Come Stare into the Mouth of Madness at Portland’s 21st Annual Lovecraft Film Festival

Here's what to watch at the 21st CthulhuCon.

By Jason Buehrer October 5, 2016

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Still from the movie The Unkindness of Ravens

Image: Hex Media

Few would have thought that the work of H.P. Lovecraft would be remembered after his death—Lovecraft probably included. Yet almost 80 years on, Lovecraft’s short stories and novels have left a lasting impression on writers such as Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates and filmmakers from Guillermo Del Toro to John Carpenter, and spawned countless adventure games on every platform. There’s even a musical dedicated to one of Lovecraft’s creatures—A Shaggoth on the Roof. How's that for inspirational? 

Lovecraft’s stories dive deep into the dark underbelly of the human psyche, and his fans love them for their unflinching exploration of insanity, alienation, and the cosmic unknown. In fact, if it weren’t for such a dedicated group of fans securing, Lovecraft might have passed into obscurity. Instead, there are festivals honoring the much-loved horror writer in Providence, Rhode Island and San Pedro, California—as well as one this weekend right here in Portland.

Our own homegrown affair is in its 21st iteration, and this year offers everything from a new film adaption of a Lovecraft sort story—Dead Tongues—to an animated feature film about Lovecraft as a child, not to mention short story readings and panel discussions. With nine feature films, more than 40 shorts, and some 30 speakers slated for the festival, we winnowed it down to seven things you can’t miss.

1. The Creature Below

The feature film debut of director Stewart Sparke and writer Paul Butler was an official selection at the London 2016 Frightfest Film festival. Dripping in Lovecraftian themes and imagery, this original story is about the lengths to which a young scientist will go in the pursuit of knowledge.

 2. The Unkindness of Ravens

A veteran battling PTSD is plagued by supernatural ravens in this horror epic set in the Scottish Highlands. Drawing on aspects of Norse and Celtic mythologies, writer Sarah Daly and director Lawrie Brewster create a rich and disturbing landscape in this 2016 Frightfest selection.  

3. Badass Monster Killer

There are bad films and then there are 3B films—as in, any movie that requires the consumption of a minimum of three beverages before it can be properly enjoyed. This isn’t necessarily a knock: such classics as Snakes on a Plane and the Tromaville films fall into this category, and now they’re joined by Badass Monster Killers.

Badass Monster Killer from TFO Productions on Vimeo.

4. Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom

This feature-length animated film directed by Sean Patrick O’Reilly stars Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy), Christopher Plummer (Up, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), and Jane Curtin (3rd Rock From the Sun, SNL) and follows the adventures of a young Lovecraft after he accidentally uses the Necronomicon—the infamous dark grimoire dedicated to the old god—to open a gateway to another dimension.

5. Stuart Gordon

Veteran of stage and screen, writer and director Stuart Gordon boasts screen credits such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and David Mamet’s Edmond, but may be best known in this crowd for Re-Animator. Based on the Lovecraft short story "Herbert West," Gordon's cult interpretation won the Critics Award at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.

6. S. T. Joshi

With more than a dozen works about Lovecraft, literary critic and biographer Joshi is considered the authority on the horror writer. His extensive research into Lovecraft’s stories and personal correspondence gives him particular expertise, which he’ll share for die-hard fans.

7.  William Stout

Hollywood monster maker and concept artist Stout has worked on such films as The Mist, John Carter of Mars, and Pan’s Labyrinth. He's also slated to work with Guillermo Del Toro on the planned production At the Mountains of Madness.

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival takes place October 7–9 at the Hollywood Theatre.

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