Tuesday, October 20, 2020

5 Movies and Shows to Watch After Finishing “Lovecraft Country”

Now that the dust has settled on the finale, it’s clear that Misha Green has steered HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” into certified hit territory, blending old-school Cosmic-Horror with 1950s racial divides in an eerily contemporary show. While the story wasn’t as overtly Lovecraftian as the title suggests, functioning more like a critical love-letter to all manners of pulpy sci-fi and horror fiction, it’s still great to see cosmic terrors taking over prime-time television to such acclaim.

However, with the terrifying adventures of Atticus Freeman and company having drawn to a close, we decided to compile a list of movies and TV shows that might help fans of Lovecraft Country fill that cosmic void. We’ll be leaving out obvious suggestions like Candyman, Re-Animator and Jordan Peele’s filmography, but be sure to inform us of your own favorites in the comments below.

Now, onto the list…

From Beyond (1986)

While other directors have successfully tackled Lovecraft on film, few have done it as skillfully as the late great Stuart Gordon. He may be best known for Re-Animator, but Gordon actually sank his teeth into several other Lovecraftian tales, with From Beyond becoming one of the best. Following a scientist hell-bent on developing a machine that allows the human pineal gland to perceive other worlds, the story soon mutates into a gory psycho-sexual thriller with memorable characters (thanks to the ever-lovable Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton) and horrific interdimensional abominations.

Not only is From Beyond a shining example of Cosmic-Horror done right, with a quite literal interpretation of Nietzsche’s insight about the consequences of gazing into the abyss, but it also embraces body-horror and sexuality in a way very similar to Lovecraft Country. The original tale that the film is based on also likely served as the inspiration for a lot of the interdimensional shenanigans within the show, making it a must-watch for fans.

Tales From the Hood (1995)

Tales From the Hood is certainly a rare gem among horror anthologies, combining blaxploitation sensibilities with a gritty 90s aesthetic while still depicting real-world social issues. Executive-Produced by the legendary Spike Lee and directed by Rusty Cundieff, this wonderful little horror film turns a schlocky premise into a clever framework for telling uniquely Black stories, tackling everything from police brutality to child abuse.

The movie is presented as a series of cautionary tales related to our young protagonists by Mr. Simms, an oddball mortician with a sinister side-business (played by The Mod Squad‘s Clarence Williams III in yet another iconic role). While some have argued that the film bites off more than it can chew as it tries to balance serious racial issues with b-movie fun, it’s still one hell of an entertaining anthology and more than a little influential in Lovecraft Country‘s deconstruction of pulp horror.

The Resurrected (1991)

One of the more obscure Lovecraft adaptations, Dan O’Bannon’s The Resurrected (also known as Shatterbrain) is a criminally underrated retelling of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. While the film takes some liberties with the source material, it maintains the original tale’s sense of impending doom, with detective John Marsh being hired to look into a wealthy chemical engineer’s unorthodox hobbies. It may take a while to get going, but this underrated thriller weaves a frightful tale of neo-noir investigation and cursed family histories while also benefiting from a memorable performance by genre veteran Chris Sarandon.

If you can stomach the wonky pacing, this an easy recommendation for horror fans everywhere, but Lovecraft Country aficionados will especially appreciate the similarities between the antagonist’s obsession with immortality and the show’s mysterious Braithwhites.

The titular resurrection sequences are also incredible, making clever use of some excruciating practical gore effects that are still jaw-dropping three decades later.

Masters of Horror (2005)

Created by Mick Garris with the intention of reviving old-school anthological horror on television for a more mature audience, Masters of Horror truly lived up to its name with episodes by John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper and even the aforementioned Stuart Gordon (among many others).

The show may have had its fair share of stinkers, which is pretty much unavoidable with the anthology format, but it also gifted us with some of the best work in these directors’ careers. Taking a closer look, you’ll actually find that a lot of these televised classics benefited from a healthy dose of Cosmic-Horror. From H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreams in the Witch-House (another Stuart Gordon venture) to John Carpenter’s disturbing Cigarette Burns, there’s no shortage of existential dread and cosmic creeps to keep you up at night.

There are no recurring story elements to tie these tales together into a comprehensive mythos, but these episodic frights from a diverse array of creators might be enough to tide you over now that Lovecraft Country is off the air. If you do end up watching, keep an eye out for Imprint, which remains one of Takashi Miike’s greatest storytelling achievements and was even banned from television at the time for being too horrific.

Cthulhu (2007)

Another Lovecraft adaptation (this time tackling the classic The Shadow Over Innsmouth), Daniel Gildark’s Cthulhu is a much more dramatic take on this pulpy story, appropriating Cosmic-Horror as a way of processing down-to-earth issues much like Lovecraft Country. Following a gay history professor who returns to his childhood home after a death in the family, this low-budget film deals with themes of repressed sexuality and rejection while also unraveling a genuinely unnerving apocalyptic conspiracy.

While the film would have benefited greatly from a larger effects budget, it’s still a compelling take on seaside cults and dysfunctional families, with Gildark choosing to explore small-town horrors and queer fears in a flawed but memorable experience that turns a lot of Lovecraftian tropes on their head.


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