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(WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the films mentioned. You've been warned)

There is no writer in the realm of horror who has had a more enduring legacy then H.P. Lovecraft. Although he died nearly penniless, his short stories and novellas have endured for more than a century and serve as the focal point of inspiration for a whole new generation of creators. His influence has become so pervasive that his name has become its own genre descriptor with hundreds of books, movies, and video games being described as featuring Lovecraftian elements.

Generally, Lovecraftian horror is defined by cosmic , where humans are but an insignificant speck in the universe and the true scope of our place in it is so minuscule that if we knew the origins of the great alien horrors who stand at the apex of the cosmic hierarchy, our tiny minds would be completely shattered. If we ever gazed beyond the veil of our infinitesimal reality, we would go crazy.

Of course, that’s the grand scope of Lovecraftian horror, but in practice it also means a world filled with awesome alien monsters and lots of slime and tentacles. Oh, and giant, albino penguins. To celebrate the lasting contributions of we’ve gathered together a list of some films that are either direct adaptations or were greatly inspired by his work.

1. 'Re-Animator'

'Re-Animator' [Credit: Empire International Pictures]
'Re-Animator' [Credit: Empire International Pictures]
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Release Date: 1985
  • Based On: "Herbert West – Reanimator"
  • Date Published: 1922
  • The Plot: A college professor finds the scientific solution to bring the dead back to life.

Ah yes, Re-Animator. This is pretty much a cult classic based on yet another cult classic. The only difference is instead of the aloof and terrifying toe-headed scientist with a cold demeanor, Herbert West is kind of a nerd. I mean, it makes sense, but so much is lost when you turn West from a terrifying, death-obsessed, amoral monster — willing to go so far as to enlist in the army and brave the horrors of the first World War just for fresher tissue samples — into a campy weirdo who decapitates people with a shovel. Of course, Lovecraft hated writing the series, and he only did it for a paycheck, so he probably wouldn’t care one way or another what anyone does with it.

2. 'From Beyond'

'From Beyond' [Credit: Empire Pictures]
'From Beyond' [Credit: Empire Pictures]
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Release Date: 1986
  • Based On: "From Beyond"
  • Published: 1920
  • The Plot: A group of scientists have developed the Resonator, a machine that allows whoever is within range to see beyond normal perceptible reality. But when the experiment succeeds, they are immediately attacked by terrible life forms.

Director Stuart Gordon followed the cult success of Re-Animator by adapting another famous Lovecraft short story into a feature film. Reusing many of the same actors, he’d hoped that he might create his own series of Lovecraft films using the same cast in new roles much in the same way Roger Corman had made his series of films based on the works of Poe.

The film revolves around a scientist who builds a machine that allows him to see beyond the vale of normal reality. Of course, when he turns on the machine, he invites a number of extra-dimensional alien horrors to infest and torment those around them. This film has some great creature effects that really capture the best slimy creations that '80s special effects could provide. While the film isn’t quite on the same level as other films of it’s ilk, like The Fly or The Thing, it makes a great little companion piece of B-movie horror flick for those of you out there who are sick of seeing CGI monsters of modern cinema.

3. 'The Mist'

'The Mist' [Credit: Dimension Films]
'The Mist' [Credit: Dimension Films]
  • Director: Frank Darabont
  • Release Date: 2007
  • Based On: The Mist
  • Published: 1985
  • The Plot: A freak storm unleashes a species of bloodthirsty creatures on a small town, where a small band of citizens hole up in a supermarket and fight for their lives.

Technically this isn’t a direct adaptation of a Lovecraft story, seeing as how it’s based on the novella, but King has always been an unabashed lover of all things Lovecraft and has written many stories that have paid tribute to the master of cosmic horror. The Mist is probably the best example of his combination of Lovecraftian horror with many of his patented Stephen King-isms.

