Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

I think anyone who has enjoyed the work of Howard Phillips Lovecraft would also enjoy this even-handed documentary on his life. Born to a father soon to die in madness of syphilis and an over-protective yet emotionally distant mother, Lovecraft’s brand of horror set the template we still follow today. He famously rejected the vampires, werewolves, ghosts, et al of traditional weird fiction for his own cosmography, the greatest of which has become known as the Cthulhu Mythos, a figurative sandbox authors still play in today. Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of his writing was the use of antagonists who are often not truly evil, but indifferent to human fate.

The film doesn’t flinch from the less-attractive aspects of his personality, the xenophobia and racism common to his time that he unfortunately didn’t escape. (I had forgotten the name he gave to the cat in “The Rats in the Walls” and somewhat wish it was still forgotten) It also examines the personality quirks that caused him to be the harshest critic of his own work, and limited both his output and his ability to enjoy his role as one of the fathers of modern weird fiction.

The film makers assembled an all-star team of interviewees for Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, with Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon and many others going before the camera to talk about Lovecraft and his place in history. Interwoven into the narrative are also brief examinations of some of his most popular stories.

Highly recommended.

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