Best Lovecraftian Horror Movies
Looking for the crème de la crème of H.P. Lovecraft films? We’ve got you covered. Just make sure you don’t go mad by the end of the list!
Since H. P. Lovecraft (who we’ve talked about before) created the Cthulhu Mythos, Hollywood has had trouble adapting his works. The closest we’ve had to a proper adaptation was 2019’s Richard Stanley helmed Color Out of Space. But what about those other films out there that deal with the concepts and ideas created by H.P. Lovecraft and the others of his ilk?
Of course, we first have to say what ‘Lovecraftian Horror’ actually is. Ignore the tentacles and archaic language of Lovecraft’s writings. Those are just window dressings. The same goes for the nameless horrors, cults and ancient civilization. These things do not make a tale part of the ‘Lovecraftian Horror’ subgenre. What made Lovecraft’s writings so special and gave us this twisted, confusing subgenre is the sense of our own insignificance. In all of his stories, the main character, and by extension us, comes to the horrible realization that humans are not important. The universe does not care about our existence or what we have accomplished.
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There is a very fine line between cosmic horror and Lovecraftian Horror. The main difference is that cosmic horror takes place in outer space, whereas Lovecraftian Horror is all about how the galaxy doesn’t give a flying shit about us. A perfect example of Lovecraftian horror is how an ant sees us; for us, ants are meaningless and can be used for our amusement. So it is with the universe towards us.
With this definition in mind, read on to find out our top 20 H.P. Lovecraftian horror movies.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Robert Eggers‘ 2019 black and white visual extravaganza starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe does have some moments of extraordinary Lovecraftian horror. Unfortunately, even though The Lighthouse has visual cues and some motifs that can be called Lovecraftian horror, for me there isn’t enough to place it further on this list. Regardless, the atmosphere set pieces, and acting makes this a stand-out choice!
From Beyond (1986)
From Beyond is the second Stuart Gordon Lovecraft adaptation, this one caused me some problems because, yes, it is an adaptation of a Lovecraft short story. But I find it strays too far from the source material and gets a little silly (I know the irony of saying that when Re-Animator is on the actual list). This movie does bask in the glory of Lovecraft and the all-star cast that is Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, and Ted Sorel make this a must-watch.
The Endless (2017)
The Endless from 2017 movie plays more like a thriller than pure horror. It has a mysterious cult, true, and a strange otherworldly entity that is sacred to the cultists. This movie is very vague (even for Lovecraft) and it seems like the creators of The Endless were hesitant to embrace the tropes fully. What makes this picture brilliant though is the writing and framing to convince the viewer of a larger threat. All this on an independent budget as well makes The Endless an underrated gem!
Despite using the title of the Lovecraft short story, Stuart Gordon’s final Lovecraftian adaptation included on this list is based more on the short story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. It’s a very fun movie and actually the first of Gordon’s I ever saw. Moving the setting from the New England located Innsmouth to the Spanish version Imboca, the strangeness of a new culture and the accents makes it a strange but interesting adaptation.
Starfish starts as a melodrama but evolves into something truly interesting. I couldn’t tell you exactly what the director is trying to say but it’s definitely a clear meditation on grief and how people deal with their own pasts. The visuals of Starfish are another standout feature, especially when it splices with animated sequences. It’s dripping with Lovecraft’s influence but in a completely new way.
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I’m not a big fan of Annihilation, but I’ve included Alex Garland’s 2018 adaptation of the Jeff VanderMeer sci-fi novel due to it being a spectacle in its own regard. The Lovecraftian horror element comes from the ‘Shimmer’ itself and how it’s unexplained. The slow realization of the main characters about what the Shimmer is doing to them and the horrors it creates, such as the bear mutant monstrosity. It’s a stunning film with brilliant moments that falls short in its writing but excels in its visuals.
Cloverfield is the movie that started it all. Matt Reeves’ found-footage monster movie has two of the best Lovecraftian horrors put to screen: the titled monster itself and the little hyper-crab things. With no reason why this monster appears in New York or where it came from, this great creature feature has a unique spin on what we call Lovecraftian. Even if the characters are annoying and seem one-dimensional, the atmosphere and the two most memorable scenes: the Statue of Liberty’s head flying down the street and the subway tunnel attack, really pack a punch.
It’s a tale as old as time. A young boy meets a mysterious woman in a strange land and falls in love with her. But, lo-and-behold, she harbors a dark secret; a secret of the fish-people, Dagon-inspired kind. Plus, add Italy and Pompeii and you’ve got Lovecraftian gold!
Underwater pulls clear inspiration from Ridley Scotts’ Alien, but that’s okay! It’s a non-stop thrill ride filled with crazy monster goodness. It was the silent hitter of 2020 that every monster movie fan needed to check out. Spoilers ahead: the last minutes of this awesome movie features a clear Cthulhu monster! No joke.
The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci continues his “Gates of Hell” trilogy with The Beyond. It follows a woman who inherits a hotel in rural Louisiana that was once the site of a horrific murder, and may be a gateway to hell.
