Saturday, March 28, 2009

Filming Lovecraft


I learned just recently that Universal Studios has picked up the rights to the Image comic book The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft, a comic that mixes elements of Lovecraft's life with his fiction. The comic isn't out yet so I can say nothing about its quality, (though that hasn't stopped some of my peers) but I do have to wonder why anyone would want to make a movie of the comic when no one has ever made a really good movie of one of Lovecraft's actual works. I mean, it's not as if Lovecraft is exactly a household name even now.
Coincidentally, I was discussing the difficulties of filming Lovecraft with my friend Ralph just this week. The biggest problem I can see with mounting a big budget version of Lovecraft would be finding the right story. The Call of Cthulhu is the first thing that leaps to most folks minds, but Cthulhu is not one story but three, and common wisdom is that 'anthology' films or films with a lot of flashbacks are box office death. The recent amateur version of Cthulhu ,which I reviewed a while back, shows that the story could be filmed as written, but I don't see Hollywood doing that. They like a nice straight through story arc for their movies. I can think of a couple of ways that the basic story could be re-written to be more linear, but then we're drifting away from Lovecraft.
The Dunwich Horror might be a good candidate, though it too suffers from much non-liner storytelling. It has a couple of good monsters though, and references to Lovecraft's iconic book, The Necronomicon.
For a more linear story with a lot of chills, The Shadow Over Innsmouth might be a good bet. It's a very suspenseful tale with a lot of creepy atmosphere. The biggest problem I can see there is that it lacks much reference to Lovecraft's more famous creations, the elder Gods, Necronomicon, etc, and therefore might not be considered 'Lovecraftian' enough to be representative of Lovecraft's work. That and the fact that most of the menace is supplied by men with fishy facial features. Wouldn't be hard to work in some true 'Deep Ones' though toward the end of the film.
Anyway, the comic book might surprise me. It's not as if mixing Lovecraft with his own fiction is a new idea. Richard Lupoff did it in his novel, Lovecraft's Book back in 1985. More recently the novel Shadows Bend took up the idea again. I even did a little of that sort of thing years ago in a short story called The Dunwoody Horror. (Dunwoody is an Atlanta suburb for those of you not from the area.)
To my mind, the most successful fictional use of Lovecraft was in Gordon Rennie and Frazer Irving's The Necronauts, a graphic novel serialized in the UK comic book 2000 A.D. That one featured not only Lovecraft, but Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well. So as you can see, I've no prejudice against Lovecraft comics. I'm just a little surprised that a major studio has optioned a pastiche when the originals are readily available.

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