Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

2008, Biography  -   23 Comments
Ratings: 8.00/10 from 79 users.

Howard Phillip Lovecraft knew madness from an early age. As a young boy, he saw his father shipped off to a mental institution, and his own existence was plagued by frequent bouts of childhood illness and crippling anxiety which followed him into adulthood. The one saving grace in his life was his attraction to the craft of storytelling, a gift that would fail to reap many financial rewards for him in his lifetime, but would effectively shape the world of horror writing forever more after his death.

Today, H.P. Lovecraft, as he is most commonly known, stands as one of the true giants in all of literature, and his work has inspired generations of aspiring authors, filmmakers and other creative talents who embrace the darkest corners of existence. The revealing documentary Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown pays loving tribute to the continuing legacy of this great writer with the assistance of many key artists who remain inspired by him to this day.

Lovecraft's distinctive work creates "a very complex inbreeding of mythologies," according to filmmaker and interview subject Guillermo del Toro. "What the pitch would be is that things much older than mankind, much older than Earth, look upon us with indifference and cruelty." Other distinguished panelists, including filmmakers John Carpenter and Stuart Gordon, and authors Peter Straub and Neil Gaiman, also offer valuable contributions in portraying Lovecraft as both a man and an artist.

Profoundly gifted, yet deeply insecure of his creative abilities, Lovecraft carved a unique niche among writers of the day. His writing is characterized by an almost ethereal articulation of ambience and mood, and an entirely new mythos of his own creation. Hiding in plain sight beneath his otherworldly settings, mythical beasts and monsters, and characters who cannot escape from the darkness of their pasts, lies a vivid portrait of the man himself.

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown plumbs these depths and much more. In the end, however, the lasting appeal of Lovecraft may be whittled down to one essential factor. "It's really creepy stuff," filmmaker John Carpenter confesses. "It really gets under your skin."

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23 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Al Neu

    "Great Tales of Terror And The Supernatural", Edited by Herbert Wise and Phyllis Fraser. 1947. Now here is a delicious volume, old, rare, and hard to find. It contains twa stories by HPL, Rats in the Walls, and Dunwich Horror. It also contains those classics by Machen and MR James and amny, many others. Many of those authors were actually alive when it was first published in 1947. I got my copy and treasure it immensely. Very, very English volume. I was at an elite prep school in Oxford, UK. The master used to read out stories from this book in the dorm. I was never the same again.

  2. Steven harding

    Well before his time

  3. Anner08

    So he was behind his time, patriarchal, the product of insanity and anally retentive! Do not think he was a great writer, but he doesn't deserve this trite piece of rubbish as a sort of biography. But having said that, he was not much of a human being either, whatever about modern sensibilities.

    1. Woke1-1979

      You seem to be some character of his... Seether Beast. Relax.

  4. GunnarInLA

    fascinating story. Had never heard of the guy....if you dislike lots of interviews with folks talking about this man, Lovecraft, it might not be for you, but if you don't mind that, watch it! – ...preferably alone I'd say...

  5. Keith L.

    I have not watched this yet. I just had to put my 2 cents in. My favorites are "The Shadow over Innsmouth" and "The Colour Out of Space". The first being tangible; the second being less so in a graspable antagonist. The reading of Lovecraft may take a slight adjustment in taste, but the payoff is worth it. Great stuff.

  6. Pysmythe

    For those who haven't already dared the expedition, I recommend accompanying him in his tale 'At the Mountains of Madness'. I'll grant you the style often comes off a little cumbersome for the modern reader, but if you can allow yourself the brief time it takes to get used to that, and if you also have a vivid imagination of your own to boot, I promise you that it's highly likely you'll find yourself terrifyingly enchanted with the strange and fertile images thrown forth out of seemingly nowhere by one of the best writers of the genre. Of all his stories I've read, I consider this one very probably the best. However, having all said that, I can also recognize that the man is not to everyone's taste.

    1. LostHearts

      Yes, he was quite "wordy". His sentences ran on forever sometimes.

    2. Pysmythe

      Yep, he does tend to have kind of too much of a Victorian style... But when I read that Stephen King has a high opinion of his stuff, I decided I ought to give him a try. On the whole, I'm glad I did, too. And I guess there's something to be said for having to work a little bit at an author, right? Not everyone can write clearly and concisely, but that doesn't necessarily mean what they've got to say isn't worthy of consideration.

    3. LostHearts

      Lovecraft felt like he should have been born in the 1700s. And if I am not mistaken, he wrote using a fountain pen. Hard to imagine that now. In our modern society, I feel that many people simply would not even want to take the time to read him. Some paragraphs seem to be made up of just one sentence. Today most want everything short and sweet.

      H.P. does take some getting used to. The first story of his that I read was "The Call of Cthulhu". I was 16 at the time--admittedly, few females at that age would have even been attracted to his work, but I've never been normal anyway. Some of my favorites are "The Music of Erich Zann" and "Rats in the Walls". Most attempts to make movies out of his work were dismal at best.