The story takes place in Maine, the single most important location in all of the Stephen King universe (with the exception of maybe Mid-World), but when a military experiment goes awry, an interdimensional portal is ripped open and a deadly mist covers a local supermarket, things suddenly end up really, really Lovecraftian. The world floods with extradimensional horrors beyond man’s understanding. The film goes the extra mile that the original novella never quite managed by really showing off the absolute futility and hopelessness that comes with inhabiting the kind of world that Lovecraft envisioned.

4. 'Evil Dead'

'Evil Dead' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'Evil Dead' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
  • Director: Sam Raimi
  • Release Date: 1981
  • Based On: Loosely based on the Necronomicon featured in numerous Lovecraft stories.
  • The Plot: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

From a purely technical standpoint, isn’t based on any particular Lovecraft story or novella. It draws loose inspiration on a very important artifact from the Lovecraft mythos, though. In Lovecraft’s fictional universe the Necronomicon was written by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. The book features accounts of the Old Ones, their history, and gives the incantations required for summoning them. It’s infamy has made it one of the most requested fictional books, and it should come as no surprise that Sam Raimi used it as inspiration for his seminal teens-trapped-in-the-woods classic Evil Dead.

The Evil Dead Necronomicon isn’t quite up to the task of summoning something as cool as an elder god, though, and instead we just get demon spirits that possess the bodies of teenagers. As the series progressed, Sam Raimi took his first great passion and combined it with his second as he incorporated the physical comedy of the Three Stooges to create an unholy combination of horror and comedy that would become an icon of geek cinema that still endures to this day.

5. 'In The Mouth Of Madness'

'In The Mouth Of Madness' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
'In The Mouth Of Madness' [Credit: New Line Cinema]
  • Director: John Carpenter
  • Release Date: 1995
  • Based On: While technically not an adaptation of any Lovecraft story, the entire film is a love letter with numerous references to many of Lovecraft’s stories.
  • The Plot: An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer's books have on his fans is more than inspirational.

In the Mouth of Madness is the concluding chapter in a series of films that John Carpenter has dubbed his Apocalypse Trilogy, a series of thematic films that all have Lovecraftian roots, including The Thing, and Prince of Darkness. Out of all the films, this one is the most explicitly Lovecraftian.

It involves an insurance investigator who is prompted to investigate a famous author whose books are best sellers that literally drive people insane. As he delves further, our insurance investigator comes to the horrible realization that Sutter Cane is just a proxy for Lovecraftian elder gods who seek to reclaim the earth. Even worse, he finds that he is just a character in Sutter’s novel and is completely helpless from preventing the end of the world, as Sutter’s final book drives the the world crazy and brings about the apocalypse. While not based on any Lovecraft story, it’s a story that would make the man proud.

6. 'Cool Air'

'Cool Air' [Credit: Lionsgate]
'Cool Air' [Credit: Lionsgate]
  • Director: Albert Pyun
  • Release Date: 2013
  • Based On: "Cool Air"
  • Published: 1926
  • The Plot: A struggling artist is saved by a doctor with a dark secret and is slowly drawn into a world of twisted experimentation and dark magic.

We’ll be looking at the more recent version of this movie rather than the short film released in 1999, in part because the more recent release is a full-length film. Probably the biggest drawback of this film was that it was shot in 2006 and released in 2013. A seven-year delay has not been kind to the special effects, but otherwise, this is a pretty good adaptation. It’s character driven rather than plot focused, but that isn’t exactly a mark against the movie. Quite frankly, having someone add character to Lovecraft’s bland, self-inserted narrator is refreshing.

7. 'Dagon'

'Dagon' [Credit: Lionsgate]
'Dagon' [Credit: Lionsgate]
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Release Date: 2001
  • Based On: The Shadow Over Innsmouth
  • Published: 1936
  • The Plot: After his boat is wrecked upon rocks after a storm, a man discovers a secret cult devoted to worshiping a foul, water tentacle-covered elder god that dwells deep in the ocean.

