11 of the best Cosmic Horror or Hodgsonian or Wellsian Horrors Films! And why it is a misnomer to call them Lovecraftian.

Cosmic Horror is a favorite of mine, and in this post we dive into my favorite Cosmic Horror films.

Now, first there are a lot of misinformed people who will term cosmic horror, as Lovecraftian horror. That is incorrect.

I know why people do it, because they are ignorant of the facts, and they are regurgitating a myth that other misinformed or downright mendacious people have propagated.

So this post I hope to clear it up.

Cosmic Horror, is not Lovecraftian Horror.

The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Vol. 1

 

The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, Vol. 2

 

 

House On The Borderland HC by Corben and Revelstroke

While it is a field HP Lovecraft flourished in, he was not the creator of the genre, he was just one of a pretty impressive field. Arguably if you want to lay the mantle of father of Cosmic Horror at any writer’s doorstep, William Hope Hodgson, 1908 Author of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, would be way before Lovecraft, and even before him would be the great HG Wells who in many ways created the concepts of not just science fiction and the hopefulness of space with THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON (1901), but also the concept of the horrors of space and man’s smallness in the face of it, with THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1898).

H.G. WELLS SEVEN NOVELS

 

We forget exactly how prolific and staggering and broad a writer HG Wells was. He created whole genres and fields of thought and whole colonies of lesser writers formed around a single one of his ideas. Such is the case with Cosmic Horror, arguably every writer you can name doing ‘cosmic horror’, including Lovecraft, is simply playing in the shadow of a single HG Wells story.

A single HG Wells’ paragraph.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”
― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

That is the heart of every short story Lovecraft would do, the dread from beyond, distilled into a single concise paragraph.

Lovecraft and others spent entire careers mining just that one idea of Wells, nothing wrong with it, but let us not get things crooked.

Father of cosmic horror, Lovecraft is not.

The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft (Chartwell Classics)

The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft (Chartwell Classics)

 

And while I appreciate Lovecraft’s writing, the truth is, he is an author who was never in his life… anything more than a niche little known writer, for niche little known magazines. He is more popular in death, than he ever was in life.

Again the same can be said of many very good writers.

However, unknown in his lifetime, that can not be said of HG Wells.

HG Welles was, without argument, one of THE greatest writers of his time, and arguably remains today, over a hundred years later, still the single most influential writer in the English language, since so many writers from both science fiction and horror and fantasy , can trace their lineage to him, and continue to build on his concepts.

So rather than people slapping Lovecraftian on anything remotely resembling cosmic horror, it would be more aptly called Wellsian horror, if you want to go to the source.

Plus HP Lovecraft, being the poster child for racists, makes him a writer I can do without over glorifying. From all documentation he was a pedantic, overblown writer and person, assuming airs beyond him, the racism and class-ism all were affectations of his aspiring to a nobility, when he was not a noble man.

He is a bit like Poe, a writer I adore, but who was also a vicious, insufferable human being (per his writings, correspondences, reviews), who railed against the world for its idiocy in not recognizing his nobility, and talent as a writer, during his life. 

A modicum of humility and honest perspective in either man, would have made them far better human beings, but perhaps their writing would have suffered.  Who knows.

That said Lovecraft (like Poe) is a very good short story writer (he is not as good as Poe, but he is a very good writer), and I think several of his short stories deserve their acclaim. But guys and gals, there have been great Cosmic Horror writers before Lovecraft, and a hell of a lot since.

 

So let us stop slapping Lovecraft’s name, which I will admit is a bloody cool name, on anything remotely resembling cosmic horror.

Now, there can be films that are specifically Lovecraftian, they deal with specific Lovecraft creations, but these Lovecraftian films are just a subset, or a sub-folder, of the larger main folder… that is Cosmic horror. So a Lovecraftian film by definition is a cosmic horror film, however a cosmic horror film, is not necessarily a Lovecraftian film. It can be a Chambersian film, or a Hodgsonian film, or Biersian film, particular subsets of Cosmic Films. Kinda like how every Raven is a Crow, but not every Crow is a Raven.

So now that that is cleared up, please feel free to educate anyone you see using the term Lovecraftian Horror, on all cosmic horror (even creators oft just lazily grab a catchphrase that people know). Tell them call it just Cosmic Horror, or call it Wellsian Horror.

