Archive for the ‘H.P. Lovecraft’ Tag

Going Old School: “The Call of Cthulhu” Makes One Creepy Film.   Leave a comment

EERIENESS pervades the movie The Call of Cthulhu.

EERIENESS pervades the movie The Call of Cthulhu.

OLD SCHOOL: 2005 Film version of H.P. Lovecraft's masterpiece was produced as a silent film.

OLD SCHOOL: 2005 Film version of H.P. Lovecraft’s masterpiece was produced as a silent film.

*****

By. C. Michael Forsyth

Lately I’ve been re-reading H.P. Lovecraft’s stories for the first time in since high school and joyfully rediscovering his unique vision.

During his lifetime, Lovecraft’s work was ignored by critics and relegated to pulp fiction magazines like Weird Tales that paid him a pittance. Now, of course, he’s regarded as a giant of the horror genre. Some readers still find his florid style over the top. But what might be dismissed as overwrought prose is more correctly read as poetry. His phrases like “a blasphemous monstrosity,” are like Milton’s description of Hell as “darkness visible.” They make no literal sense but are powerfully evocative.

H.P. Lovecraft's genius went unrecognized during his lifetime.

H.P. Lovecraft’s genius went unrecognized during his lifetime.

Such language fits the theme that permeates his work: An otherworldly horror that defies reason. Almost all of Lovecraft’s stories are rooted in the same cosmology, grasping at it from different angles: Before the dawn of history, Earth was ruled by the Old Ones, monstrous god-like beings that have been banished from our world, but ever wait on its edge, seeking to gain entry.

When I stumbled across a 2005 film adaptation of Lovecraft’s masterpiece The Call of Cthulhu on Netflix, I eagerly added it to my queue, wondering how could one possibly translate that story to the screen.

The tale is about a sinister worldwide cult devoted to an Old One named Cthulhu. The main character Francis Thurston recounts his discovery of notes left behind by his great-uncle, a college professor who investigated the cult, piecing together a puzzle whose pieces are spread across oceans and decades, including the bizarre dreams of a young artist, wild rituals in the swamps outside New Orleans, Eskimo idol-worshippers and an ill-fated sea voyage.

The structure of the story is mind-bendingly complex: A frame story within a frame story within a frame story; told through a series of vignettes visited in flashback, which, as each layer is added, builds collectively to a monumental horror.

Director Andrew Leman, a founding member of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, recognized that a traditional approach was doomed to failure, and so took a bold gamble: His 47-minute short feature is silent and black and white, scored and acted exactly as if it had been produced in 1926 when the story was written.The director perfectly replicates the look of German expressionistic films of that time, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, giving the movie a creepy and otherworldly feel. The dream sequences in particular are clearly a loving tribute to those films.

DREAM sequence in movie was inspired by silent-era German expressionist films

DREAM sequence in movie was inspired by silent-era German expressionist films

It’s ambitious and in the sense that the filmmaker achieved exactly what he intended, a remarkable tour de force. But because the movie is a slavishly literal translation of the written work — including that clunky non-lineal story structure — it doesn’t completely succeed as a film. It’s certainly not scary at all. I’m not sure that viewers who are unfamiliar with Lovecraft or silent movies would appreciate the film. Indeed, they might interpret the minimalist sets and stylized acting (particularly the fight scenes) as signs of ineptitude and, quite unfairly, put it in the same category as Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Is there any way you could adapt the story into a traditional Hollywood film without completely bastardizing it? One would have to get rid of the frame story and make the great-uncle the main character. The vignettes might perhaps be simultaneous storylines that converge. And Johansen, the seaman who ultimately takes on Cthulhu face to face, would have to be a central, heroic character rather than a minor one.

GIBBERING cult member named Castro gleefully tells all about his evil sect.

GIBBERING cult member named Castro gleefully tells all about his evil sect.


The big rate-limiting factor is that when Cthulhu finally rears his ugly head, it’s hard for him to look like anything but a B-movie monster. For it to work, you’d have to create a special effect like none we’ve ever seen before, something that makes us feel that we are looking into the face of a truly unearthly and incomprehensible horror.

While we’re waiting for someone to figure out exactly how to do that, do check out this highly creative and unorthodox film.

