HP Lovecraft on screen, a challenge for filmmakers (allusions, transpositions, rewritings)

Gilles Menegaldo

Abstract

This article first delineates the reasons why it is difficult to adapt Lovecraft’s fiction to the screen. It then analyses different types of adaptation, either straight or more loose, focusing in particular on the work of Stuart Gordon, one of the main adapters of Lovecraft with films ranging from parody (Herbert West Reanimator) to more serious adaptations which however depart in various ways (especially adding women characters and sex) from their source text (Dagon, The Dreams in the Witch House). Andrew Leman’s The Call of Cthulhu, a pastiche of early silent films, provides a good example of straight adaptation. It also proves rewarding to compare two different retellings of the same novel, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, by two directors, Roger Corman (The Haunted Palace) and Dan O’Bannon (The Resurrected). Corman tends to associate Poesque Gothic and Lovecraft while O’Bannon uses film noir conventions, also setting the story in a contemporary context. Lastly this article analyses the presence of Lovecraftian themes and motifs in films that are not adaptations like Alien or the Quatermass trilogy. A case in point is John Carpenter’s apocalyptic trilogy that provides a convincing re-appropriation of Lovecraft’s fictional universe.

Keywords

adaptation; hybridity; myth; terror and horror; fantasy; dreams; cosmic monsters; parody; reflexivity

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References

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