Okay , onto the films:

COSMIC HORROR FILMS:

  • THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOONDark Side Of The Moon, The [Blu-ray]
  • THE THING (1982)
  • III : THE RITUAL (2015)
  • THE VOID (2016) – the filmmakers even have characters named after Lovecraft characters, however it largely feels more like an ode to John Carpenter, rather than the writings of Lovecraft.
  • EUROPA REPORT
  • THE ENDLESS (2017)
  • LIFEFORCE
  • Lifeforce [Blu-ray]
  • 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
  • IT (1990)
  • IT LIVES
  • POSSESSION (1981)

 

Now here are actual Lovecraftian Films:

  • IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
  • DAGON
  • THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
  • THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE (Upcoming Richard Stanley film) (2019)
  • FROM BEYOND (1986)
  • RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

The Great Pretenders : The Best Pre-JOKER ‘Non-Superhero’ SuperHero Films!

 

Way before Todd Phillip’s record breaking JOKER, other filmmakers were tackling very grounded stories of damaged people, transcending (or giving into) their damage in ways either heroic or horrific. Grounded takes that are eerily familiar to the fanciful origin stories more typically found in the comic books of yesteryear, but now moved into a darker world,, more akin to our own. Here then are the best of the pre-JOKER grounded films. One of them plays like the tale of the most bad-ass Robin, another an evil Super-Soldier Steve Rogers, another perhaps the origins of a demented Joker, or a sociopathic Bruce Wayne (the Jeff Wadlow directed TRUTH OR DARE is surprisingly good), and one a pre-Netflix prototype for Luke Cage.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Guest (#4 of 7)

Another Zero in the System

Great Directors Series : Walter Hill’s EXTREME PREJUDICE

[ EXTREME PREJUDICE POSTER ]

 

“Hell you can buy me Cash, you always could. But you can’t buy the badge. And one without the other ain’t no damn good.”

I LOVE This film.

See my previous review about how my initial disinterest the first time I saw this film, turned to absolute adoration the 2nd time I saw it. Every time I have seen it in the years since, my love for this film deepens.

“Sarita we’ve gotta give it a rest. The talk. All of it.”

“You don’t want to be with me any more?”

“No I didn’t say that. I just said we gotta give the talk a rest. That’s all. You, me and Cash. It’s too hard. It’s going to get too goddamned complicated.”

“For you Jack. But what about me?”

 

It is an imminently quotable film. Every line is a poetry of sorts. Not the poetry of Shakespeare’s HENRY V , but in its way the dialogue here is every bit as iconic and memorable and haunting.

“I’m just a poor ass dirt farmer. Nobody ever gave me nothing. And nobody’s gonna take it away!”

It is the culmination of Walter Hill’s filmic soliloquy on masculinity and violence and relationships.

Extreme Prejudice poster #1638754

And it stars some of the greatest character actors of the day, in arguably their finest roles.

“I don’t want to see you around here anymore.”

“Hell no Deputy. You can color me gone.”

The late great Rip Torn (who by all reports was a fun, rebel raising bad ass, here in this role gets to be closest to the bad-ass he was), Michael Ironside, the late great Powers Booth (who delivers an award worthy performance),  Larry B. Scott, Maria Conchita Alonzo, William Forsythe (who steals every scene he is in) , Clancy Brown and Nick Nolte all deliver for me, some of the finest performances of their respective careers.

“State Legislature??!! Shit, Jack! !Only thing worse than a politician is a child molester.”

Extreme Prejudice poster #1579716

I learned a valuable lesson that day many years ago, that first impressions while unavoidable  are seldom solid ground to stand on. What matters is informed opinions.

My informed opinion is this Walter Hill ode to his love of Peckinpah and Ford, driven by a torrential, act of god script by the great John Milius, transcends its inspirations and influences to be one of the greatest films ever made. And arguably the best modern day western ever made.

There is unfortunately no DVD or BluRay that does a great job on this film.  No cast or director’s commentary. Probably your best best currently is the beautiful German mediabook Bluray edition. But even then, the Bluray is obviously just taken right from the DVD. with no mastering done. Picture wise you might as well stick with the DVD, however, the mediabook, has beautiful photographs to accompany the Bluray.  The text is in German, but any online translator can help with that.

Still I do hope for a worthy well mastered Bluray someday soon, complete with commentary by the surviving cast and crew. ShoutFactory (a well known Bluray special edition producer)… make it happen!! 🙂 .

 

Until then to get the Bluray MediaBook, go HERE!

 

Extreme Prejudice

 

“He died going forward. That means a hell of a lot down here. “

Movie Posters of the Day!