BTW, I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun at Mr. Lovecraft’s expense in this bizarre story.

MORE from the author of this article…

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel "Hour of the Beast."

The author of this article also penned the highly acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast.

Advertisements

H.P. LOVECRAFT WAS RIGHT: THE OLD ONES ARE RETURNING! They’re Cranky and Forgetful.   1 comment

cthulhu_by_henning

THE OLD ONES once ruled our world, according to H.P. Lovecraft, who warned of a monster-god named Cthulhu, depicted here by artist Henning Ludvigsen.

By C. Michael Forsyth

LONDON — The Old Ones, demonic god-like beings that ruled Earth eons before the dawn of man, have at last been freed from their subterranean prison — and, one by one, have begun to return to our world.

That’s the triumphant claim of ecstatic high priests of ancient, forbidden cults that worship the entities. And, horrifyingly, top occult investigators confirm it’s true!

Cult watchers say that a hideous ritual was conducted simultaneously last December 31 by fanatical followers around the globe: defrocked cardinals in the haunted Parisian catacombs; jabbering witch doctors over vats of flesh in the Congo; bloodthirsty Thuggees in a secret necropolis beneath the Great Hole of Calcutta; hooded necromancers within a circle of Celtic monoliths in Wales and thousands of other degenerates.

FORBIDDEN rites that predate the Druids took place in Northern Wales.

FORBIDDEN rites that predate the Druids took place in Northern Wales.

That act of insanity on a day the stars align precisely only once in 90 years unsealed a “gate” protecting our universe from the fiendish beings’ hellish dimension — allowing the first three of the seven Old Ones to emerge, investigators warn.

“When all seven come through, it will mean the end of man’s dominion over Earth and a new dark age that will never end,” warns Dr. Herbert A. Thackens of Cambridge, Mass., a professor of archaeology and a highly respected authority on the occult.

“Cultists have yearned for this day for centuries. Their priests will reign like Oriental despots over the handful of humans who survive — for a time — as sacrificial lambs, food for these accursed gods. The Old Ones are more ancient than Chaos, more evil than any demon in the deepest circle of Hell — and will be omnipotent once all seven sit on their thrones.”

Old Ones post card smaller

CULTISTS from as far away as darkest Africa and Easter Island worked in concert to open the “gate” guarding our world from an alien universe.

Yet some cult leaders admit they are beginning to regret their rash act.

“The Old Ones will usher in an epoch of horror and madness, full of unthinkable abominations,” says Roger Whittenbow, high priest of the Order of Thursis, a London-based branch of Satanism banned by mainstream Satanists for being too evil. “That part is splendid. What’s a bit off putting is how cranky the Old Ones are. They constantly complain about how much Earth has changed for the worse since they last walked it.

“One of the Old Ones, named P’thantu Rami, commanded us to bring Him 700 virgins for a grotesque rite of human sacrifice. I humbly told the great lord that it might take time to round up that many because virgins aren’t so plentiful in Britain now. He spent the next half hour railing about how much more chaste women were in ancient times. He and His brethren don’t care much for cars or the Internet either.”

The Old Ones are proving alarmingly forgetful, he added.

“The second lord, Cthoko Ba’al, summoned me. As I knelt before Him, He ordered that I arrange a bacchanalian orgy so vile in its description it made the most obscene atrocity a depraved syphilitic whore might envision in a fever dream sound like a toddler’s lisping bedroom prayer by comparison,” revealed Whittenbow.

“As I began phoning around to find a suitable venue, the Old One called me back in and gave the exact same order again. He’d forgotten what He’d said 10 minutes earlier! Another time, Cthoko Ba’al commanded us to look for His unholy crown, forged from the bones of warlords who’d sold their souls in a forgotten age. But He was already wearing it!”

SINISTER Catacombs beneath Paris, ranked among of the most haunted places on Earth, were one of 57 places the bizarre ritual took place.

SINISTER catacombs beneath Paris, ranked among of the most haunted places on Earth, were one of 57 places the unholy ritual took place.

Worst of all are the old jokes, repeated ad nauseum.

“The third Old One to come through is known as the Lord of Mirth,” explained Whittenbow. “In ancient times, when He manifested Himself in Persia, He induced fits of laughter in which the entire population of cities cackled joylessly until tears of blood dripped from their eyes and, unable to even eat, they starved to death.

“But to put it frankly, no one appreciates His brand of humor anymore. His routine went over like a lead balloon. No one got His references and when He tried to be topical — with ‘How about that Vladimir Putin?’ stuff — it was even more excruciating. We all clapped politely at first. But after hearing the same stale jokes for the 20th time, you feel like sacrificing yourself on a stone altar.”

H.P. Lovecraft often wrote of the Old Ones in his weird tales.

H.P. Lovecraft often wrote of the Old Ones in his weird tales.

Tales of the Old Ones have been around since before recorded history, often hinted at obliquely in obscure or banned texts. Early 20th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft warned of their existence and the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley — known as “the Wickedest Man in the World” — gleefully predicted their imminent return.

THE NECRONOMICON: Bloodcurdling book warns of the unspeakable Old Ones.

THE NECRONOMICON: Bloodcurdling book warns of the unspeakable Old Ones.

 

 

“They have been known by many names in many cultures,” says Dr. Thackens. “From the chaos monster-gods such as Angra Mainyu and the monstrous bird-god Anzu of Mesopotamia in the third millenium B.C., and Asag, a Babylonian ‘gallu’ of hideous strength, to Buer, described as ‘The Great President of Hell’ in the 16th century grimoire Pseudomonarchia Daemonum.”

TERRIFYING Mesopotamian chaos monster-god  Anzu may have been one of the Old Ones.

TERRIFYING Mesopotamian chaos monster-god Anzu may have been one of the Old Ones.

The Celtic deity Ogmios, who seduced humans with words and led them into the underworld with chains through their ears, is also believed to have been one of the Old Ones. And many Bible scholars believe the Nephilim of the Holy Scriptures refer to the terrifying entities.

HIDEOUS demon known as Buer may have been  one of the Old Ones.

HIDEOUS demon known as Buer may have been one of the Old Ones.

The incredibly well-coordinated December 31 ritual reportedly took place in 57 places associated with mysticism, devil-worship or the paranormal, including Easter Island where naked cultists sacrificed 13 “volunteers” and pranced in front of the mysterious giant heads called moai. Other locales, according to cult-watchers, include the town of Triora in the ancient hills of Liguria, where witches were burned alive in the 1500s for their horrific rites. Also, temples in a massive cave in the Valley of Valchuisella, in the foothills of the Alps, constructed by an Italian who had seen them in a vision at age 10.

 

OCCULTIST Aleister Crowley was one of many to foresee the Old Ones' return.

OCCULTIST Aleister Crowley was one of many to foresee the Old Ones’ return.

The first Old One made his comeback near Merlin’s Cave in Cornwall, England, a site of mystical rites dating back 8,000 years, long before the Druids. About 500 followers gathered around Witch’s Hill, chanting an ancient spell (whose utterance carries the death penalty in Turkey, Romania and Iraq) in unison with fellow fanatics around the globe. Cult members have been strictly forbidden to speak of what they saw, but several weeks later on January 21, an anonymous eyewitness posted this bone-chilling account on his blog, Demon Talk:

“The scull-shaped hillock, of sinister repute since before the Roman conquest, erupted, like a putrid boil pregnant with corruption suddenly bursting. The explosion created a sinkhole far deeper than the Mariana Trench or any other abyss into which a submariner might venture even in a nightmare. The pit was blindingly radiant in its absolute blackness, a place at once in the center of our Earth and outside our world.

CULTS worshipping the Old Ones date back countless millenia.

CULTS worshipping the Old Ones date back countless millenia.

“My nostrils were assaulted by a stench more vile than 10,000 open graves, an almost physical force that could split a human psyche as a cleaver slices meat. Then tendrils loathsome as rat tails but fantastically immense emerged. And something colossal began to haul itself out of the pit.

“No words could begin to describe that blasphemous monstrosity. I say only that it had a malignant aura more malignant than malignancy itself. Many went insane as they beheld it, their minds unable to comprehend this gargantuan being that violated every law of physics and warped the space around it. Those of us who’d spent a lifetime steeling our minds for this ‘Medusa effect’ fell prostrate to worship, many weeping or writhing in ecstasy.

Cthoko Ba’al has been known by many names, including Ba'al, Belial and, by Satanists in the 1940s, as Mr. Big.

Cthoko Ba’al has been known by many names, including Ba’al, Belial and, by Satanists in the 1940s, as Mr. Big.

“P’thantu Rami opened His mouth — if one could rightly call that maw that made a mockery of all that is natural a mouth. But He did not speak, He sang. The sound was rife with the shrieks of 10 million souls consumed in sacrifices over countless centuries, so chaotic Dionysus himself would cover his ears in horror. Yet interlaced with that cacophony was a sweet and seductive melody that instantly commanded the love of all who were present. It actually reminded me of the tunes of Bacharach.”

Within days, two more Old Ones emerged, greeted by fawning worshippers and a marching band. There were celebratory orgies, exuberant desecration of cemeteries, hearty exchanges of high-fives and toasts at Satanist bars in every city. But within a month, the “bloom was off the rose,” as one disappointed British cultist put it. With their non-stop carping and unreasonable demands — complaining that their quarters are too hot, then too cold, then too hot again — the Old Ones have already outworn their welcome.

Although Whitttenbow strenuously denies it, there are rumors that some cultists are meeting in secret dens, seeking a way to send the old ones back through the hellhole from whence they came.

HAPPY DAYS are here again for followers of ancient cult, who celebrated with orgies.

HAPPY DAYS are here again for followers of ancient cult, who celebrated with orgies.

“This is like having an elderly aunt staying in your house,” explained a cult member who asked for anonymity out of fear of destruction. “At first, you’re pleased as punch to see her and learn about the good old days. But when you keep hearing the same old stories again and again, she starts rearranging furniture, criticizing your wife’s cooking and lambasting your teenage daughter for dressing like a ‘tramp,’ well, you can’t wait to give her the heave-ho.”

WIDESPREAD PANIC: The Great Day when all 7 Old Ones have returned will make the Apocalpse look like a Sunday picnic, experts warn.

WIDESPREAD PANIC: The Great Day when all 7 Old Ones have returned will make the Apocalypse look like a Sunday picnic, experts warn.

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth

A Brain-eating Bonanza! “The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics.”   Leave a comment

Zombies of every shape and size shamble through this anthology.

By C. Michael Forsyth

In my scariest childhood nightmare ever, a man hears a weird whistle that draws him like a siren into a ruined mansion — where he’s cut into mincemeat by an unseen, supernatural entity. In the scariest play I’ve ever seen, “The Woman in Black,” a vengeful undead wraith preys on whoever sets foot in her decaying home. In the last movie to genuinely frighten me, “The Grudge”, a hideous harpy with wild, ragged hair hides out in a haunted house and murders every unlucky visitor (even tracking down and dispatching folks who heed the obvious warnings to get out).

So it was quite an unusual, sum-of-all-fears reading experience to find those elements combined in a single bone-chilling, atmospheric comic titled “Pigeons from Hell.”

The ultra-creepy comic is based on a 1932 short story by Robert E. Howard. (Yep, Conan’s creator did more than just churn out yarns about pumped up he-men with Viking hats. A buddy of H.P. Lovecraft, he too was a master of the horror genre and the pair engaged in a robust correspondence about the supernatural.)

The chiller is just one of 30 great zombie tales in The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics, edited by David Kendall.

An eerie whistle lures a victim to the lair of this zombie she-devil in "Pigeons from Hell."

You might expect that a 453-page anthology packed with nothing but zombie stories would get old in a hurry. But nothing could be further from the truth. What I love about this book is the astonishing variety of plots, themes, and visual styles.

In the blackly humorous “Dead Eyes Open,” the theme of discrimination is explored when millions of people return from the dead with their minds fully intact. The first celebrity “returner” is Wil Wheaton of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. The undead former child actor pleads for acceptance of the new minority group and an end to the “re-murder” of his kind by trigger-happy vigilantes.

Based on an old folktale, “The Zombie“ takes place in Africa, where voodoo has its roots and zombies are the tragic victims of sorcerers.

In “Necrotic: Dead Flesh on a Living Body,” an Egyptologist discovers that mummification provides the key to immortality — with a terrible price.

An Egyptologist's bid to cheat death has a few glitches in "Necrotic: Dead Flesh on a Living Body."

The book offers a visual buffet, featuring styles ranging from the three-dimensional realism of the space-zombie story “Flight from Earth,” illustrated by Roman Surzhenko, to the minimalist avante guarde approach taken by artist Iain Laurie in “Pariah.”

Previously, I’d never found zombies either interesting or all that scary (after the shock of my first viewing of “Night of the Living Dead” as a kid). Unlike vampires and werewolves, who have an inner life and are often tortured by guilt, zombies are almost always presented on film as mindless, flesh-eating killing machines. And usually pretty easy to kill, once you figure out to shoot ’em in the head. (Often they can be taken out of commission by a baseball bat or solid uppercut).

But the stories in this collection pose some deep philosophical questions. “Zombies,” for example, explores that old trick of mimicking the infected to slip by them — dating back at least as far as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and parodied to hilarious effect in “Shaun of the Dead.” The shocking ending raises the question, “How far would you be willing to go to survive?”

This interview with a zombified Star Trek C-list celeb Wil Wheaton would have been the perfect finale for Oprah's TV show.

Varying rules and explanations for zombism abound; the creators are not restricted by the mythology established in Hollywood by Romero. Some zombies are created the old fashioned way by wicked voodoo practitioners, while in “Amy,” disembodied alien invaders travel light-years to animate the corpses of earthlings.

You know, when “28 Days Later” came out, many reviewers praised director Danny Boyle for “reinventing the zombie genre.” Bull. While deserving of kudos for its grim, digital-video look, artistic flourishes and thought-provoking climax, the zombies themselves were the same brainless, cannibalistic monsters of “Night of the Living Dead” and its sequels — just a whole lot quicker.

And while the character-driven “Walking Dead” graphic novel and the TV series based on it boast some intriguing situations and relationships, these truly ARE your father’s zombies. Comic book writer Robert Kirkman makes no claim to have re-invented the genre. He doesn’t believe it needs re-invention. In his intro to Volume One, he extols the virtues of well-scripted zombie flicks like the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, acknowledging his debt to them. Really, the mess hero Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors find themselves in could have been ANY end-of-the world scenario; those shambling, “classic” zombies are just a plot device.

But in “The Mammoth book of Zombie Comics,” you WILL find the genre re-invented again and again in delightful, deliciously scary ways.

MEANWHILE ON THE HOUR OF THE BEAST FRONT…

A COUPLE OF MANLY MEN: I pose with Tarrin Lupo, author of Pirates of Savannah, toting his Swedish boarding ax pistol.

In promoting my new horror novel Hour of the Beast (http://freedomshammer.com) I attended the S.C. Book Festival. One of the many fascinating characters I encountered was fellow author Tarrin Lupo, who was hawking books in the booth next to me. Tarrin’s latest work is a historical adventure novel entitled Pirates of Savannah. And to draw visitors to the booth he actually dressed as a pirate. What’s more, he displayed an intriguing prop: a Swedish boarding ax pistol, a gun with a lethal-looking ax attached like a bayonet. Needless to say, in South Carolina where every guy with an ounce of testosterone is a card-carrying member of the NRA, quite a few male visitors couldn’t resist picking up the weapon.

Tarrin’s approach has inspired me to come up with a prop of my own. My idea: a mummified werewolf hand floating in a jar of formaldehyde. I’ll tell visitors I ain’t sure it’s the genuine article…then again, I ain’t sure that it’s NOT. I bought it from a curiosity shop that was going out of business and the owner thinks it had traveled with a carnival in the 20s and 30s. Scrawled in black marker on the rusty-lidded old jar are the words “Do not open jar. NEVER rub hand against open wound.” And here’s the kicker: a card in front of the jar will bear the price tag: $35,000! A special effects artist and fellow lycanthrope enthusiast from the Werewolf Café forum has promised to create the hand — let’s see what she comes up with.

I’m keeping a video diary of my book touring adventures. Click below to hear the pirate guy.

And here’s a bit including a lady who writes mysteries in which the crimes are solved by dogs!

%d bloggers like this: