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

Gilles Menegaldo


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.


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

Full Text:



CHAMBOST, Christophe (2017): «La vérité sur le cas de Charles Dexter Ward», in Christophe Gelly and Gilles Menegaldo (eds.), Lovecraft au prisme de l’image: littérature, cinéma et arts graphiques, Le Visage vert, Cadillon.

CIXOUS, Hélène (1972): «Poe re-lu: une poétique du revenir», Critique, 28, pp. 299-327.

HOUELLEBECQ, Michel (2005): H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, against Life, Believer Books, San Francisco.

HUTCHEON, Linda (2006): A Theory of Adaptation, Routledge, New York.

JOSHI, S.T. (1996): H.P. Lovecraft: A Life, Necronomicon Press, West Warwick.

LOVECRAFT, H.P. (1976): Selected Letters. Vol. V, Arkham House, Sauk City.

_________ (1991): The Dunwich Horror and Others, Arkham House, Saul City.

MITCHELL, Charles P. (2001): The Complete H. P. Lovecraft Filmography, Greenwood Press, Westport.

PETLEY, Julian (2007): «The Unfilmable? Lovecraft and the Cinema», in Richard J. Hand and Jay McRoy (eds.), Monstrous Adaptations: Generic and Thematic Mutations in Horror Film, Manchester United Press, Manchester, pp. 35-47.

WORLAND, Rick (2007): The Horror Film, Blackwell, London.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM
Copyright (c) 2019 Gilles Menegaldo