Joker Movie PosterI’m glad this film is getting good reviews, and hope it is good. However I personally have not loved the trailer. And Todd Phillips helming this film, with a history of only comedies behind him, is a question mark for me. Since I am not a fan or audience for his previous films. Still I hope this is great, but don’t have a big interest in it. The TAXI DRIVER and FALLING DOWN or MAN BITES DOG films, are not my cup of tea, and that seems to be the ground this is aiming for. But I’ll wait to see if the reviews pile up one way or another after opening day. But likely if they are not glowing I’ll wait till it hits streaming.

Midway Movie PosterNice poster. No interest in the movie.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Motherless Brooklyn (#2 of 2)

Another nice poster. No interest in the movie.

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Gemini Man (#4 of 6)

The talk of the look of this film and the technology, getting the 120 frames per second thing working correctly, and early positive reviews, has me interested to see this in the theaters. Ang Lee is not a director whose films I typically gravitate to, but  I look forward to being pleasantly surprised by this one. And Will Smith is a star for a reason.

Whatever else the film offers, he always comes into it giving a 100%. He’s a star for a reason. And this film where he gets to act against himself, gets to clash the actor he was, against the actor he is… a riveting concept. And it is cool, how much young Will Smith, looks like his son, Jaden.

The Two Best Star Wars Films of All Time!

I appreciate all the Star Wars films, even the ones that do not appeal to me or I did not love.

We have a tendency to want to glamorize the three first Star Wars films, but as someone who saw those films when they first came out in theaters as a wee lad, while wildly popular, with the exception of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, none of the original three were masterpieces. They were flawed films, but the mythos, the characters, the message, the hope, and the gestalt, the end product was enough to outweigh any flaws.

Perfection is for Gods. And the goal of filmmakers and a film is to try to give us something… wondrous. To share a bit of love, and awe, and joy with us.

I never liked the first Star Wars, even as a kid. It was overlong, badly paced, dragging in the middle.

But I found things to like and to love in that imperfect movie. The characters, the visuals, the bad guys, the spectacle. I never loved the first Star Wars film, but I never hated it. I always liked it, if finding it flawed.

As an adult having revisited the first STAR WARS film several times throughout my life, if is still flawed, and overlong, and badly paced, and plodding in the middle.

However the good in it, always outweighs the negatives. The great characters, the wonderful visuals, the hopeful message. To not take away more good from all that effort expended and all that talent and all those moments, to not at the very least appreciate a flawed but essentially good movie, I think would say more about the viewer than the viewed.

The first STAR WARS for me is not a 10 movie, but it is at least a solid 7 to 8. Which is a passing and respectable grade. EMPIRE is a 9 to 10. RETURN is an 8 to 8. 5.

All in all it is a fondly remembered movie trilogy. But I do not judge things on Nostalgia.

Because something came out when I was a kid doesn’t make it the greatest thing ever, and because something new comes out when I am an adult, it is not the worst thing ever. Because it fails to be for my adult sensibilities, what that old movie was to my kid’s sensibilities does not make it wrong.

As an adult re-watching those movies, I can judge them based on not what they made  me feel as a kid, but on what I get from them now. And the same for a new movie, we should not judge it based on what we want or thought… it would or should be, we judge it on what it is.

The prequels for me, judged for what they were, I thought they were underwhelming. They had nice visuals, but suffered from core characters not as interesting, and a story not as compelling or well told as the original trilogy. I was not a fan, I did not like them, but I did not hate them. They were simply a miss for me, simply not for me. Not everything is for everyone. For me they were flawed films, possibly a 5 to 7 for the trilogy.

However I realize for a younger audience, the trilogy, flaws and all, may be more appealing to them. Again not everything needs to appeal to everyone, and with the Prequels, after a long layoff, Lucas was perhaps looking to  introduce his aging Mythology to a new generation. Not a bad idea. a good idea actually, just not well pulled off in various areas. But overall, flaws and all, it is a rich addition to the mythology. The good that came out of the films, being a richer mytholgy that subsequent tv shows and movies get to build on.

Enter the new Disney Star Wars films. As of this writing, four films, FORCE AWAKENS, ROGIUE ONE, SOLO, and THE LAST JEDI. Films that for some inexplicable reason have met with controversy and hate from some corners, most vocally SOLO and LAST JEDI.

