There had been a handful of H.P. Lovecraft adaptations on film under the aegis of Roger Corman with the likes of The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die! (1965) and The Dunwich Horror (1969), as well as a couple of episodes of Rod Serlings Night Gallery (1970-3). However, what popularised H.P. Lovecraft on film was Stuart Gordons gore-drenched blackly comedic adaptation of Lovecrafts Herbert West stories with Re-Animator (1985). Even though Gordons approach was at opposite remove from the way that Lovecraft wrote, Re-Animator created a mini vogue of Lovecraft films. Stuart Gordon made subsequent adaptations of Lovecrafts From Beyond (1986) and Dagon (2001). Other filmmakers turned out adaptations such as The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Lurking Fear (1994), The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), the remake of The Dunwich Horror (2009) and Pickmans Muse (2009). There were Lovecraft homages like Cast a Deadly Spell (1991), which features a detective named H.P. Lovecraft dealing with the occult, the cheap Spanish Cthulu Mansion (1992) and John Carpenters In the Mouth of Madness (1995). Lovecrafts greatest popularity would appear to be among amateur filmmakers there are a number of celebrated works among these, even entire film festivals see The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival North (1999) for one such. (See below for a full list of Lovecraft adapted and inspired films).
Necronomicon is a portmanteau film of H.P. Lovecraft adaptations. It was made by Brian Yuzna, producer on all of Stuart Gordons Lovecraft films and a substantial genre director in his own right. (See below for Brian Yuznas other films). For the other segments, Yuzna brought on board a range of international directorial talent with the French Christophe Gans and the Japanese Shusuke Kaneko who both went onto substantially greater fame. (See bottom of page for eithers other films).
To claim such a quintessentially Lovecraftian title as Necronomicon, one feels that this should have been a definitive Lovecraft film. Unfortunately, Necronomicon is far from a classic. Most of the episodes are staggeringly routine. The most disappointing is the first episode The Hotel of the Drowned, an adaptation of Lovecrafts story The Rats in the Walls (1924). Christophe Gans fails to invest the episode with any atmosphere. The flashback to the ritual of resurrection lacks any sense of horror much more should have been made out of the play between the return of Richard Lynchs family from the dead and their possession by something other. As it is, they just appear and then dissolve into tentacle-faced things and green goo. The episode lacks anything other than serving as a showcase for the makeup effects people.
This is sadly a problem that is too symptomatic of Necronomicon the substitution of effects for any sense of atmosphere and in particular of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. H.P. Lovecrafts work has been much parodied for its prose where he was constantly referring to his monstrosities as indescribable but most of these film adaptations of the 80s-90s have worked to the contrary by portraying Lovecrafts horrors very much up front in terms of makeup effects. Brian Yuznas contributions, the framing story and The Whispers, an adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness (1928), are clear examples of this, lacking anything other than special effects. There are very occasional moments where this does work The Whispers conjures a sense of something primordial during its descent into the temple and has a nice twist shock with the revelation of Signey Coleman with her arms and legs severed and the baby transferred to Judith Drakes body. The Cold is the best story in the film but it too is saddled with extraneous meltdown effects even when it works perfectly well without them.
The only episode that works satisfyingly is The Cold, an adaptation of Cool Air (1931), which works both as a story and in terms of the atmosphere that Shusuke Kaneko engenders. The twist ending about the daughter being the mother is predictable but there is a nicely squeamish twist with the mother saying she needs the spinal fluids so that she can feel the baby kicking inside her.
With the exception of The Cold, the rest of Necronomicon is a disappointment. Moreover, for all the films claim to being a definitive Lovecraftian work, the three short stories adapted vary extremely liberally from their source material. Hotel of the Drowned, for example, bears almost no resemblance to The Rats in the Walls other than the names of the protagonist and his ancestor. In The Rats in the Walls, there is nothing about the use of The Necronomicon to revive the dead (or for that matter any hotels or even any reference to The Necronomicon), rather DeLapoer is driven insane after discovering a vast underground city where his ancestors used to keep humans as cattle to feast on their flesh. Similarly, The Whisperer in Darkness features an investigation into rumours of an alien species that have been hiding in the hills of the Vermont countryside. There is nothing about sacrificial cults or cops investigating a warehouse. There are at best some vague similarities the story starts with investigations into rumours of people being dragged off, while the ending of both the story and film episode is somewhat analogous. The Cold is the segment that follows the original the closest the episode adds narrative flashbacks and a reporter, but mostly follows the story of a person entering a boarding house and discovering a Dr Munoz who has extended his life by reducing the temperature.
Brian Yuznas other films as director are Society (1989), Bride of Re-Animator (1990), Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: The Initiation (1990), Return of the Living Dead III (1993), The Dentist (1996), The Dentist 2 (1998), Progeny (1998), Faust: Love of the Damned (2000), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Rottweiler (2004), Beneath Still Waters (2005) and Amphibious 3D (2010). Yuzna has also produced a number of genre films including Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), Infested (1993), Crying Freeman (1995), Arachnid (2001), Dagon (2001), Darkness (2002), Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt (2004), The Nun (2005) and Takut: The Faces of Fear (2008).
Christophe Gans went onto make the underrated manga adaptation Crying Freeman (1995), the silly historical monster movie Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), the videogame adaptation Silent Hill (2006) and a version of Beauty and the Beast (2014), as well as produced the ghost story Saint Ange (2004).
Shusuke Kanekos other genre films are Gamera, The Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Assault of Legion (1996), School Ghost Story 3 (1997), Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999), Cross Fire/Pyrokinesis (2000), Godzilla Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Toast of Love (2002), Death Note (2006) and Death Note: The Last Name (2006), and Danger Dolls (2014).
Brent V. Friedman has written a number of genre films, including Evil Altar (1989), Syngenor (1990), American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1992), another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation The Resurrected (1992), HellBound (1993), Ticks (1993), Prehysteria! 2 (1994), Magic Island (1995), Pet Shop (1995), Prehysteria! 3 (1995), Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), Mermaids (2003) and Foodfight (2009), as well as created the tv series Dark Skies (1996-7) and Secret Agent Man (2000).
Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965), The Shuttered Room (1966) and The Dunwich Horror (1969). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordons splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordons subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Gordons Dagon (2001), and other works such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2009), Pickmans Muse (2010), The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) and The Haunter of the Dark (2015). Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simons cheap and loosely inspired Cthulu Mansion (1992); John Carpenters Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parodies The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu (2009) and Call Girl of Cthulu (2014); even an animated childrens film Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) in which a young Lovecraft encounters his own creations; while the Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Lovecrafts key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Francos surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.
Full film available online here:-