Haven’t watched a lot of films this year, but in recent weeks I’ve been on something of a cosmic horror binge.
There are a few definitions of cosmic horror out there. H.P. Lovecraft is the name you’ll most often find associated with the genre, given he was one of the major people who defined it, though even he was inspired by others.
A very simple definition is that something is wrong in the world/universe – we don’t know what, we don’t know how or why, and we don’t have any ability to make any lasting change, or to stop it affecting us. It’s about the unimportance of humanity as it comes up against… something.
We don’t matter. It might manipulate or wipe us out without even being aware it’s doing it, or with the same level of thought as a child picking up and dropping an insect somewhere different just because they can. Not only do we not matter, but often the effect on us is simply unimportant to whatever it is.
After having rewatched John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness, I did a little research and found a handful of lists of cosmic horror/Lovecraftian horror films. So now I’m slowly working my way through all that I’ve found.
I’m a firm believer in the less one knows about a film going in, the better. So below is the base list of what I’ve watched with a simple rating. For more details, and major spoilers for one or two, click the links. It’s likely to keep me going for a while, so as I write little reviews, I’ll put links to them back here so there’s an easy place to access them all.
In The Mouth of Madness – 3/10 (minor spoilers)
The Whisperer in Darkness – 8/10
The Call of Cthulhu – 7/10
Uzumaki – 9/10
The Corridor – 8/10
The Forgotten – 3/10 (I completely ruin the film and tell you the ending)
The Vanishing on 7th Street – 7/10 (some spoilers)
Red Sands – 8/10 (very minor spoilers)
Yellowbrickroad – 9/10 (minor spoilers)
The Ugly – 8/10
Messiah of Evil – 6/10
Cube – 8/10
Altitude – 2/10
City of the Living Dead – 7/10
Dagon – 8/10
Possession – 8/10 (minor spoilers)
Rare Exports – A Christmas Story – 8/10
Intruders – 7/10
Die, Monster, Die! – 7/10
AM1200 – 8/10
Cthulhu – 7/10
Absentia – 9/10
The Beyond – 5/10
Cast a Deadly Spell – 8/10
Witch Hunt – 6/10
Marebito – 7/10
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This sounds fascinating, they aren’t movies that I’m likely to watch (not a big horror fan) but I’ll be looking forward to the reviews.
That’s the thing about cosmic horror – it can easily be horror based around ideas and uneasiness, as opposed to gore and violence. So Whisperer in Darkness has only one brief scene I would consider gory, the rest is the build-up of menace, and horror based around what is happening.
I think there’s a big difference between evoking horror, and using gore/jump-cuts/things jumping out to scare an audience. One list I found suggested both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Picnic At Hanging Rock as fitting the genre in some ways. It will be interesting to rewatch both from that perspective.
And I think cosmic horror is one of those genres where every person has their own definition of what does and does not fall into it.
For my money, both Whisperer and Call of Cthulhu from the HPLHS are worth a look as really interesting filmic experiments that would never be done by a major studio.