Sure, we all love that tentacled and winged Great Old One, Cthulhu. He has become a pop-culture icon! And most horror fans have seen Stuart Gordon’s collection of Lovecraftian films including REANIMATOR, DAGON, CASTLE FREAK, FROM BEYOND, and his MASTER’S OF HORROR episode DREAMS IN THE WITCH-HOUSE. But many other filmmakers have traversed Lovecraft’s lore. Check out our list of 11 Lovecraftian films that you may not have seen.
NECRONOMICON: BOOK OF THE DEAD (1993)
This Lovecraft-based anthology never made it past its original VHS release which is both shocking and sad considering that the stories are great and the effects are gorgeous! Horror vet Jeffery Combs even plays Lovecraft himself. Hopefully, someday this will make it to DVD or Blu-ray.
VHS fanatics will remember this one from the iconic box cover which featured a blood-filled squishy sack laid over the artwork. It is a Canadian creature feature is based on Lovecraft’s THE LURKING FEAR. Though campy, it has some fun FX via mutant, flesh-eating monsters resulting from hundreds of years of inbreeding.
DARK INTRUDER (1965)
This is a made-for-TV horror movie from 1965 that stars Leslie Nielsen (yes, that guy from AIRPLANE) as a swinging detective and occult expert. Once finished, the film was regarded as “too scary” for TV audiences and ended up doing a run at drive-in theaters. Though not a precise Lovecraft story, the plot utilizes many Lovecratian gods and characters including Dagon, Cthulhu, and the Elder Gods. This was likely the influence of producer Jack Laird who later wrote several Lovecraft-based episodes of NIGHT GALLERY.
CTHULHU MANSION (1992)
Yet another Lovecraftian tale stuck in VHS limbo. CTHULHU MANSION (also known as BLACK MAGIC MANSION) follows an occult-practicing father who is about to unleash Cthulhu on the world. All this is unknown to his daughter until some early 90s leather clad teen ruffians show up and accidentally unleash the evil. This one definitely falls into the “b-movie” category, but it does have a lovely late 80s/early 90s charm and some wonderful death sequences!
COLOUR FROM THE DARK (2008)
An Italian production starring Debbie Rochon and directed by Ivan Zuccon, the movie a retelling of Lovecraft’s COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. In the midst of WW II Italy, a rural farmer unearths something from his well which cures illness and makes the crops grow, but it also is driving his wife insane.
DARK WATERS (1994)
Also known as DEAD WATERS, Mariano Baino’s film is steeped in Lovecratian overtones. A young girl travels to an isolated convent to learn about her mother’s past and discovers that the convent’s nuns worship a different kind of deity, one with more tentacles. Amazing water imagery and one of my fave Cthulhu representations.
DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965)
This one is also a version of Lovecraft’s COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. A large meteorite lands in a scientist’s backyard, and he soon discovers he can use it to mutate plants and animals. Produced by Samuel Arkoff and starring Nick Adams and Boris Karloff, this is an AIP classic!
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995)
John Carpenter’s film is by no means “unknown”, but some may have overlooked the Lovecraftian echoes that are peppered throughout the movie. Even the title itself is a nod to the Lovecraft story AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. The plot revolves around John Trent, an insurance investigator who is given the task of finding the mysterious author Sutter Cane and recovering what is thought to be his final manuscript. Kane’s fictional novels also are plays on a variety of Lovecraft titles, and the tone, setting and even tentacle monsters are also spot on. This is Lovecraft done right!
CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991)
An HBO original picture, CAST A DEADLY SPELL stars Fred Ward as detective HP Lovecraft. He navigates a cool version of 1940’s Los Angeles where magic is not only real, it is traded on the black market and controlled by law enforcement. The plot is infused with Lovecraftian notes (not just the character name) including names, tones, plot devices (femme fatale played by Julienne Moore), and even some of Lovecraft’s own monsters. A sequel, WITCH HUNT, was made in 1994 with Dennis Hopper starring as detective Lovecraft! Sadly, neither film ever made it beyond VHS. These films are just begging for a Blu-ray combo release!
After his mother passes away, a professor journeys back to his hometown to take care of her estate. He quickly remembers why he left- the whole town is part of some new-age fish cult. Don’t expect a lot of monster action (the film focuses more on the concept of being an outsider instead of any elder gods), but CTHULHU does have intense, well-developed mood and dread.
THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970)
Produced by the legendary Roger Corman, THE DUNWICH HORROR is based on the Lovecraft short story of the same name. With a script co-written by Curtis Hanson (L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, 8 MILE, HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE), the film focuses on Miskatonic University and a cult to bring back The Old Ones. It is a standard B-level Corman pic but this one has some fun monster action!