This isn’t a fantastic movie, but it is a film that is just fanatically devoted to Lovecraft’s weird vision of the universe. It’s worth a watch just to see a movie made by a director so clearly fascinated by the mythos. Most people who enjoy Lovecraft will probably enjoy Dagon and be able to overlook its flaws the same way they can overlook flaws in Lovecraft’s writing. It’s a pretty solid story about a cult of inbred fish people, and I have to say it does a pretty good job of adapting The Shadow Over Innsmouth, even if it does swap the name for another of Lovecraft’s stories for some reason.

8. 'Dreams In The Witch House'

'Masters of Horror' [Credit: Industry Entertainment]
'Masters of Horror' [Credit: Industry Entertainment]
  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Release Date: 2005
  • Based On: Dreams in the Witch House
  • Published: 1933
  • The Plot: A graduate student in need of cheap housing takes up residence in a cursed house that has ties to the greater Lovecraft mythos.

Rather than a full movie, this was an hour-long entry in the Masters of Horror series. Dreams in the Witch House is one of those completely bonkers stories that would never have made it as a mainstream release. Instead of the cinematic horror of Cthulhu or the crawling terror of the Dunwich Horror, Dreams of the Witch House features a rat with a human face. I mean, there’s a lot of other stuff in there too, but in the greater context of Lovecraft’s work, it’s one of the less creepy things out there, right up there with the giant albino penguins in Mountains of Madness. After decades of Muppets and weird, furry critters on children’s shows, rats with human features just aren’t scary.

9. 'The Dunwich Horror'

 'The Dunwich Horror' [Credit: America International Pictures]
'The Dunwich Horror' [Credit: America International Pictures]
  • Director: Daniel Haller
  • Release Date: 1970
  • Based On: "The Dunwich Horror"
  • Published: 1929
  • The Plot: The tale of a pair of twins, a cult dedicated to summoning the old gods, and a lot of backwoods New England Hicks wondering what the hell is going on and why everyone keeps ending up dead.

Oh man, "The Dunwich Horror" is my favorite Lovecraft story. For whatever reason, it strikes me as just the right level of creepy and with the liberal dose of Lovecraft’s weird, classist phobia, it’s pretty much the perfect supernatural redneck tale. Take that pulp horror short story and add a campy '70s soundtrack full of theremin effects and a cultist with a mustache you’d normally find on a porn star, and you have this film.

It feels like a cop out to call this a really really bizarre movie, but it really is. It feels less like a movie and more like a 90-minute long set of sound samples waiting to be used by Rob Zombie. What else do you expect from the director that brought you House of Usher featuring Vincent Price with a screenplay by Richard Matheson?

10. 'Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom'

'Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom' [Credit: Shout! Factory]
'Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom' [Credit: Shout! Factory]
  • Director: Sean Patrick O’Reilly
  • Release Date: 2016
  • Based On: The general Lovecraft mythos
  • The Plot: After visiting his father in Arkham Sanitarium, young Howard Lovecraft accidentally uses the legendary Necronomicon to open a portal to a strange frozen world filled with horrifying creatures and a great adventure.

So this is what happens when something from the horror world becomes completely ubiquitous. It’s time to transform it into something cute and adorable as a way to cope with our fears. It’s happens to everything. The original xenomorph from Alien has become a cute, collectible plush figure, despite the fact that the creature has its origins from the psychosexual art work of H.R. Giger. The same, of course, has happened to the cosmic terror of Lovecraft as well. You can pick up Cthulhu plushies and t-shirts on Amazon.

The ultimate example is a series of comic books that seek to transform the Lovecraft mythos into a vehicle for a children’s adventure story. The first book even got a very low-budget film adaptation that tries to channel the spirit of Tim Burton. It’s success is debatable, but if you were ever looking to see a low-budget Tim Burton knock-off where the unspeakable horror of Cthulhu is transformed into an adorable sidekick, then Howard Lovecraft is probably your jam.

11. 'The Last Lovecraft: Relic Of Cthulhu'

'The Last Lovecraft: Relic Of Cthulhu'
'The Last Lovecraft: Relic Of Cthulhu'
  • Director: Henry Saine
  • Release Date: 2009
  • Based On: Loosely inspired by the life H.P. Lovecraft himself
  • Synopsis: Jeff is an ordinary guy that is stuck at a dead-end job with a boring life, until a strange, old man gives him an ancient relic and tells him that he is the last bloodline of H.P. Lovecraft.

