Kevin Strange’s Top 6 Lovecraftian Movies

H.P Lovecraft is my favorite author. 80s B-movie monster flicks are my favorite genre of movies. So there should be no doubt that 80s B-Movie monster flicks based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft would be right up my alley.

I fucking love these flicks! Even the bad ones! Even the crappy sequels to the bad ones! If it’s got HPL’s name on it and it’s a horror movie, you bet your big bubble butt I’m gonna watch that shit!

What follows are what I consider to be the absolute best six cheesy B-movies based on HPL stories. I hope you have as much fun watching them as I do!

 

6. Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006)

This little know bugger isn’t a particularly good film but I really liked the atmosphere the filmmakers created by shooting the flick in an honest to god abandoned insane asylum.

I found it in the dwindling horror section of a Blockbuster Video back in the day and rented it based on Lovecraft’s big ole name splashed across the top of the cover art. You know what else that cover had? A badass monster that appears absolutely nowhere in the film!

Yes. It’s one of THOSE movies. Ordinarily that would be enough to make me toss the disk across the room and never think about the flick again, but for some reason the acting of William Sanderson (the only legit actor in the flick) and the awesome(ly bad) Cthulhu rubber monster suit at the end saved this one for me and even though I’ve only seen it once, I still recommend it to Lovecraft movie loving friends.

Unfortunately there are a LOT worse flicks out there with HPL’s name emblazoned on them than this one.  2 and a half out of five dead and dreaming Strangeheads.

 

5. The Dunwich Horror (1970)

Dean Stockwell as Wilbur Whateley. Nuff said. …But I’ll say more anyway because this is my shit and I can do what I want.

While this flick was an AIP, Roger Corman produced movie, it REALLY feels like a Hammer film. Not only did it come out during the Hammer era, but the sleazy, soft focus porn music infused aesthetic lends credence to that feel as well.

While only tangentially related to the story of the same name, The Dunwich Horror, taken as a weird, stand alone occult movie by itself really works as a creepy horror film. Seeing Stockwell perform Lovecraftian rituals on a hot blonde ain’t bad on the eyes either.

Really if you’re a fan of 60s/70s era Satanic movies, you could do worse than this slow burn warlock flick. 3 out of 5 Strangeheads that are the key and the gate to the Strangeheads. 

 

4. Dagon (2001)

Dagon is one of, in my opinion (and I’ve seen a LOT of Lovecraft movies,) the most authentic Lovecraftian film adaptations ever made. Only it’s not an adaptation of the short story Dagon. It’s actually an adaptation of the classic Lovecraft novella The Shadow Over Insmouth.

Now, I don’t mean that it’s a shot for shot remake of the story. There are a lot and I do mean a LOT of liberties taken with the story (hello naked octopus girl!) but they are liberties that I personally think enhance a film version of the classic tale.

Like most of the other movies on this list, Dagon is a Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna production. I just flat out love the B-Movie tits and gore aesthetic that these two bring to my favorite author’s works.

As nuts as some of the other movies are on this list, I put the final 20 minutes of Dagon up against any of them. The skinned faced denizens of Insmouth, the octopus girl and Mother Hydra herself making an appearance make Dagon one of the best Lovecraftian movies ever made. 4 out of 5 cultists from the Esoteric Order of the Strangeheads.

 

3. Necronomicon (1993)

This flick has a couple of things going against it that have kept it from getting the kind of attention it deserves. First, it’s an anthology film, with three Lovecraftian stories being told, all connected by a wrap around story concerning Jeffrey Combs as H.P. Lovecraft reading from a rare copy of the Necronomicon. His chin prosthetic alone should make this a cult classic!

The second thing is, it never got a DVD release in the states! For the life of me, I don’t know why that is. This is a GREAT Lovecraft flick featuring production by none other than Brian Yuzna who also directed one of the segments. It stars Combs, Richard Lynch and Bruce Payne so it has star power.

It’s also got great monsters, hot chicks and a boat load of gore. It’s a real travesty that it never got the release it deserved. Maybe we’ll get an overpriced Blu Ray special edition that I won’t be able to afford one of these days? 5 out of 5 cryogenically animated Strangeheads.

2. From Beyond (1986)

It’s all Gordon/Yuzna from here on out, as well it should be. I can’t stress enough how influential these Lovecraft flicks were to not only my love of all things HPL but of my love of practical monster FX and tits in horror movies. I grew up on this shit. It’s everything I love about movies!

And From Beyond is my personal favorite. It’s not number one just because I don’t consider it THE BEST. It’s got its flaws and is a much smaller scale production (while having much better monsters, however that works) than Re-Animator, but it suffers from only following the three central cast members in a single location for much of the run time of the film.

That, however, doesn’t stop it from having Barbara Crampton in a fucking leather dominatrix suit, or Jeffery Combs with a protruding pineal gland sucking the eyeball out of a nurse! There are so many perfect scenes and slimy monsters in this flick. God I love it. 5 out of 5 Dr. Edward Strangeheads, at your service. 

1. Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator is considered by practically everyone to be the quintessential H.P. Lovecraft film, and I find it hard to disagree. This film has everything a great B-movie needs. Zombies. A mad scientist. Another mad scientist. a re-animated severed head going down on Barbara Crampton. What? Yes. It’s that movie.

I can only imagine the kind of fanfare this flick got when it was released. I can also only imagine the kind of hate it got from Lovecraft purists. Hell, even the 18 year old kid who introduced me to Lovecraft back in the 90s thought this thing was a piece of trash.

But I loved it! And it brought together Charles Band, Stewart Gordon and Brian Yuzna who would all go on to make insanely awesome sequels and offshoot Lovecraftian flicks for decades to come.

I recently saw an interview with Gordon where he said that he personally had a hand in getting the story this movie was based on back into print. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if he did, then he not only influenced an entire generation of 80s horror kids to fall in love with the works of HPL, he was also instrumental in getting one of HPL’s coolest stories into my hands. And for that, this monster kid is forever grateful. 5 out of 5 blonde bombshell pussy eating Strangeheads. 

Kevin Strange’s Arrival Movie Review

Every once in a while a movie comes along and takes you by complete surprise. ARRIVAL is that movie. Promotion for this either completely blew past me or was so subtle, I really had no idea what I was in for besides a broody alien invasion flick.

We’ve all seen the alien invasion flick a million times to varying degrees of success. What I wasn’t anticipating was the low murmurs that started after the movie premiered calling it a Lovecraftian mind fuck.

I started seeing images from the film like the one I used for the title of this review. Star headed tentacle monsters? You have my attention, sir.

One of the things that totally escaped me even after I went to the theater to check this little sucker out was that it was directed by Denis Villeneuve, the mastermind behind the brilliant 2013 film PRISONERS. If you haven’t checked that one out, it will fuck you up. This dude can tell a fucking story and he sure as fuck does that with ARRIVAL.

This little mainstream Sci Fi flick starring Amy Adams and Forest Whitaker turns out to be one of the most authentically Lovecraftian films ever made. How fucking crazy is that?

ARRIVAL was adapted from a short story called STORY OF YOUR LIFE written by a cat named Ted Chiang. Now I don’t have to look any further into it than that to know that Mr. Chiang is a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan. What I didn’t know was that Mr. Villeneuve was a Lovecraft fan, too.

I don’t have any exact quotes from him specifying that. But the care that was taken in the production design, the brooding mood of the film and the simple fact that he chose ARRIVAL as a directing project leads me to believe that he’s a fan or at least has great respect for the works of Lovecraft.

Essentially what we have here is a flick about these giant monolithic ships that appear above the major cities of Earth. They defy gravity and all known physics. They have doorways that open and allow humans entrance.

Inside there are beings that resemble giant hands wearing octopuses. Mankind cannot communicate with them. Not yet at least. A young linguistics professor named Louise is asked to assist the military in interpreting the aliens’ apparent language after the first linguist assigned to the task is driven mad by his work.

That’s our first sign that we’re in Lovecraft country. Madness is a key component in our attempts to understand the true cosmic horrors of the universe. When Louise arrives, she and her companions are sent inside the ship where we get our first taste of the cyclopean vastness that defies all logic and nature. The ship also discards Euclidean geometry in the same way Cthulhu’s great sunken city of R’lyeh defies geometry.

The next key to Lovecraftian stories is dreams. Louise begins to have a series of bizarre dreams as she tries to interpret the complex language of the alien species. All over the world, the other top linguists are trying to do the same with their ships. A rumor is started that the language is a cipher for a weapon and all hell breaks loose.

What happens next is a frantic race for Louise to figure out the alien language and effectively communicate with them before the military forces around the world destroy the alien crafts or each other.

ARRIVAL is a tour de force in tense, dramatic dread and terror and as I said before, one of the most authentically Lovecraftian flicks ever made. A treat for any fan of the Cthulhu mythos, alien invasion flicks or just damn good storytelling. 5 out of 5 dead but dreaming Strangeheads.

Kevin Strange’s Westworld Season 1 Review

What if you lived in a world in which you experienced every day over and over again, almost exactly the same? What if that day always ended with rape and murder? Your rape and your murder and the rape and murder of everyone you know and love. What if your only salvation was that at the end of each day, the memories of your horrific life were wiped clean so that you might live it again and again?

What if you were powerless to stop it? What if the gods who made this world and designed you in their image forgot the purpose of your world? What if they went mad? What if they decided to give you the capacity to remember?

Welcome to Westworld.

Jonathan Nolan is no stranger to weird, mysterious narratives driven by intrigue and sleight of hand. He wrote Memento (which got him a best screenplay Oscar nomination,) The Prestige, Interstellar and the Dark Knight Trilogy among his many other credits.

With Westworld, he gets a chance to stretch his legs a bit and tell a long-form 10 hour story. And boy is it a doozy. American cinema is no stranger to the science fiction theme of artificial intelligence. It’s even come back into style in the last few years with flicks like Ex Machina and Transcendence. But Nolan makes the tropes of the genre all his own here.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Philip K. Dick. The idea of the Turing Test (robots passing as human when interviewed by humans) and androids gaining consciousness has been around a long time, popularized by the movie adaptation of Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Blade Runner.

Nolan and his team take a play straight out of the PDK playbook here, giving the robots of Westworld an unsettling paranoia, a violence and a rage hidden just behind their eyes. Tragedy, loss and madness creep around the robots’ smiles and scripted lines. The memories of their horrific lives dancing just beyond reach, ready to leap out at any moment.

We follow several androids’ (they’re called hosts in the show) story lines and several human story threads throughout the show. Each one overlapping the last. Each one providing its own tiny pieces of the puzzle our characters are desperate to solve. Why are these robots suddenly remembering their pasts? Who has been changing their coding?

Anthony Hopkins masterfully takes on the role of Robert Ford, the co-creator and main architect and story designer of Westworld. I can’t think of a role outside of his turn as Hannibal Lecter that’s been so intense and so compelling. He’s really at the top of his game here. Every scene and every monologue is pitch perfect.

Evan Rachel Wood plays the tragically confused and always tormented Delores. She’s great in the role and the character is essential to the overall plot of the show, but I found hers to be the weakest story link, even if it’s one of the most important. Her mystery was also super easy to solve. I had it figured out several episodes before the reveal.

Ed Harris. The Man in Black. That’s another fantastic character. And his mystery took the longest for me to figure out. I only caught on maybe 30 seconds before the reveal.

Jeffrey Wright is also great as Bernard. He holds his secrets close to his chest and burns with an intensity maybe only matched by Thandie Newton’s Maeve Millay. It’s hard to decide if I liked Maeve, Ford or The Man In Black the most. They’re all awesome characters whose story threads are the most intriguing.

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least give an honorable mention to James Marsden’s tragic Teddy, Jimmi Simpson’s William and Clifton Collins Jr.’s Lawrence. They all play their parts well and add to the sweeping narrative of the show.

If I have one complaint about Westworld it lies with Nolan’s insistence upon hammering his points home with a bluntness that often comes off as insulting to his audience’s intelligence. He’s playing games with us the whole time, yes.

His tricks can be convoluted and require a bit of explanation for the more dense among us, but as with the ending of The Prestige, there are DUH moments where he spends far too long explaining plot reveals that some of us caught onto scenes or even episodes before they play out, and yet Nolan chooses to spend 5 minutes on dialogue exposition and flashbacks in order to hand-hold us through the entire narrative to make sure that every last dumb ass in the audience understands the trick he played.

Sometimes he acts like a magician who ends his show by walking his audience through the whole trick. It’s often unnecessary and more than a little condescending.

Having said that, I was enraptured, appalled and completely engrossed in HBO’s Westworld. Enough questions were left for next season to keep me waiting with bated breath to see what happens to our tortured robots next.

5 out of 5 Strangeheads which may or may not be android heads who believe they’re real heads.