The Best Lovecraftian Horror

What’s the best Lovecraftian horror film? To be clear, I don’t mean the best film based on or inspired by something that H.P. Lovecraft wrote (the list of good films in that category is actually very short), but the best film that fits into the genre known as “Lovecraftian”.

Most of what we think of as Lovecraftian isn’t based on the works of Lovecraft, or even directly inspired by them. The term encompasses a wide variety of works drawn from a large tradition in horror. What gets called Lovecraftian could also be called “Cosmic Horror”. The genre also has a lot to do with paranoia.  The word has become a catchall for weird, otherworldly, paranoid fever dreams sprinkled with paranormal horror. Lovecraft himself is only partly responsible for the genre that bears his name.  He was preceded by Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce, among others, who created worlds and themes that today would fit squarely into the Lovecraftian genre.  Other creators of the genre were Poe, Algernon Blackwood, and Lord Dunsany.

Chambers’ The King in Yellow is a seminal work in the field.  It’s influence cam be felt across not just literature, but in film and television. The first Season of True Detective was packed with allusions and references to it including naming a character The Yellow King.  That series also made reference to the works of Ambrose Bierce.  The “temple” at the center of the story is names Carcosa after a fictional city Bierce created in his short story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa”.
When it comes to Lovecraftian horror films, there is a lot to choose from.  From X: The man with X-Ray Eyes, to Event Horizon, Hollywood has been dipping into the Lovecraft well for decades.  Films that fit into, or at least partially fit into, the Lovecraftian genre are everywhere.  Here at Couch Thing, we have ideas about which ones are the best. To that end is this top ten list, which contains 11 slots and 12 films.

Under the Skin
A weird bit of alien weirdness. This film is all mood, and no real substance. It works for its entire runtime.

Stuart Gordon takes on Lovecraft’s Herbert West with humor and gore in equal measures. A classic of the genre that seems a bit dated today.

Event Horizon
Paul W.S. Anderson (who is very distinct from Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson) takes a stab at Hellraiser in space kinda. Sam Neil plays a physicist that created a faster-than-light ship that manages to tear a hole in reality into an alternate dimension of pure evil and chaos. It has memorable lines like “where we’re going you wont need eyes to see”.

The Void
A low budget shocker made with mostly practical effects. It tells the story of the events at an isolated hospital surrounded by weird cultists while something eldritch intrudes into our reality. Other than the final shot, this is a great film.

In the Mouth of Madness
John Carpenter made three films in the genre (we’ll get to another of them later in this list). This one stars Sam Neil (of Event Horizon, from earlier on the list) as a detective on the trail of a missing horror novelist. He stumbles into a weird village with a Byzantine church and slithering creatures. Maybe he goes insane. Maybe he’s the only person who doesn’t go insane.

Bird Box
Creatures drive people instantly mad with only their appearance.  This is a horror that one cannot contend with. There is no way to fight it.

The Cabin in the Woods
Joss Whedon deconstructs most of modern horror with tongue firmly in cheek. This movie features a deadly unicorn alongside redneck torture zombies. It also features Great Old Ones who pull the strings.

The Mist
Based on a Stephen King novella, Lovecraftian monsters come out of the mist a terrorize a small town in Maine.

The Endless / Resolution
Part of a low budget trilogy in which Elder god(s) of some sort trap people in time-loops to watch them try to escape. It likes a good story. These films are endlessly inventive (don’t @me, I pun if I want to).

Sort of a modern eco-aware take on A Colour out of Space. This terrifying tale is a visual delight and horror.

The Thing
The greatest film ever made about cosmic horror. Every frame of John carpenter’s masterwork drips with paranoia.  The terror is amped up by dropping the who is the real monster narrative into a bleak, deadly landscape. Claustrophobia piles atop distrust, fear of the other, fear of others, and good old fashioned insanity. This movie flopped on release, but has grown in stature with each subsequent year. 

Tell us what we missed, or what we got wrong in the comments.