If you’ve ever wanted to see the works of Lovecraft get the horror comedy treatment of Shawn of the Dead or Zombieland, this is probably the closest you’ll ever get. What this movie doesn’t have in budget, it more than makes up for with heart. It revolves around a normal guy who learns that he is actually a descendant of Lovecraft and that Lovecraft’s stories were real. Now, boring, old Jeff must take up the family mantel and protect a mystical object that a crazed cult seeks to use to raise Cthulhu from his watery tomb. While a little slight in terms of cosmic horror, as a post-modern tribute to Lovecraft’s work, this is a great love letter for all of the fans who’ve managed to rediscover and breathe new life into his work.

12. 'H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon'

'H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon' [Credit: Davis-Films]
'H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon' [Credit: Davis-Films]
  • Director: Brian Yuzna ("The Library" and "Whispers") Christophe Gans ("The Drowned") Shusuke Kaneko ("The Cold")
  • Release Date: 1993
  • Based On: "Rats in the Walls," "Cool Air," and The Whisperer in the Darkness
  • Published: 1924 ("Rats in the Walls"), 1928 ("Cool Air"), and 1931 (The Whisperer in the Darkness)
  • The Plot: Lovecraft himself goes to a monastery to do research on a copy of the Necronomicon that they are rumored to have.

The premise for this film is actually pretty cool. There are three stories in this anthology (four if you count the framing narrative of Lovecraft’s research). The special effects are about what you’d expect from something from an early ‘90s film that never really had a theatrical release, but Jeffrey Combs does make a pretty good Lovecraft, even if they tried to make him out into a badass by having him kill an evil, quasi-human monk with a sword cane.

13. 'Castle Freak'

  • Director: Stuart Gordon
  • Release Date: 1995
  • Based On: "The Outsider"
  • Published: 1926
  • The Plot: An American family inherits a castle in Italy only to discover a murderous, disfigured creature shares the estate with them.

The movie very loosely based on the short story, "The Outsider." Really, the only things they have in common are that there is a castle and there is a disfigured, ghoulish man in the story. From there, that’s kinda where the similarities end. "The Outsider" features a lonely, unhappy man living without human contact who finds he is hideously disfigured. It’s good, old-fashioned gothic horror. Castle Freak takes that premise and turns it into a pretty standard slasher flick with the disfigured monster serving as nothing but a vehicle for murder, just like Michael Myers or Jason.

14. 'Cthulhu'

 Cthulhu' [Credit: Regent Releasing]
Cthulhu' [Credit: Regent Releasing]
  • Director: Daniel Gildark
  • Release Date: 2007
  • Based On: The Shadow over Innsmouth
  • Published: 1936
  • The Plot: A Seattle history professor, drawn back to his estranged family on the Oregon coast to execute his late mother's estate, is reacquainted with his best friend from childhood, with whom he has a long-awaited tryst. Caught in an accelerating series of events, he discovers aspects of his father's New Age cult, which take on a dangerous and apocalyptic significance.

Cthulhu is a relatively small film compared to some of the others on this list. The movie takes many of the classic staples of Lovecraft — such as questioning one’s sanity and an evil death cult fixated on awakening an elder god — and crams in lots of nasty fishmen. What makes this film notable is the fact that it features a gay protagonist. With the alienating horrors of a gay man being forced to return to a less-than-hospitable town being layered as an allegory for the alienating cosmic horrors Lovecraft usually fills his story with, it’s an interesting spin on the usual material, especially considering Lovecraft himself was not exactly the most tolerant or progressive guy around.

Lovecraft’s legacy has spanned decades of film history, with influence ranging from simple inspiration to painstaking recreation, and there’s no sign of the sway he has on horror going anywhere any time soon. But Lovecraft’s impact isn’t found only in film, as it can just as easily be found in books, video games, and even music.

So leave us a comment and tell us what your favorite Lovecraftian tribute is.


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