Category Archives: SIGHTSEEING IN R’YLEH

“DO YOU READ SUTTER CANE?”

Because honestly, you could cut out the middleman and just read H. P. Lovecraft instead.

That’s right cultists, our first topic of discussion is John Carpenter’s 1995 classic “In The Mouth Of Madness”, a film with so many winks and nods toward H. P. Lovecraft, one suspects it may well have Tourette’s Syndrome.   At it’s release in February of 1995, it was considered a financial disappointment, and was surprisingly divisive among fans of the genre. Those who fell on the side of hating this film generally cited what was felt to be a less than cohesive script coupled with an arguably vague narrative that left many confused as to the plot, and the (entirely unarguably) god-awful butt-rock soundtrack, explained, but far from excused, by the fact that it was composed and performed by the  director himself, in what can only be described as a prime example of artistic-masturbation/shameless ego-stroking. Those who feel this way have valid points that deserve to be addressed, but to these people we at The Face Eaters say a respectful but emphatic  “Go fuck yourself Sally! This movie is this shit!” And we do so because we are correct. It is. And I believe we all know why…

So let us begin at the beginning: with the title of the movie. While “In The Mouth Of Madness” is not necessarily in and of itself an obvious reference to the similarly named Lovecraft novella “At The Mountains Of Madness”, when taken in context with the rest of the film, it becomes hard to dismiss that it is, in fact, the first in a series of hat-tips to the 1920’s author who all but wrote this movie from the grave. The idea at the core of this picture is this: An unremarkable every-man notices something odd hiding just beneath the façade of everyday life and then proceeds to question too intently and delve too deeply in his  ill-advised search for the truth, only to uncover unfathomable entities engaged in an epic struggle for reality itself, in which to his horror he finds he is, and has always been, an unwitting pawn. And this, cultists, as we all know, is the quintessential Lovecraftian paradigm (see: “The Call Of Cthulhu”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, “The Rats In The Walls”, “The Whisperer In The Dark”, “The Dreams In The Witch-House”, “The Thing On The Doorstep”…. really, just name a H. P. L. story and it probably applies…). Now consider the names of Sutter Cane’s books throughout the movie. “The Haunter Out Of Time”- by Sutter Cane, is undeniably similar to “The Haunter Of The Dark” and” The Shadow Out Of Time”- by H. P. Lovecraft…. no? “The Hobb’s End Horror”- by Sutter Cane? How ’bout “The Dunwich Horror” or “The Horror At Red Hook”- by our man H. P.? Oh, “The Breathing Tunnel”- by Sutter? Nah bitch, “The Crawling Chaos”- by Howard. And so on…  The creatures themselves in this film are described by screenwriter Michael De Luca and subsequently translated to film by John Carpenter comparably but far less competently  than the work done on the page by H. P.  in his myriad of stories written seven decades earlier, but much credit and praise is due for their homage to the colossus that strides alone through the world of horror. Finally there is the character of Sutter Cane himself: An elusive recluse and prolific writer of horror “fiction” so frightening, so powerful, that it has been known to inspire random homicidal violence in some, and suicidal actions in others. The truth, as revealed later in the film, is that Sutter Cane is a conduit, a willing participant in a plot orchestrated by beings exiled to a dimension directly adjacent to ours, who think of nothing other than reclaiming what they have lost.  Cane is a puppet-master among an unsuspecting populace, pulling subconscious strings to pave the way for the return of elder-things, just as he dances upon the strings of these others.  And in the (admittedly paraphrased) words of the immortal (and sadly, also racist) David Alan Coe: “If that ain’t Lovecraft, it’s a  damn-good joke…”

“In His House At R’lyeh, Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming…”

 

SIGHTSEEING IN R’LYEH…

“That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternally Inspire Homage….”

It is a well recognized fact that few, if any, American writers have had as much impact on the genre of literary horror as Providence, Rhode Island born (8/20/1890) shut-in, xenophobic racist, and all-around awkward guy Howard Phillips Lovecraft. And those familiar with his work understand why. While Lovecraft did have his flaws, chiefly and most discussed among them his often-times overly flowery and descriptive prose, his extraneous usage of superfluous flourishes (gibbous and eldritch, we’re looking at you here…), and arguably, as he went on, a bit of an over-reliance on the idea of something so hideous, so out-of-context with the natural world and overwhelmingly incomprehensible to the minds of men that no true description can be given, he was the master at building a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere of dread. Lovecraft took to new levels the art of creating a sense of impending doom being carried on the wings of some great and ancient evil, malevolent and powerful beyond the understanding of humanity, to whom we carry the significance of dust in the cosmic wind, and he single-handedly gave birth to a wonderful and terrible mythos of creatures and gods and horrors waiting just outside the limits of our perception. So beloved was H. P. and his nightmare brood in fact, that after he died his contemporaries and admirers in horror-lit formed The Lovecraft Circle, including notable authors such as Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Karl Edward Wagner, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Aston Smith, and August Derleth, to carry on and expand the world and mythos of Great Cthulhu, Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nylathotep: the Crawling Chaos, Cthuga, Abdul-Alhazzared, Dagon,  Innsmouth, Arkham, Miskatonic University, the much fabled and feared Necronomicon and so, so many more.  While all of this is well known amongst fans of Lovecraft’s work, what is less well known and inexplicably even less discussed, is Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s subtle but pervasive influence (which continues even to this day) on cinema (including not only the semi-obscure horror-genre classic fare one would expect, but major motion-pictures and blockbusters throughout the years), as well as music, art, and most amusingly, pop-culture. And that, my friends, is a terrible shame I feel strongly compelled to rectify. So these will be the topics of this continued series of posts going forward. That’s right fellow cultists, we will examine, on a case by case basis, the undeniable hand of Lovecraft’s genius at work where ever it has shown or will show itself, to do our part to spread awareness of the chaos creeping in from the periphery of our existence. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too…

…and remember, in the prophetic words of H.P.L.:

“That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie, Yet With Strange Aeons,  Even Death May Die…”

“In His House At R’lyeh, Dead Cthulhu Waits Dreaming….”