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10 Best films based on H.P. Lovecraft

Updated on July 27, 2013

10 Best films from works by H.P. Lovecraft

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is known as the father of American horror. He is the man responsible for creating the Cthulhu Mythos and the Necronomicon. Many authors have expanded the mythos and the Necronomicon has taken on a life of it's own, appearing outside of Lovecraft stories. Many people even believe the famed book of the dead is a real book and not a creation of fiction. Several books have been published claiming to be the actual necronomicon,

Outside of literature however, Lovecraft has been a hard egg to crack. Most of his work is largely considered unfilmable, and most attempts, at least until recent years, have been severely lacking. Lovecraft in film has also been hurt by the fact his name was not considered as bankable as other others such as Poe.

Now the master seems to be getting his time in the spotlight though. With Cthulhu appearing in South Park, and renewed interest in the Evil Dead, which features a version of the Necronomicon, along with renewed interest in Lovecraft himself, it's a good time to be a mythos fan

Here are some of the best of Lovecraft on film. Look close and you may see some names are repeated a few times.

Photo of the Necronomicon credit to David J

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebilden/

A selection from the master - Get your Necronomicon here!

#10 Die Monster, Die!

Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, lends itself reasonably well to a science fiction themed film and that's the direction Die Monster, Die takes it. Starring Boris Karloff of Frankenstein fame as a scientist who uses a meteorite to accelerate the growth of plants in his greenhouse. As usual in mad scientist films his altruism comes back to bite him in the glowing green behind.

There's nary a Necronomicon in sight, Colour wasn't directly part of the Cthulhu mythos. The story is a direct adaption though and the character names, though changed are reminiscent of Lovecraft's writing.

The film is a bit slow but worth watching for Karloff. Plus it is much better than the other adaption from the 80s filmed as The Curse

Trailer for Die, Monster, Die starring Boris Karloff and directed by Daniel Haller

When Cthulhu rises - Would you rather be eaten first or last

Great Cthulhu bestows great honors on his faithful by eating them first. Or you could volunteer to be eaten last to help cleanse the earth first. Whichever you, actually Lord Cthulhu, prefers. So break out your Necronomicon and pray for your choice.

Would you rather Cthulhu eats you first or last?

See results

#9 The Dunwich Horror

The Dunwich Horror is a classic Lovecraft adaptation starring Sandra Dee and Dean Stockwell. Other than the addition of Sandra Dee as the lead and the inclusion of some Pink Floyd laser lights it is a fairly faithful adaptation of Lovecraft's work. It includes the cursed Whatley family and the infamous Necronomicon.

Dunwich is cursed by slow pacing that hampers a lot of early Lovecraft films. The only thing really scary in The Dunwich Horror is Stockwell's eyebrows. Still it is a must see for the serious Lovecraft fan

Beware the eyebrows of Dean Stockwell

#8 From Beyond

From Beyond is the first entry from the maestro of Lovecraft on film, Stuart Gordon. From Beyond basically takes up from where the story by Lovecraft ends, with the seeming death of Dr.. Pretorious.

Pretorious's experiments have changed his assistant Crawford played by Jeffrey Combs, and things go from bad to worse. Crawford grows a third eye and develops a taste for brains, and soon after Pretorious makes his return FROM BEYOND!!!.

Combs had previously starred in Re-Animator also directed by Gordon and alongside costar Barbara Crampton. It's a gory fun take on Lovecraft, mixing science and horror

The trailer FROM BEYOND, based on a story by Lovecraft

#7 Dreams in the Witch House

Technically Dreams is a television episode from the Showtime original Masters of Horror. It's actually one of the better episodes. However I decided to add it because it is one of the better works based on Lovecraft. It is also the second entry in the list from director Stuart Gordon.

Moved to modern times as most of H.P.'s films are, Dreams stars Ezra Godden as a student who rents an apartment and runs afoul of a centuries old witch who can traverse dimensions.. She also loves to kill babies, and one just happens to be handy.

It's fun with a decent pace, but not a large amount of blood and gore. The overall theme is a bit disturbing, especially for parents. However in the canon of Lovecraft films it is worth checking out

#6 The Haunted Palace

Even though The Haunted Palace is credited to Edgar Allen Poe, the only part of this that is Poe's is the title and the poem before the end credits. This was actually based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Apparently the producers didn't think Lovecraft was as bankable as Poe, so it has forever been marked with the wrong credit.

