Top 10 greatest HP Lovecraft adaptations

To celebrate Arrow’s release of Daniel Haller’s weirdo masterpiece The Dunwich Horror on Blu-ray, we’ve cracked the spine on our cinematic Necronomicon to compile a list of the very best HP Lovecraft adaptations.

So, brace yourself for cosmic-horror, kooky zombies, frenzied fish, and enough gloopy practical effects to make your mind gibber out of your ears.

Because we have enough horrors here to fill the night sky. Terrifying aliens, drooling corpses, and – uh – pretty colours await you…


Re-Animator (1985)

Teaming Stuart Gordon’s genius with Jeffrey Combs’ weaponised charisma and Barbara Crampton’s naturalistic brilliance, Re-Animator isn’t the most faithful adaptation on this list (it’s based on Lovecraft’s 1922 serial novelette Herbert West – Reanimator), but it is – by far – the most entertaining.

It contains a gaggle of gleeful gore gags for the ages, with our heroes having to fend off psycho cats, pawing parents, and leering severed heads as they attempt to fine-tune a cure for death, in the form of glowing green liquid. Lovecraft probably didn’t have cunnilingus jokes in his draft drawer when he wrote Herbert West – Reanimator, but the film is all the more iconic for it.


From Beyond  (1986)

Immediately following in the blood-tracked footsteps of Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond re-teamed the director with Combs and Crampton, upped the cosmic horror quotient, tripled the slime budget, and created a psychedelic horror far closer in spirit to Lovecraft’s work, even if it did still take enough creative liberties to full a library. It follows some scientists prodding their pineal glands so they can witness interdimensional beings, accidentally turning themselves into shape-shifting monsters in the process. And if shape-shifting monsters sound familiar, let’s move on to the next title on our list…

The Thing (1982)

Okay, so The Thing isn’t officially a Lovecraft movie, but in tone, content, and attitude to humanity, this former Arrow release is so Lovecraftian, we expect to see his signature at the end of the credits.

This is cosmic horror via cognitive dissonance, blending awe and disgust in equal measure, creating true beauty from repulsive eldritch oddities. It’s a story about men in the middle of snowy nowhere encountering interstellar nightmares that they can’t possibly comprehend, let alone overcome.

It’s the dictionary definition of a Lovecraft story, perfectly delivered with all the screeching intensity of a flamethrower. If you’ve yet to see it, strap yourself to the couch and bump it to the top of your HP watch list. It’s completely covered in a thick slathering of HP sauce, basically.


In The Mouth of Madness (1994)

And just in case The Thing’s HP homage is too subtle for you, let’s throw in John Carpenter’s other finely crafted Lovecraftian love letter, In The Mouth of Madness, which is packed with Lovecraft references. Even the title is a riff on At The Mountains of Madness, Lovecraft’s apparently unadaptable tale. The story sees a soon-to-be unhinged insurance investigator sent to find an AWOL horror author, whose book titles are all Lovecraft in-jokes. Add in a character named Mrs Pickman (who possesses a weird painting), and dialogue about ‘Old Ones,’ and this might as well be a bundle of torn pages of weird fiction from the master.


The Barge People (2018) / Dagon (2001)

Charlie Steeds is making quite the name for himself as an indie purveyor of Lovecraftian tales, recently winning ‘Best Film’ at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, for his latest tribute, Freeze. But before you stream that one, pick up 2018’s The Barge People, which features the kind of flesh-eating mutant gill-breathers that would put HP off his fish supper, who exist solely to chase down a gang of holiday-makers / locals, in the search for a perfect catch. Pair it with the ubiquitous Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, which is a more direct adaptation of Lovecraft’s fish fetish.


The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

More of a lengthy short film than a full feature, Call of Cthulhu is still an essential addition to any Lovecraftian movie list, thanks to its dedication to recreating not just Lovecraft’s work, but the era in which it was created – crafting a tribute to silent era film so perfect it feels like it was dug out of a time capsule, as opposed to being shot in 2005.

It takes one of Lovecraft’s trickiest texts to take to the cinema screen, and uses 1920s techniques to imagine an alternate reality where HP’s work was as popular on creation as it is today. Available via the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, this is one Call Cthulhu cravers should definitely collect.

Necronomicon (1993) / The Resurrected (1991)

Next-up, a ‘90s double-bill, as it’s hard to separate these special effects-heavy celebrations of the master of the macabre. Let’s start with Necromonicon, named after Lovecraft’s iconic grim grimoire, which appears in several of his stories. It’s an appropriate title, as the movie is an anthology, attempting to recreate the feel of several of the writer’s tales, including The Rats in the Walls, Cool Air, The Whisperer in Darkness – as if the adaptations came from Lovecraft himself. Indeed, the author appears (in the form of Jeffrey Combs), introducing each tale like a cross between the Crypt Keeper and Bruce Campbell. Oh, and Combs isn’t the only Re-Animator alumni involved here, Brian Yuzna produces and directs, bringing extra gonzo appeal. Anthologies are hit and miss by nature, but this is more hit – with cool creatures, fun practical set-pieces, and a genuinely eerie tone making Necronomicon jump off the shelf.

Pair it with Return of the Living Dead’s Dan O’Bannon’s relatively faithful adaptation of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Resurrected, which has a similar feel – even if The Resurrected has a straighter face. Both movies contain truly powerful imagery, building to SFX set-pieces so gross, you’ll find yourself giving your telly screen a wipe down after they’ve finished.

Color Out Of Space (2019)

Possibly the closest representation of Lovecraft’s work (complete with a problematic creator behind the magic), Color Out Of Space combines a post-Mandy Nicolas Cage with otherworldly lighting / grading, nightmare practical imagery (conjured by Arrow Podcast co-host Dan Martin), and a story that sticks so close to the original text, you half-expect exclamation marks to appear on the screen. Color Out Of Space has an eerie evil at the core of its purple heart, creating an atmosphere like no other.

It follows Nathan Gardner (Cage), the head of a family who move to a farm in the middle of nowhere, who find themselves at the center of a cosmic disturbance so profound, they can’t even trust the shade of the sky. Beautiful, bizarre, tense, and tragic – Color Out Of Space is the greatest modern Lovecraft take – probably because it feels like it was shot in the ‘80s (when several of the best titles on the list came into existence).

Its legacy has faltered, thanks to accusations against its director, but if you can separate art from the artist (you’re a Lovecraft fan, you’re good at that), there’s plenty to be awe-inspired by here.

Sam Ashurst

Sam Ashurst

Writer and expert

Sam Ashurst has been a film journalist for 20 years, writing for publications including Total Film, SFX, IGN, Yahoo, Digital Spy, The Independent, and more. He's also an award-winning filmmaker, and the co-host of the Arrow Video podcast.