Movies & TV Shows

10 Best Movies Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos

The recent announcement that wrapping has concluded on a new movie based on a body-swapping story by HP Lovecraft has brought to mind the many other movies which have been based on the twisted tales from one of the 20th century’s foremost horror writers. In fact, Lovecraft had a unique ability to explore areas in his writing that were often avoided by others writing in the genre.

Unsurprisingly, then, there have been a number of movies which have taken inspiration from the dark, macabre, and deeply disturbing oeuvre of Lovecraft–particularly his Cthulhu mythos–whether by adapting his stories or adopting his style and/or thematic interests.

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Dagon (2002)

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Despite its name, Dagon is not based on the Lovecraft story of the same name, but instead on The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It is, to be sure, a very dark and gothic movie, and it takes its source material very seriously, and it focuses on a man who finds himself stranded in a village inhabited by people who have taken to worshiping (and mating with) a demon.

It contains some very extreme imagery, but it is precisely its commitment to holding true to Lovecraft’s vision that makes it such a compelling piece of cinema.

The Whisperer In Darkness (2011)

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The Whisperer in Darkness is another movie that is based on an actual work by Lovecraft, in this case the story of the same name. Though it makes some changes to the original material–most notably in giving the story arc a third act which it originally lacked–it nevertheless manages to capture the atmosphere that fans associate with Lovecraftian fiction.

As with many other Lovecraft stories, particularly those involving Cthulhu, it deals with a celestial threat, and the fact that the movie was able to do so much with the raw material despite a small budget (it’s an independent) is also to its credit.

Annihilation (2018)

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Even though it is not based on an HP Lovecraft novel, it is very clear that Annihilation owes a debt to his work and to Cthulhu in particular. Focusing on a group of scientists who investigate a mysterious phenomenon known as the Shimmer–which causes DNA to shift and mutate–it has the type of body horror often associated with Lovecraft.

In particular, it is the type of movie that seems designed to make the viewer question their entire views about the world, their place in it, and the nature of reality itself. Its final scene is sure to give everyone chills. It deserves to be seen as one of the best movies of the 2010s.

Color Out Of Space (2019)

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Though he is widely regarded as one of the great horror writers, the works of Lovecraft can be tricky to adapt, precisely because they are often so elliptical and rely on the encounter with things unseen (this is even true of the Cthulhu stories). Color Out of Space, however, is an example of a movie that captures both the original story itself and the general aura of a Lovecraft tale.

Brilliantly shot (if a trifle long) with some powerful performances from the likes of Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson, it is the type of movie which leaves the viewer profoundly disturbed by what they’ve just watched but convinced it is one of the best horror movies of the 2010s.

Event Horizon (1997)

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Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and he has a number of great movies to his credit. Event Horizon is one of his many forays into science-fiction/horror, and it is easy to see the inspiration he took from Lovecraft and Cthuluhu in particular.

With its focus on a group of astronauts who investigate the disappearance of a ship, it very quickly becomes exactly the type of cosmic horror someone expects from a movie inspired by Lovecraftian mythology, with Anderson’s signature style very much in evidence.

From Beyond (1986)

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The 1980s was a particularly rich decade for horror, as evidenced by the appearance of movies like From Beyond. It is another film that is based specifically on a Lovecraft story, in which two scientists and their efforts to stimulate the pineal gland go awry, leading to one of them becoming a monster from another dimension (interdimensional monsters are a key part of the Cthulhu mythos).

In keeping with its origins in Lovecraft, it manages to be both intelligent in its ideas and gruesome in its depiction of the monster and its antics. The result is a horror movie which definitely disturbs as much as it entertains.

In The Mouth Of Madness (1994)

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Anyone who has read the works of Lovecraft knows that the idea of madness is one of his foremost preoccupations, and many of his characters find themselves with their minds melted by their encounters with monstrous beings (such as Cthulhu).

This is true of the movie In the Mouth of Madness, which is one of John Carpenter’s best works. It features some truly fine performances from the likes of Sam Neill, whose character slowly starts to doubt the boundaries between reality and fiction. As is often the case with Carpenter, it is a movie designed to make the viewer think, even as it works to disturb them.


Necronomicon (1994)

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As an anthology drama movie, Necronomicon has three different narratives, as well as a frame story which contains them. Each iteration is inspired by a work from Lovecraft, and in fact, the frame story has Lovecraft as its central character. Each of the stories focuses on the book of the title.

While it captures the sort of unsettling atmosphere one usually expects of those stories drawn from Cthulhu, it does so in the pursuit of larger themes, including the overwhelming nature of grief and its ability to destroy a person.

The Thing (1982)

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Throughout his career, John Carpenter has shown that he is very much influenced by Lovecraftian horror, particularly Cthulhu. In The Thing, for example, a group of researchers in the Antarctic find themselves afflicted by a creature that can take the shape of anything else.

It is a beast right out of the Cthulhu legends, and it is the type of movie that, with its bleak ending, doesn’t leave the viewer feeling terribly good about the world. However, it is precisely its willingness to embrace the darkness that makes it such a powerful horror movie.

Cthulhu (2007)

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As its title implies, Cthulhu draws directly from Lovecraft’s most famous mythology. Though it makes a number of changes to his original story–The Shadow over Innsmouth–it does manage to stay true to its original disturbing narrative about a village that has sold itself to a vicious and vengeful demon.

It is especially notable for having a gay man as its protagonist, as well as for its skill at managing to explore Lovecraft’s larger concerns while doing so on a very small budget. NEXT: 10 Movies Inspired By The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft, Ranked (According To IMDb)

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