, children driven to cannibalistic bloodlust, and sodium pentathol flashbacks -- it's got everything except for an actual tentacle.

    Clip (from the end of the movie, so thar be spoilers):

  • Ross Phillips

    I am so glad Lovecraft is finally getting the recognition he deserves!!! Its a damn shame he never got to see that he has been scarring the hell out of old and young for decades after his death!!! Its awesome movies are finally being made!! One you forgot to mention is Beyond the wall of sleep!!!! I will absolutly check out whisperer in darkness because it is a damn good story by him!!! And I cant fucking believe there finally doing Mountains of Madness !!! That is so fucking awesome!!! Thanks for all the killer info!!! You made my night!!
    -Ross Phillips

  • Ross Phillips

    P.S. Its so fuckin crazy all this started from the Weird Tales magizine!!!!! LOOK AT HIM NOW!!!
    -Ross Phillips

  • The rise of interest in Lovecraftian work, that of the Necronomicon and its parallels to what many are starting to understand about the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian Anunnaki is clearly a mark of the 21st Century and it has lent much to our own Mardukite work. It is exciting to see how the next generation is going to respond to the influx of Lovecraftian fanship. Thank you for posting this news.

  • Tracy Barber

    This looks like it has promise. Not any of the so-called movies for Lovecraft's works have even come close to representing what I imagine to see when I read the stories.

    Some have tried to display Chthulhu and a few others, but they were not top shelf. A LOT of work needs to be done on the creatures alone, let alone sync with the plots.

    Yog-Sotthuth! Ia!

  • Don't forget the Cthulu mention by Southpark recently! Cthulu is the name of the "dark lord" who is intent on destroying the world. Hilarious! I can't wait for del Toro's movie: he does such amazing art! -f

  • Bobbo

    There have been a very few films that touched or interfaced nicely with the Mythos. "The Dunwich Horror" was great fun. Surprisingly, "The Unnameable 2" had its moments, in spite of the somewhat exploitative nature of some of the staging. The lovely Maria Ford even offers a pronunciation of "Cthulhu," though I'm not sure HPL would have approved. There are others, despite the many that don't quite measure up. HPLHS' "Call of Cthulhu," a silent film, was an accurate retelling, and it looks like this new one will be as well. Bravo.

    • Dann

      Out of curiosity - how DO you pronounce that?

      I've usually heard it "k-tool-hoo."

  • Ben

    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the excellent Call of Cthulhu role playing game. It's been around for 30 years and it's still going strong. It was big among my circle of RPG friends in the 90s. We used a vary free-form character generation system, after all a strength of 3 and a strength of 18 both taste the same to great Cthulhu. It is made by Chaosium who also make a card game and LARP version.

  • Michel Antler

    "The Trollenberg Terror" (sometimes known as "The Crawling Eye") is probably the most authentically Lovecraftian film of them all. It's never seemed to be popular even with Lovecraft fans, and is ripe for rediscovery...

  • Count Otto Black

    Lovecraft adaptations have not fared well on the big screen, but since movies as borderline as "The Trollenberg Terror" have been brought up (and I agree that it has a certain Lovecraftean aspect to it, though ultimately it's really just one of the better '50s B-movies about some random people versus an arbitrary monster), maybe I should mention a few more?

    For starters, Boris Karloff starred in two Lovecraft films. Unfortunately they were both terrible. "Die, Monster, Die!" is a fairly close adaptation of "The Colour Out Of Space", though unfortunately it veers between being quite creepy and unintentionally hilarious - you keep expecting the butler to say "Walk this way..." And "The Curse Of The Crimson Altar" is a VERY unfaithful adaptation of "The Dreams In The Witch-House", not helped by the fact that most of the probably very mild scenes of Satanic bondage orgies were cut by the censor and apparently lost forever. Poor old Boris is in a wheelchair in both films, and it has nothing to do with the part he's playing; the latter film was especially unfortunate because while he was shooting his cold, damp outdoor scenes he caught the pneumonia that killed him.

    "The Haunted Palace" is supposedly part of Roger Corman's Poe cycle, but it's actually a low-budget and rather loose adaptation of "The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward". And it's worth seeing just because it stars Vincent Price - who if he'd been born a few decades later would surely have been the ultimate HPL movie protagonist! Good guy or bad guy - it wouldn't really matter. And of course in this film he's both.

    And just for fun (but it's rather a lot of fun), how about "Cast a Deadly Spell", starring Fred Ward as a 1950s Los Angeles private eye called H. P. Lovecraft who has to prevent David Warner from getting his hands on the Necronomicon. Cheesy in every respect, but Yog-Sothoth does show up in all his glory (or anyway, as much of it as they could afford). And the oatmeal demon is rather good. Best line: David Warner: "It's NOT a squid..."

    All the same though, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society have made the only truly faithful HPL film ever - "The Call Of Cthulhu". Yes, its low budget shows in places. But if you bear in mind how very, very low that budget was, they worked miracles! I'm really looking forward to "The Whisperer In The Darkness" - that level of commitment and, yes, genuine talent combined with a bigger budget suggests that it should be fantastic. Of course, there will still be sequences, probably those involving the Mi-Go, that will evoke howls of derisive laughter from persons spoiled by billion-buck budgets. But for those viewers who still recall the meaning of the phrase "suspension of disbelief", it should be an unalloyed treat.

    By the way, I have my doubts about Guillermo del Toro's "At The Mountains Of Madness". If you actually read the story while trying to imagine a movie based on it, it just doesn't work. And although the first draft of the script that was unofficially leaked is now quite hard to find even on the internet, rumours persist that it owes a huge debt to John Carpenter's "The Thing", with much of the story revolving around which members of the expedition have been replaced by shoggoths, culminating in a lot of biff-bang-POW! in 3D of which I'm not sure HPL would have approved.

    People, if you've got any love for Lovecraft, see or rent "The Whisperer In The Darkness"; because if these people ever get 10%, or even 1% of the money James Cameron's buddies can casually toss around, they'll blow your socks off!

    By the way, I am not and never have been a member of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I just know bloody good film-making when I see it.

  • Mike

    I'm really looking forward to getting my copy of Whisperer in the next few weeks. My preorder has been placed. I'd also like to point out to many here that the guys at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society also do some fantastic adventure radio programs of Lovecraft's work under the Dark Adventure Radio Theater banner.