For a film saddled with a name and writing credit from the wrong author it is very faithful to the source material. It is even set in the correct time period. The Necronomicon, that dastardly book of all evil, is there as well, and more prominent than in any film before Evil Dead.

I first saw The Haunted Palace as a kid when it was shown at our local high school in the 70s. For a film made in 1963 it is quite scary and still delivers the goods today. Plus it stars two of honest to god horror icons in Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr, and is directed by Roger Corman. It's easily available and you should make every effort to see it

#5 Re-Animator

Another entry from Stuart Gordon, Re-Animator helped bring Lovecraft back into style. Based very loosely on the story by the same name, it has more of a zombie feel than a true Lovecraft film. This coming from a director who is probably the most successful at bringing Lovecraft to film.

Re-animator is a mix of horror and comedy and it's a hoot to watch, Some scenes, especially the "head" scene have to be watched to be believed. It's also one of the gorier of Lovecraft adaptations.It stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton who went on to star in Gordon's From Beyond.

It's a must see for fans of the master but be warned it is not one for the kids. it is heavy with gore nudity, and sexual situations.

The Lovecraft movie that has to be seen to be believed

#4 Cthulhu

This low budget adaptation of The Shadow out of Innsmouth is unique among Lovecraft films in that it features a gay protagonist. His sexual orientation ends up playing a major part in the plot of the film. The film isn't faithful to the source material except in passing, but it's a wonderful little experiment in the world of the mythos

The setting is moved once again, from New England to the Northwest, and takes place in a time when global warming has decimated the polar ice caps and resulted in rising tides world wide.The imminent flooding threatens to allow the deep ones to walk among us. It stars Jason Cottle as Russel Marsh, as well as Tori Spelling as a local trying to tempt Marsh to do his family duty and procreate the tainted line

A different take on the Cthulhu mythos based on the Shadow over Innsmouth

#3 The Ressurected

Now sadly saddled with a new title, The Resurrected is based on The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. It is one of the most faithful of adaptations of Lovecraft's work. Set in modern times it stars Chris Sarandon (Fright Night) as Charles Ward and Jane Sibbet as his wife. The Resurrected is directed by Dan O'Bannon

Sibbet hires a private detective to find out what is going on with her husband, unaware that he is possessed by his answer the evil warlock Joseph Curwen.

It's a somewhat gory fun movie, I have seen it several times and love it. Any true Lovecraft fan has to watch it.

Chris Sarandon stars as Charles Dexter Ward in this Lovecraft adaptation

#2 The Call of Cthulhu

Hands down the most faithful adaptation of any Lovecraft film ever. Produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, filmed in black and white using techniques available in Lovecraft's time and a silent film to boot. The master of horror would truly be proud of this film.

The story is straight out of the short story. A man discovers the notes of a dead relative and upon investigations starts to uncover clues to the old ones and great Cthulhu, awaiting a time when "The stars are right" to bring insanity to the world.

Watch the trailer for the most faithful adaptation of Lovecraft's work

#1 Dagon

Number one is only fitting to be a film directed by the man most responsible for bringing Lovecraft to film in recent years. Dagon is directed by none other than Stuart Gordon, making his fourth appearance on the list. Based not on the short story Dagon, but rather on The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It stars Ezra Godden who was also in Gordon's Dreams in the Witch House.

Dagon moves the story to modern times, and the location to the coast of Spain, but other than that it is frightenly faithful to Innsmouth. Modern effects make it easier to portray the hybrid fishmen of Innsmouth, which add to the atmosphere. For the Lovecraft fan this, along with Call of Cthulhu were the films they were waiting for. Go out and buy a copy of Dagon and wear it out

The best Lovecraft film ever made. Check out Dagon!

So that's it

That's my ten best, or ten favorite if you want to go there, films based upon the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I plan on doing a worst Lovecraft films, and a top ten best films inspired by Lovecraft. I know not everyone will like my list but I'm sure Lord Cthulhu will eat them first when he rises. I'm going back to the Necronomicon for a little light reading before bed. Stay insane everyone!

Required viewing for Lovecraft fans

Here are some required viewing for the Lovecraft fan, all at great Amazon prices. Support these great films and freelance writers by buying a copy now

Dagon
Dagon

My favorite Lovecraft film. Required viewing

 
The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu

The most faithful adaptation ever support the HP Lovecraft historical Society's work by buying this film!

 
The Resurrected
The Resurrected

Faithful and gory fun

 
Cthulhu
Cthulhu

An original take on the Cthulhu mythos and a very well done film

 

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