The best Lovecraftian and Lovecraft inspired films list
We’ll be the first to admit that Lovecraft's writing doesn’t translate very well into visual mediums, particularly video. The reason for this being that once you lay eyes on the object of your fears you begin reacting, and then rationalizing the horror. Lovecraft didn’t want you to do that. Lovecraft knew that the fear of the unknown is perhaps the most powerful and unsettling type of fear. Although his descriptions were rather detailed, the individual reader is still left with plenty of imaginative wiggle room to make it even more terrifying to them. This list of Lovecraft-inspired films showcases some of the movies that convey the fear as best they can within this limitation. Some of these films do this only through allusion, and some create entire adaptations of Lovecraft’s original tales.
- The Banshee Chapter
- Cabin in the Woods
- The Thing
- Event Horizon
- Pickman's Muse
- In the Mouth of Madness
- The Thing on the Doorstep
- The Mist
- From Beyond
Alien on IMDB
We'll start off the list with the 1979 classic, Alien, which is heavily influenced by Lovecraft’s sci-fi horror creations. While it does leave behind the cosmicism philosophy that Lovecraft imbued much of his work with, Alien showcases Lovecraft's subtle influence in its designs and even in the script. Within the script, writer Dan O’Bannon uses phrases taken directly from Lovecraft's own work.
Alien went to where the Old Ones lived, to their very world of origin, That baneful little storm-lashed planetoid halfway across the galaxy was a fragment of the Old Ones' home world, and the Alien a blood relative of Yog-Sothoth.
The story follows a human crew and their experiences aboard the Nostromo, a mining ship that picks up a very unpleasant guest while mining in deep space.
Hellboy on IMDB
Director Guillermo del Toro has cited Lovecraft as one of his largest influences even appearing extensively in the documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown" which chronicles Lovecraft’s life and pop culture influence. Look at the thing that comes though the portal and tell us it's not pure Lovecraftian horror.
Not only are the visuals straight out of Lovecraft, but so is the movie’s sense of inevitability and oncoming doom. Hellboy is destined to end the world and unleash the gods on the universe—an idea Lovecraft often referenced in his stories.
The Banshee Chapter
The Banshee Chapter on IMDB
The story From Beyond covers the investigation of the pineal gland in altering human perception. This film uses a secret government chemical that is somewhat derivative of DMT (also known as the spirit molecule) to achieve a similar reality-destroying effect.
Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods on IMDB
While this movie (directed by Joss Whedon) transforms the 'deranged cultists' concept into a secretive underground organization that wields impressive futuristic technology, there still is the element of human sacrifice. Only this time, instead of summoning a inconceivable horror, the characters are keeping it at bay.
The Thing on IMDB
John Carpenter and Lovecraft are so deeply intertwined that you almost can't avoid mentioning the two together. The appearance of Carpenter's creature and movie’s stark, foreboding atmosphere echo Lovecraft quite loudly. This film endured a remake which failed to recapture the same feelings as the original and came out rather lackluster.
This film follows a group of Arctic researchers stranded without outside contact as they attempt to deal with an extraterrestrial traveler.
Event Horizon on IMDB
This movie takes sci-fi and horror and blends them together so well that it should be considered the go-to movie for the genre, even over Alien. Unfortunately, it suffers in some small ways and it lacks the memorable creature that is H.R. Giger's Alien. However, the unknown terror of the place the lost ship returns from does a considerable job of redeeming the movie.
Pickman's Muse on IMDB
This film (oddly enough, given its title) attempts to reproduce the story The Haunter of the Dark .
Pickman's Muse follows Robert Pickman and artist who becomes obsessed with visions of an unworldly horror that come to him through an ancient artifact he finds in an abandoned church.
Cloverfield on IMDB
This movie is tentatively on the list. The primary relation to Lovecraft’s work would have to be the monsters themselves. The creatures featured in the film are all quite terrifying, particularly the small creatures in the tunnels. The relation is tenuous and the movie is loud and action-packed which is at odds with the foreboding nature of Lovecraft.
In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness on IMDB
The second Carpenter movie on this list, which follows an insurance investigator who discovers the impact that a popular horror writer's novels are having on the world, and gets far more than he bargained for.
The Thing on the Doorstep
The Thing on the Doorstep on IMDB
This film is directly based on the story The Thing on the Doorstepby the same name and does a moderately good job of adapting it to film. The story follows a friend of Edward Derby (character from the Lovecraft version) who recalls his experiences that lead up to Derby's eventual murder.
The Mist on IMDB
Writer Stephen King has made a living out of expanding on the type of horror Lovecraft was known for. While the movie (adapted from King’s novel) was regarded mediocre at best, it does show us a glimpse of just how influential Lovecraft's ideas were on Stephen King.
The story follows the struggle of a group of stranded individuals in a small town grocery store after a violent storm. A heavy mist envelops the town and people soon discover that within the mist live numerous horrific unworldly creatures. It is soon discovered that the creatures entered through a portal that may or may not have been the result of a local military experiment that went too far.
Pontypool on IMDB
All right, Pontypool. This movie, while not explicitly showcasing monsters beyond human comprehension, does do one Lovecraftian thing extremely well—building suspense through description. The movie follows a small town radio station crew who begin receiving reports of strange happenings in the area. The film almost entirely takes place in one room and does a fantastic job of creeping you out through the bits of information the station operators get.
For us the thing that really hooked us was the intro monologue:
Mrs. French's cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. "Have you seen Honey?" We've all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That's Panty in French. And Piscine means Pool. Panty pool. Flaque also means pool in French, so Colete Piscine, in French Panty Pool, drives over the Pont de Flaque, the Pont de Pool if you will, to avoid hitting Mrs. French's cat that has been missing in Pontypool. Pontypool. Pontypool. Panty pool. Pont de Flaque. What does it mean? Well, Norman Mailer, he had an interesting theory that he used to explain the strange coincidences in the aftermath of the JFK assasination. In the wake of huge events, after them and before them, physical details they spasm for a moment; they sort of unlock and when they come back into focus they suddenly coincide in a weird way. Street names and birthdates and middle names, all kind of superfluous things appear related to eachother. It's a ripple effect. So, what does it mean? Well... it means something's going to happen. Something big. But then, something's always about to happen.
From Beyond on IMDB
This movie is based on one of our favorite stories From Beyond and has some spectacular practical creature effects. While as usual the descriptions of things are cheapened by actually showing them on screen the movie does get the premise across.
Other notable movies related to Lovecraft's work:
- The Fly
- Beyond Re-Animator
- The Evil Dead