Modern horror arguably starts with one name – H.P. Lovecraft. While Poe gets all the glory here, it’s Lovecraft’s work that really shapes what we think of when we talk about horror. Ghoulish monsters, occult mysteries, evil books of forbidden knowledge, ancient gods, cursed families, an ever impending sense of doom and insanity – these are the indelible marks Lovecraft has left on the horror landscape.
If you look through the annals of horror history you will find a fairly large amount of Lovecraft adaptations. Often these adaptations are very loose and very cheap. Guillermo Del Toro has threatened for years to make At The Mountains of Madness. This would likely be the biggest production of a Lovecraft movie to date, but chances are slim that it will ever get made. Most of us fans are still willing to hold our breath in anticipation though. Until then we’ve compiled the very best adaptations of H.P. Lovecrafts work.
10. The Dunwich Horror
A surprisingly close adaptation that isn’t able to roust itself beyond the mere plot of Lovecraft’s tale. None of the tension or atmosphere is really present in this 1970’s horror flick. So instead of being eerie and mysterious it’s just a bit dull. Which is surprising given the intensity of the bright psychedelic aesthetics. Still, Dean Stockwell does a decent job in the role and it’s fun to watch Lovecraftian tropes play out on screen. But most of what it does right in the beginning is squandered by a thrown together mess of an ending. Worth a watch for die hard Lovecraft fans, everyone else however…..
Original Story: The Dunwich Horror
9. Dreams in the Witch House
Dreams in the Witch House was made for the series Masters of Horror. This is director Stuart Gordon’s 5th adaptation of a Lovecraft Story (three of which made it onto our list) Lovecraft’s story of the same name gets some minor updates here and the story streamlined to fit the shorter run time of the series. But the core of Lovecraft’s tale is present and recognizable. Despite the talents of Stuart Gordon and writer Mick Garris, Dreams in The Witch House just isn’t that engaging. There are some good production values and its moderately entertaining. But it never seems to find its footing. It’s better than most adaptations but by no means terrific.
Original Story: Dreams in the Witch House.
8. Castle Freak
Another Stuart Gordon entry and a very loose adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Outsider. An American family inherits an Italian mansion from distant relatives. Like all Italian Villas, the home is replete with antique furniture, lavish paintings, ornate dishware, and an abused and a tortured soul so disfigured by cruelty that it hardly even resembles a man anymore – inside or out. Ahhh kay bello. While the film holds to common Lovecraft themes of cursed lineages, human deformities, and genuinely creepy settings it doesn’t feel like a Lovecraft story. It’s a pretty standard schlocky monster movie that was common from Full Moon Pictures in the 90’s. Still, it’s one of their better releases and worth checking out for horror fans in general.
Original Story: The Outsider
5&6 Unnameable 1&2
Turning a short story that is maybe 5 pages long into a feature length is questionable at best. Turning it into two movies is just absurd. And that is exactly what these films are – absurd. Part Lovecraftian love letter, part teenage monster slasher, The Unnameable movies are cliche heavy, derivative works that are just a joy to watch. The first is a typical paint by numbers teenage monster movie. A group of college kids go into an abandoned house to party and wake up a demonic presence. The second, in a surprising twist, is an improvement on the first. The film attempts to add more depth and story to the series. It also manages to add a level of class to the series by casting John Rhys-Davies and David Warner in supporting roles. Good monster effects, cheesy 80’s goodness, and more Lovecraft references than you can shake a Ryliegh at – make these a double feature for a wonderful night of horror.
Original Story: The Unnameable
4. Call of Cthulhu
Call of Cthulhu is a production of the amazing H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. This is something for more die hard fans and not the casual viewer as it is a faithful adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most notable works done up as 1920’s silent movie. It is very faithful and just utterly cool in its concept and execution. They have done another movie, this time a good ol’ fashion talkie of Whispers in The Darkness. The only reason it’s not on this list is… we haven’t seen it yet. But you know – we hear really good things about it.
Original Story: Call of Cthulhu
A quirky entry this one. While faithful in many ways, it is tonally opposite to Lovecraft’s work. Light, breezy, often funny – Re-animator is an 80’s horror classic. It is shocking how much of Lovecraft’s story the movie retains while eschewing almost all remnants of Lovecraft’s style. But you can’t even be mad. This movie is just too much fun. Re-animator is up there with The Stuff, Buckaroo Banzai, and The Toxic Avenger for being a bonkers 80’s movie that is just too energetic and fun to miss.
Original Story: Herbert West: Re-animator
2. Die Farber (The Color Out of Space)
This German indie film is about as Lovecraft as a Lovecraft adaptation gets. Despite moving the setting from New England to Germany Die Farber is as close to Lovecraft’s writing as anyone has probably gotten. Some of the green screen effects are really bad and the movie begins to really drag around the end of the second act. However, this is one of the few adaptations that keeps almost every detail from Lovecraft’s story, is time period appropriate, and actually enjoyable to watch,
Original story: The Color Out of Space
Before we make it to number 1 here are a few honorable mentions of horror movies inspired by Lovecraft’s work.
In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter’s love letter to H.P. Lovecraft. It oozes with Lovecraftian monsters and themes. Sam Neill plays insurance investigator John Trent. Trent is hired by a major publishing corporation to find their number one author Sutter Cane (a riff on Stephen King) who has gone missing. Things take a turn for the weird as the trail leads Trent to a small New England town that is slowly going insane. An absolute brilliant movie that is a must see for any horror fan.
While by no means destined to be a classic, The Void is one of the newer horror movies of late to have some real bite to it. Set in a rural hospital besieged by a violent hooded cult, The Void slowly moves into Lovecraft territory with weird monsters and stuff we won’t spoil for you here. Decent acting, great monster fx, and a solid pace elevates this movie above its peers. It also owes a lot to the next movie on our list
John Carpenters remake of the 1951 movie The Thing From Another World is a stone cold classic. Get it? Cold – ‘cause it’s in the arctic.….(sigh)…this is comedy gold people. I swear, I give and I give and….you just act like you don’t care…anyway. I don’t plan on actually talking about this movie because most of you know how great it is. And if you haven’t seen it – then you are clearly making questionable life choices that you should rectify immediately by seeking out this movie at once.
Film-making duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead a have a stellar record of making intelligent indie horror films. The Endless is no different. Despite claiming to not be influenced by Lovecraft in their work The Endless has lots of Lovecraftian horror in it. The filmmakers star in their own film about two brothers who had escaped a cult only to find it difficult to adjust to the world outside. When a video shows up from the cult, the younger of the two is compelled to go back. More emotional than scary, The Endless is a wonderful movie with some clever ideas at its core that hearken to Lovecraft’s cosmic horror.
And finally our number one spot.
Number #1 The Resurrected
Easily one of the best adaptations of a Lovecraft story on screen and our personal favorite. Based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Dan O’Bannon’s adaptation was intended to have a full release it ended up being dumped into straight-to-video hell. Which is a shame as it is one of the few adaptations of Lovecraft that is actually a good movie. Even though it is given a modern facade, The Resurrected feels like an old Lovecraft story. Told from the perspective of a private detective, the movie peels back each mystery to reveal more and more bizarre and horrific events. While visually tame and lacking in real scares, it evokes Lovecraft’s atmospheric and languid writing style wonderfully. For a low budget movie The Resurrected is short on cheese and big on style. Track this one down
Original Story: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward