Friday, 9 July 2010

"Cthulhu Fhtagn!" - Filming the un-filmable


The Cthulhu Mythos. There have been many attempts to transfer the nightmarish creations of H. P. Lovecraft to the silver screen, but most if not all are struck down by either bad scripts, insufficient budgets, or technical limitations and many consider the mythos to be fundamentally un-filmable as a result.

The way in which Lovecraft wrote many of his tales did not help. Aside from several major reoccurring deities, the ancient cosmic horrors that inhabit his world are usually only referred to or are a the briefest of glimpses. This makes for excellent fiction - allowing the imaginative reader to transfer all their preconceived fears onto the formless entity, therefore creating their own terror as Lovecraft builds the tension. Archaic and dense prose make it a challenge for casual readers and, despite world-wide popularity Lovecraft is very much a cult author.

However The Lord of The Rings was widely considered to be un-filmable until Peter Jackson and his hefty Hollywood budget took up the challenge and astounded cinema-goers across the world. Has the technology caught up to the vision at last? Could CGI give birth the slumbering terror of Cthulhu as he sleeps in R’lyeh. Perhaps. I think the vision would have to be strong, the script solid, and the budget LARGE!

The main problem though is compromise. Lovecraft’s fanatical cult following would be satisfied with nothing less than a true and direct adaptation, whereas those in a position to finance such an endeavour would want it to have a lot more in the way of commercial appeal.

‘The Call of Cthulhu’ has begged for a big screen adaptation ever since its first appearance in Weird Tales back in 1926. But there have been a few small groups out their dedicating to spreading the mythos through film - either as short animations or live action. In the case of The H P Lovecraft Historical Society they went backwards in technological terms to create a 47 minute Silent movie of ‘TCOC’:

Director Guillermo del Toro has a screenplay that he wrote for an adaptation of ‘At The Mountains of Madness’, but has had trouble getting Warner Bros to finance it. It’s unfortunate considering that del Toro is a fantastic director, and one that can handle the supernatural very well (See Hellboy II!), but also, according to the DVD commentary on Alien Vs Predator, ‘ATMOM’ was one of its main inspirations - so there is precedent to make the case for it. If Warner Bro’s do ever finance it they could do worse than take a look at the following faux-trailer from you for inspiration.

Search and you can find everything from stop-motion, to hand-drawn, and CG films - some of which stick to the stories in the mythos, others however go for a more original route. I’m going to leave you with a handful that have impressed me over the years.


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