      Another writer who is an acquired taste for some is M.R. James. His work, however, is very "British" so there is, IMO, a limited audience--most unfortunate. His stories are deliciously scary.

    4. Pysmythe

      I agree with you on all points. Congratulations on being outside of the norm, too. This world could use much more of the sort, as far as I'm concerned. Not to change the subject, but are you also familiar with Arthur Machen? His classic novella 'The Great God Pan' is... well, I can't even really come by words to praise it highly enough. It truly is just a genuine masterpiece of the macabre, similar in tone to much of Lovecraft's stuff. If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and hunt it down, because I promise you'll be in for a real treat. It's one of those rare tales that will stick with you long after having finished it. The very last sentence of the story is one of the finest I've ever read, just utterly perfect with what has come before it. Machen, in my opinion, is another one of those writers who ought to have more of an audience than he currently does.

      edit- I'm not familiar with James. Is there a representative story of his you could recommend for me?

    5. LostHearts

      I apologize for taking so long to reply.

      Sorry to say I have never read anything by Machen. I will certainly correct that situation ASAP!

      M.R. James is somewhat limited in his appeal. This is due, I believe, to his interest in medieval manuscripts and the "Englishness" of his writings. His writings have less of an international appeal because of this. As someone who has always been interested in English history, he is a delightful find. However, IMO his limitations are his strengths, as ancient artifacts, ruined abbeys and old writings contain an essence of psychological horror as well as earthly terrors. Strange that a little, quiet man who wound up as provost at Cambridge and Eton could produce such delightful little scares.

      I highly recommend "Lost Hearts", "Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You, My Lad", "Casting the Runes" (Night of the Demon was a '50s movie based on this story)--I could go on and on. As his stories make for a quick read, it probably is best to take a look at compilations of his work, such as "The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James" and choose any at random. There are videos of the BBC's adaptations of some of his works on YouTube.

      Sadly as we continue to move away from the past I feel that M.R. James will continue to remain obscure, with a limited audience. However, he is certainly my cup of tea. There is an underlying sense of humor that is uniquely his, and this only adds to his appeal.

      Sorry, didn't mean to write my own mini-review but he is one of my all time favorites. Sometimes I feel it is our duty to keep these older writers alive, so to speak. It is the lack of modernity in their works which can transport the reader back to a past that is sadly drifting away and is largely under-appreciated.

  7. Maxine Godfrey

    the guy was an ichthyophobe. i'd rather eat one of his crustaceous critters with a side of drawn butter than read one of his not-so-scary stories. but that's me.

    1. dmxi

      cheers for the 'smile',maxine......makes my start in the day 'utmost bemused',me lady.
      -the smirking one-

  8. LostHearts

    I just had a discussion with my husband about Lovecraft and the mental instability that seemed to run through his family. We both think that, in a way, he did not have a "normal" brain as such. But fortunately, his differences from the average person resulted in these wonderful tales. He created worlds of pure fantasy into which he could escape. There is also a theme of madness that runs through much of his work. IMO this is from not only the events he witnessed (and was affected by) in his family but it must have touched him too, but with a gentler hand.

    And lucky for us. His different and extremely creative brain resulted in wonderful tales which also give us an avenue of escape from reality. If he had only lived longer, what treasures might we have been blessed with!

    1. dmxi

      there's a 'myth' going round the h.p.'s father was a high level
      freemason whom dabbled deep into the occult & by bringing mason
      literature home,his sibling started to lap up those 'forbidden' books
      ,which nurtured the cerebral meta-physical journey they say.

    2. LostHearts

      And a myth it is. Poor Freemasons being blamed for almost everything. When I wrote that the Freemasons sound like a "little boys' club" for grown men, with all the secret handshakes and symbols, the wife of one wrote back to me. She had read my take on the Freemasons and her husband, who is one, laughed and said "She has hit it right on the nose!"

      No, I believe that in H.P. his different brain chemicals, coupled with a somewhat strange upbringing and events that he witnessed, are enough to account for his masterful works. I once worked with a genius who was brilliant at calculus and was working on a new approach to its study but this alternated between trips to the psych unit for his intense bi-polar disorder. Such a thin line often separates genius from madness.

    3. dmxi

      well,manly p. hall would beg to differ.

    4. Al Neu

      No more treasures if he had lived. HPL was at the end of his life's work, his writing. He wrote ever less and less. But one of his last stories, The Shadow Out Of Time, is also considered one of his best. So said August Derleth of Arkham House.

  9. dmxi

    my respect goes out to CTHULHU,a humble gent whom knows how to party '....just ignore the weird looking fellow 'critter-zens' & you'll find 'he(ll)aven' !see ya's on the other side!
    -the disturbing one-
    ps.:recommend a peak....even though i haven't seen this one yet,darn internet is crap down here in the bottom-less pit!

    1. pwndecaf

      Handsome fellow - somewhat noodley appendages reminiscent of another great one.

    2. lambdoid

      He's the laziest deity about. All he does is sleep.

    3. dmxi

      what we call sleep is in fact a 'dream come true',eh?