The works of H.P. Lovecraft are among the most influential tales in Horror. His fiction often employed mechanics that would resurface in theoretical physics papers years later. All too often, though, films that attempt to capture the full scope of his tales end up unceremoniously butchering them. In honor of any fan who has gotten their hopes up only to be let down by one of these movies I’d like to bring to light three titles that do the author justice.
The first film, From Beyond, is Stuart Gordon’s 1986 reworking of the short story by the same name. Funnily enough Gordon is also behind a famous Lovecraftian flop, Re-Animator. Where that falls short, however, From Beyond excels. It follows a young assistant, Crawford Tillinghast, and his team as they revisit the site of an old experiment gone horrifically wrong. They plan to investigate his involvement in the death of his former colleague, Dr. Pretorius. Tillinghast and Pretorius had been working on a device christened The Resonator- a machine that targets the pineal gland allowing the subject to observe and interact with creatures in another dimension. Once they reactivate The Resonator Crawford’s companions realize he had been telling the truth. In light of the new development they over-zealously neglect to heed Crawford’s warnings, resulting in a run-in with the creature who absorbed Dr. Pretorius.
The next feature is In the Mouth of Madness by John Carpenter. This 1995 classic is a play on words combining two of Lovecraft’s famous stories, The Shadow over Innsmouth and At the Mountains of Madness. It is the story of John Trent, an insurance investigator looking into the case of missing horror author, Sutter Cane. He is charged with recovering Cane’s final manuscript accompanied by the book’s editor, Linda Styles. He discovers a map worked into the design of Cane’s book covers, which highlights the presumed location of one of his popular fictional towns in New Hampshire. When the two follow the trail they find themselves transported into what seems to be an alternate reality made up of Cane’s works. Following clues from the narratives Linda manages to track Cane down and is driven insane by the sight of the manuscript. On Trent’s arrival Cane explains that the height of his book’s popularity created a strong enough collective belief to bring back a race of ancient creatures.
The last film I would like to mention again comes to us from Stuart Gordon and was written for the Showtime series The Masters of Horror in 2005. Dreams in the Witch-house focuses on Miskatonic mathematics major, Walter Gilman, after he rents a cheap room in a boarding house. Early on during his stay he has a peculiar encounter involving a large rat with a human face who is harassing his neighbor, Frances. He is warned that the rat is a predecessor to a witch who travels through a portal in Walter’s room. This leads him to notice that the architecture of his room is of an otherworldly geometry, which he believes opens up a gateway that allows travel through time. Inevitably several violent encounters will land Walter in the psych ward when a necropolis of sacrificial infants are discovered on the scene. I read about a set of equations not discovered until 1963 called the Lorenz Attractor that would seem to support Gilman’s gateway hypothesis in one of my mother’s books, Chaos Theory: Making of a New Science. Coming across details like that make you appreciate how ahead of his time Lovecraft’s cosmic myths were.
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