Today is the birthday of the greatest American writer of the 20th Century. I am, of course, talking about Howard Phillips Lovecraft, born August 20th, 1890. I couldn’t let it pass without writing some form of tribute to the man who, without his limitless imagination of cosmic horror, the horror world would’ve never been as we know it today. He was contemporaries with Robert Bloch (PSYCHO), Robert E. Howard (CONAN THE BARBARIAN), and Fritz Leiber, amongst others, going on to influence every great horror writer we revere today. Stephen King called Lovecraft “the Twentieth Century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale,” and Neil Gaiman has called him “Rock and Roll.” That last quote could be taken quite literally as Lovecraft has been referenced in bands such as Black Sabbath and Metallica, amongst many others, with a psychedelic band in the 60s/70s even naming themselves after the man.
This being a horror film site, we can’t possibly forget to talk about his influence on the horror film genre. Stuart Gordon has made a career out of (somewhat loosely) adapting Lovecraft’s work for the silver screen. Lucio Fulci used Lovecraftian names and themes. In CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (aka THE GATES OF HELL), the witch haunted town the entire film takes place in is Dunwich. And let’s not forget such films as John Carpenter’s THE THING, which was in fact based on the novella Who Goes There by John W. Campbell Jr. and was published in 1938 and shared many themes with At The Mountains Of Madness, published in 1936. It’s quite obvious that Carpenter’s THE THING shares many Lovecraftian themes, even if by proxy. And then there’s THE EVIL DEAD franchise. In the first film, the evil book isn’t referred to specifically as The Necronomicon, but in EVIL DEAD 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS, that is precisely what it is referred to, the Necronomicon of course being a creation of the Mad Arab Alhazred, both creations of H.P. Lovecraft.
I could go on and on about Lovecraft’s influence on film, but perhaps, recently, his influence on pop culture has hit the hardest. Do a simple search for Lovecraft on Google and you’ll find a countless number of websites and shops selling Lovecraft…well…everything. T-shirts, Necklaces, Books (the “actual” Necronomicon), Hats, you name it, you can find it. And perhaps his greatest creation, the CTHULHU mythos has hit pop culture harder than anything else he’s created. It’s Lovecraft mania out there, not only on the web, but the world itself. Perhaps the tragedy of Lovecraft is that he died penniless and had thought himself a failure as a writer, something that always makes me feel a little sad when I think about it. If only he could see what an influence he’s had on the world today, perhaps we could’ve even cracked a smile on that stern face of his.
Happy birthday, Mr. Lovecraft. You’ve changed the world, you’ve changed the genre, and you will never be forgotten. And even though you were a teetotaler, here’s a pint to you.