Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown
Now I know.
Updated: 10-05-2008

It certainly wasn't unknown to me when I signed on to watch the feature-length documentary film, Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, that I don't like H.P. Lovecraft, and that his stuff doesn't scare me. However, what I do know now is a lot more about the artist and his work, and for that I am grateful. This accomplished, meticulously-researched and well-rounded cine-bio does an admirable job of explaining the motives behind the man.


Lovecraft, a tremendously influential writer of science fiction and horror fantasy, had his heyday back in the 1920s and 30s… or a heyday such as it was. As is the case with most audacious authors, he really didn't enjoy his due success until years after his untimely death at the age of 47.


Lovecraft is known for his spacey demons and sea-based, tentacled gods who may or may not have created us, the universe as we know it, and an unspeakable underworld. He is the father of the Cthulhu mythos (yes — the documentarians do explore the question of just how that's pronounced) and the mainstay of many a Weird Tales magazine. Lovecraft has cast a tremendous and welcome shadow over current cinematic tastemakers such as Guillermo del Toro and Stuart Gordon (both of whom are interviewed), and fan-faves of fantastical fiction such as Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, and Ramsey Campbell (who also speak out on the subject).


I figured Lovecraft had to be a pretty messed-up character (though just the opposite is true of the majority of horror-writers), but wow — his personal foibles make Edgar Allen Poe look like Hugh Hefner. A xenophobic virgin till well into his adulthood, Lovecraft not only had serious mommy issues, but he was also a sickly, self-doubting yet attention-seeking racist. A man of contradictions on top of inconsistency, to be sure.


Using public-domain imagery, stock-footage, and brand-new interviews, director/producer/writer Frank H. Woodward of Wyrd Productions does an admirable job of keeping the proceedings lively in spite of very sparse source material. A trippy score by Mars, and authoritative intonation by narrator Robin Atkin Downes also help keep things moving along.


For the non-Lovecraft devotee, the exhaustive doc may be too expository. But for the uninitiated who'd like to learn more, or for fans who want their Lovecraft love validated, I can't recommend Fear of the Unknown highly enough as the definitive exploration of this imaginative and complex individual.


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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson



Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown was screened at the Los Angeles Shriekfest of Horror & Sci-Fi (October 2 - 5, 2008).


Also recommended: Hey Flea's Lovecraftian Short Satires


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