Sunday, July 10, 2011

Love That Lovecraft

Much of my misspent youth was misspent reading H.P. Lovecraft stories, weird tales that often featured the Old Ones, aliens who resembled gods or demons. The Old Ones were imprisoned since prehistoric times, but were always threatening to burst out. Occasionally these stories have made their way into movies, and here are my three favorite of those films.

1. Re-Animator (1985)--There are no Old Ones in this movie, just reanimated corpses. Based on Lovecraft's story "Herbert West--Reanimator," it tells of the mayhem that results when medical student Herbert West starts bringing the dead back to life. Invariably the zombies are grouchier and more out of control than when they were alive. The movie expertly mixes horror and black comedy, reaching its apex when a decapitated head makes sexual advances on a bound and naked Barbara Crampton.

2. The Haunted Palace (1963)--Ostensibly an adaptation of the title poem by Edgar Allan Poe, the film is actually a version of the Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The Old Ones are part of the material of this film, although the focus is on Charles Dexter Ward and his possession by deranged warlock ancestor Joseph Curwen. Under Roger Corman's direction, Vincent Price does a fine, hammy job as Ward/Curwen. The film is also notable for the deformed people lurking around the town and for Debra Paget from The Ten Commandments as Ward's long-suffering wife.

3. The Call of Cthulhu (2005)--A genuinely unusual film, this is a black-and-white silent short (47 minutes) and a mostly faithful adaptation of the Lovecraft short story of the same name. Cthulhu is one of the Old Ones and is represented here, admittedly with less than state-of-the-art special effects. Overall, the movie is creepy, strange, and true to the feeling of Lovecraft.

George Ochoa
Deformed and Destructive Beings: The Purpose of Horror Films

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