As I said, I have never hated a Star Wars, I can’t readily think of any movie I hate. Hate is a strong word, and I do not go into a theater, pay money, looking to hate or tear something down. I go into a movie looking to be entertained. And even when a movie has flaws, just like that first Star Wars movie all those years ago, if the good outweighs the bad, I count that as a win. It may not be 10 out of 10 movie, but it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good,. With me, in a world spinning toward mendacity and hate, if a movie has hope and heart and a cogent story and a likeable cast, that cuts a lot of weight with me.

I think all 4 of the new Disney Star Wars films have at least been 8 out of 10. If I had to rate them off the top of my head I would say 8.5 to FORCE AWAKENS, 8.5 to 9 for ROGIUE ONE, 8.5 TO 9 for SOLO, and 9 to 10 for LAST JEDI.

For those of you counting I am saying yes, the new batch of films, as a whole I find more enjoyable than the original 40+ year old trilogy.

With the big exception of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, I, an original Star Wars fan who saw the trilogy in the theaters, have no problem not seeing them with rose-colored glasses, and saying quite easily… as a whole the new movies are better made.

They are, as a whole, better movies than the original trilogy. Which is no slight against the original trilogy, but is respect and kudos to just the progress in the level of craft of filmmaking and directors.

And yes I will go further with my sacrilege, I think Rian Johnson’s inexplicably panned and railed against THE LAST JEDI Is a flat out masterpiece. Is it perfect? No, nothing made by man ever will be, or should be, but it comes close enough to earn my standing ovation.

My better half and I just finished watching it again on Netflix, we loved it the first time we saw it. But rewatching it.. it is even more impressive. It is in its DNA the heart and soul of STAR WARS distilled right to its closing moments.

Both of us throughout the movie kept marveling at how good the movie was, and openly mystified by the virulent hate and attacks those involved in this movie endured.

Again I have never hated a movie, much less to extend that hate to people whose only ‘crime’ is making a living trying to entertain people, it is for us the inexplicable mewling of the mob. Of people who grade movies either 10 or 0, and attack movies for not agreeing with the version of the movie they make up in their head. It is the mewling of people who watch all the trailers, and spoilers, and gossip, and script leaks, pre-chew and digest and second guess the movie before ever getting in the theater, than complain about how there were no surprises in the movie.

I don’t aim this at those  who fairly watched LAST JEDI and it wasn’t for you, that is fine, not every movie is for everyone, but the attacks LAST JEDI has endured is largely from armchair directors and armchair writers, railing against the movie for not being their fan-fic of what the movie should be.

And for that demographic, who go into cinema looking for something to rail against on social media, the 10 or 0 crowd, the truth is, they would have hated the original trilogy just as much as THE LAST JEDI if they came at it with this same level of entitlement and armchair quarterbacking.

If today’s fans, was the fandom of the original STAR WARS film, that film would have bombed and there would have never been an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Fandom has become people with uninformed opinions and too much access, spreading their noise over the signal.

These are the same behind the curve types who hated on Carpenter’s THE THING when it first came out, or buried Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL.

Here is the thing.

People, the taste you have today, will grow and mature as you do. And things that do not resonate with you today, you likely will grow into tomorrow. That, is the goal, of growing and maturity. So be wary of sticking your flag too deep in the ground on what you hate, because the ground shifts.

Always.

Two best STAR WARS films of all time?

That’s easy.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and Rian Johnson’s THE LAST JEDI.

And the most gorgeous, and visually impressive STAR WARS film of all time, well, not even a question, Rian Johnson’s THE LAST JEDI.

That we lost out on him completing his trilogy due to the mewling of the uninformed social media lynch mob, well we and a future generation of film-goers who rediscover THE LAST JEDI (just like THE THING was rediscovered)… will be the losers.

Here endeth the lesson. 🙂

Today’s 12 MUST OWN DvDs and BluRays in the Age of DIGITAL!!!!

Go back ten years in this blog and you will see I was singing the praises of Walter Hill’s EXTREME PREJUDICE as not just one of Walter Hill’s best films, but one of the best action films ever made.

Here is where all of Walter Hill’s loves and inspirations (from John Ford to Sam Pekinpah) took him furthest and took all involved furthest. Much like Anthony Harvey’s seminal THE LION IN WINTER it was the best film of everyone involved.

So EXTREME PREJUDICE‘s lack of availability in a great Bluray, and better yet Steelbook format, has always struck me as a missed opportunity.

While the US has yet to correct that wrong, Germany and Japan (and the UK had an out of print version as well) evidently know a brilliant movie when they see one, as you can get Walter Hill’s best film on BluRay thru those countries.

Shame on you US!