The Beyond takes the central grimoire from a fellow author and friend of Lovecraft’s, Clark Ashton Smith, who created the “Book of Eibon”, which makes the Lovecraftian horror even more front and center in this surreal, dreamlike tale.
The Mist (2007)
The Frank Darabont adaptation of Stephen King’s acclaimed short story brings a lot of Lovecraftian horror to the table, from the monsters to the unsettling feeling of everything to the mystery of what’s going on AND that fucking ending! If Thomas Jane’s character hasn’t gone crazy after that experience, then nothing would do the trick.
The first team-up between Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs, this adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft short story, Herbert West Re-Animator, was also the first Lovecraft adaptation directed by Gordon. Lovecraft himself was never a fan of this story, only writing it for the pay, but what he created was a twisted homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Not only did Gordon and company take a lesser Lovecraft story (which is still damn fine reading) and made it into a riot of fun and blood, but it was also the start of a franchise (to know more check out this great video from In Praise of Shadows).
Combs’ performance as the titular character is one of the greatest mad scientists ever put to celluloid and anchors the craziness of what is on screen perfectly. If you want to see a lighter take on Lovecraftian horror, Re-Animator is one of the best.
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The fucking Xenomorph. The first Alien film does a brilliant job at keeping the viewer in the human perspective. We’re unclear how this creature works or what it even wants. Can it be understood? That’s why Alien is on this list. It’s a top-tier cosmic horror-like entity on one of the most personal levels.
Black Site (2018)
Dripping with a John Carpenter-inspired atmosphere, this 2018 movie takes the idea of The Elder Gods and asks, what if Special Forces captured Lovecraftian Elder Gods and had to send them back to their own dimension?
It’s an interesting question and yes, the budget is low, but ignoring that Black Site is an interesting take on the Cthulhu Mythos that presents Lovecraft’s creations in a way we’ve never seen before.
The opening credits says it all, in bright pink bold font “INSPIRED BY THE WORKS OF H. P. LOVECRAFT”. This 2020 Barbara Crampton starring movie takes the ideas of Lovecraft and transports them to a Scandinavian setting. That fact alone makes this an interesting watch reminding me of Stuart Gordon’s Dagon. And by putting it in a land that gave us the Vikings and gods such as Odin and Thor, the directors Andy Collier and Tor Mian use that otherworldly feeling to enhance the Lovecraftian horror.
This movie plays more like a psychological horror film with a couple of scenes that hints at body horror and then pulls the rug out from under us. Originally Sacrifice was number 9 on this list, but after rewatching it, the sense of constant dread and Barbara Crampton’s performance pushed to this position.
The Void (2016)
Another 80s inspired movie on the list. The first time I watched Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie’s The Void it took me by surprise in the best way possible. Taking a lot from John Carpenter (he’s becoming a constant here), especially his first movie 1976’s Assault On Precinct 13. The only difference between that movie and this 2016 Lovecraftian horror-fest is the replacement of criminals with the unholy cosmic terrors and a cult. If that doesn’t grab your attention, then the poster should.
If you’re looking for more monster goodness, we have to recommend Kostanski’s latest feature Psycho Goreman.
Event Horizon (1997)
Yes, yes, yes. I know what you’re all thinking. What the fuck???? But here’s the thing, if you ignore the literalism of the engine itself opening a doorway to ‘Hell’ and instead look at it as being a gateway to another dimension: A dimension that drives those who experience it absolutely bat-shit crazy. Sound familiar?
Event Horizon is pure Lovecraftian horror and was the inspiration (in my opinion) for the incredible game series Dead Space. What more could you want?
The Thing (1984)
After mentioning him multiple times throughout this list, we now get our first true John Carpenter movie. An updated adaptation of a classic sci-fi horror short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell is about a research team based in Antarctica that discovers the pinnacle of alien life forms brought to the silver screen.
The Thing oozes with Lovecraftian horror tropes; an unknowable being we’ve never encountered before or could ever possibly understand. The isolation that leads to paranoia and mistrust of your fellow man that ends with insanity. It’s right up there equal to any Lovecraft story.
Color Out of Space (2019)
For all my thoughts on how awesome Color Out of Space is, you can read my previous article here. But the short version is Nicolas Cage + Lovecraft = cinematic awesomeness. And now our top pick for one of the best Lovecraftian horror movies!
In The Mouth of Madness (1994)
If John Carpenter’s ode to Lovecraft is a surprise as being numero uno on this list, for shame dear sir or madam!
In The Mouth of Madness is a love letter to Lovecraft and Lovecraftian horror, from the split-second views we get of the otherworldly beings released by Sutter Cane’s books, to the constant themes of madness and our place in the world and universe. Plus, Sam Neill’s performance as John Trent is just the right amount of manic and controlled serenity while all around him is falling apart.
Lovecraftian Horror Movies at Their Core…
As you can see, H.P. Lovecraft films can come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you want a serious meditation on our insignificant place in the universe or a balls-to-the-wall crazy trip into the unknown, the movies listed above should cater to your desires. Only one question remains…
What are your favorite Lovecraftian horror movies? Let us know on social media!