36. H.P Lovecraft: An Afterlife

Born August 20, 1890, Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an extremely troubled man. A sheltered child, Lovecraft was often sick as a child and, having barely attended school throughout his upbringing, would grow into a recluse spending his early adult years living alone with his mother since his father was committed to a mental asylum for psychotic behaviour. Lovecraft started writing poems at first – stories later – that would grow to take on themes of inherited guilt, fate and the helplessness of mankind. These are themes that we can see as related to his upbringing – genetically, as we know Lovecraft believed in racial purism and thus would find his inherited mental illness as a weakness and a curse that he had no control over; especially after his mother was also committed to the same asylum that her husband had died in – she would also die within it’s walls, though she often wrote her son. Lovecraft found little success in life and he would die in poverty on March 15, 1937. He was 46.

It would be 27 years after Lovecraft’s death that the first major adaptation of his work was released: The Haunted Palace (1963). An adaptation of “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” (1927), The Haunted Palace was directed by Roger Corman that owed its change of title to being square peg shoved into a round hole – it was part of Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe cycle staring Vincent Price. It was the first cinematic reference people had to Lovecraft’s mythology – a interwoven tapestry of monstrous beings from beyond the edges of our perceptions and understandings of who’s mythology is connected throughout his stories. Lovecraft’s work would be only sporadically made through the next decade with The Dunwich Horror (1970), based on the story of the same name, episodes of Night Gallery (1969 – 1973) – Pickman’s Model (1971) and Cool Air (1971). Alien (1979) sees elements of the Lovecraft Mythos but doesn’t explicitly adhere to it.

The 1980s saw movies that paid homage to Lovecraftian ideas in The Thing (1981) and The Evil Dead (1981) but it wasn’t until director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna teamed up that Lovecraft began to see some forward momentum in reaching cultural saturation. Beginning with The Re-Animator (1985) and followed by From Beyond (1986), Gordon and Yuzna adapted two of Lovecraft’s films with a gruesome-kind of glee. Yuzna would direct two follow ups to The Re-Animator and H.P Lovecraft’s: Necronomicon (1993) while Gordon returned to the director’s seat on Castle Freak (1995); they would work together again on another Lovecraft adaptation with Dagon (2001), loosely adapted from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” (1931). Meanwhile, John Carpenter had explored his love of Lovecraft with his homage In the Mouth of Madness (1994), a film based on the ideas and themes of Lovecraft rather than any particular story.

Around this time something interesting started happening; H.P Lovecraft began to take life on as a character of his own rather than just the author of the original works. Films like Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and H.P Lovecraft’s: Necronomicon cast Lovecraft into the story himself. Lovecraft’s weird upbringing and seclusiveness has lead people to create a mythology around the man, suggesting that he himself has discovered the truth behind the world and that the mythos was actually his attempt at disseminating the information to the masses. True or not, nothing has helped to spread the mythos better in this modern day then Lovecraft’s work being adapted for screen, comic, and games – granting Lovecraft a second-life of fame, one that he never saw in his own time.

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