In my best PLANET OF THE APES growl… “BOW YOUR HEAD!!!” 🙂

But yeah, came across the below BluRay version from Germany…

I have recently gone on a steelbook kick thanks to recent absolutely jaw droppingly beautiful steelbook releases by Shout Factory. I’ve kinda grown to despise the titular blue bar on the top of traditional BluRay packaging. I was never a fan of that branding, but accepted it because, that was all there was.

Well today we have great companies releasing wonderful Blurays done with an eye to aesthetics, that makes not just the film a work of art, but the whole gestalt, the whole process, a work of art. Which is what hopefully anything that takes up space, precious space, in our homes and our lives should be… a thing of beauty.

A thing that makes us smile, to look upon it.

The twelve movies below, including the aforementioned EXTREME PREJUDICE release… make me smile.

Reach out to me, if you need assistance in acquiring any of these.

Without further ado… 

Today’s 12 MUST OWN DvDs and BluRays in the Age of DIGITAL!!!!

The Japan and Uk version use similar art for the BluRay, but both are out of print. But they have that blue branding at the top that I can deal with, but does not inspire me to rush out and get a copy. These days I drag my feet before buying anything that doesn’t completely thrill me. Streaming has spoiled us, even us DVD and Bluray fans: today even for an increasing # of us, owning physical media is a luxury that has to justify itself, in an age of Digital.

Digital… meet justification. The German mediabook of EXTREME PREJUDICE…

 

HOLY … BLOODY… HECK!!! 

That is a magnificent cover! And I even forgive it the Blue branding at the top.

Man… when I saw this, even though the book portion is in German (And the title is AUSGELOSCHT which translates loosely to Elimination or Annihilation), I had to have it. Especially when I saw that it was sold out nearly everywhere. 

Okay that was one Bluray down, here are today’s other 11 must own BluRays.

 

 

https://amzn.to/2LeMZ4s

Yes, I listed THE THING Steelbook last time, and yes it still takes my breath away. SHOUT FACTORY has just knocked it out of the park with this and their other recent Steelbook releases. I own it now and still am impressed with it every time I see it on my shelf.  And people, this is nearly out of print everywhere. Pick it up while you can.

 

And moving on, here are the remaining must own Blurays of today!

 

 

https://amzn.to/2Lgq2Oj

https://amzn.to/2NKS3iF

 

https://amzn.to/2zMhgkM

The Blue Branding is just a removable cardboard piece, thankfully, and at the price this classic is a must own.

https://amzn.to/2NLjN6X

https://amzn.to/2MS9CxN

https://amzn.to/2NLzsmF

 

https://amzn.to/2MR0HMT

https://amzn.to/2HCv1qf

I do not love THE HOWLING steelbook, but it is growing on me. I kinda like it. And it is currently affordable.

https://amzn.to/2MSacvt

While everyone is proclaiming the death of physical media, I have to tell you, there are people like me, who will always support beautiful things. And while it is great to stream movies, and stream comics, and stream books, and stream magazines, there is no substitution for being able to hold and peruse and showcase a well designed work of art.

So if companies up their game like SHOUT FACTORY is doing, don’t just slap a photo on the cover, but put some bloody creativity into the packaging. Custom artwork, great design, and they will sellout their SteelBook Blurays… just like SHOUT FACTORY is doing. People will support… quality.

Choir… preach. 🙂

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Thanks for viewing, leave a comment, like or email or subscribe. It is all appreciated. Till next time… be well!!

 

Movie Posters of the Day!

 

 

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Harriet

The poster grabbed me, but what really made me excited about this film was seeing it was being directed by Kasi Lemmons of EVE’S BAYOU fame. One of my favorite films, just such a magical, yet somehow easily beautiful little film, that defies easy genre labels. If she can bring that deft touch to this ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ tale of HARRIET TUBMAN, we could have something very special here.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Movie Poster

Intriguing poster and trailer, but the jury is out on this.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for Terminator: Dark Fate (#1 of 2)

THE TERMINATOR franchise has largely been a case of diminishing returns since the second one. And while I have no great interest in a new one, with Tim Miller at the helm, I’m intrigued to see what he can do.

Extra Large Movie Poster Image for The Expanse (#5 of 5)

THE EXPANSE is one of the best scifi shows(full blown space opera) to arrive on the scene since FARSCAPE. Not sure if we are getting a new season but the existing three seasons are a brilliant self contained novel, ala BABYLON 5 and DEEP SPACE NINE. If you have not watched it, watch it. You’ll find it time well spent.​