Showing posts with label Lovecraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lovecraft. Show all posts

Thursday, October 14, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Humanoids From the Deep (1980)

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
This would have done well with all my Dagon / Deep Ones movies last week. It certainly fits in with the whole humans becoming sea monsters theme.  I am a little surprised I had never seen it to be honest. It's a fairly notorious Corman flick, know more for him adding more gore and nudity after director Barbara Peeters was done with it.

Humanoids From the Deep (1980)

A small fishing village is dealing with the scarcity of fish and the prospect of a new canning factory moving into town.  While fishing a couple of fishermen catch what appears to be some sort of monster.  His sun falls into the ocean and something kills him.  The boat then explodes. Yes there is a reason, but this is Corman we are talking about. 

Later something is going through the village killing and mutilating all the dogs.  Oh, and there is not so casual and fairly overt racism to the village's Native American character.  Also, why is Dr. Susan Drake referred to as a "great little scientist" especially since actress Ann Turkel stands at 6'0" easily towering over everyone here?  We are a third of the way through the movie and we have had more racism and sexism than we have had of monsters.  Or when Doug McClure's Jim Hill is asking for men to help him and Ann Turkel volunteers? "No, I don't need you." Well, it was the 1980s, but even this one seems a little more than the usual stuff.  

Speaking of explosions. Why does one Molotov cocktail blow up an entire cabin?  Oh and cars. When they hit the sea. 

We learn that Dr. Drake has known about these creatures for a bit.  They are caused by the growth hormones that Canco (did they spend all day coming up with that name?) has been injecting into salmon.  These salmon then infected other fish till they "evolved" to humanoids.  They are driven to kill the men and mate with the women.  Totally makes sense.

There is the local Salmon fest going on that night and as expected the sea monsters attack, killing and raping their way through town.  The gore scenes are fun, some special effects people must have had a blast doing this one.  Kudos to Sally, Miss Salmon, for the wherewithal to bash a rapey fishman in the head with a rock.

In the end the monsters are dead (we think) and Peggy who had been raped before gives birth, well..., a monster cuts its way out of her.

So it dawned on me that there is a whole sub-genre of Fishmen movies that I have never really explored. I mean I have had no reason, but I kinda wish I had before running Isle of Dread to the Shrine of Kuo-Toa. Maybe I should check more of them out. I mean I have not seen any so far that I am like "yeah, that's my new jam" but maybe someone, somewhere did one right.

I could not find the 1996 remake anywhere to watch.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 26
First Time Views: 13

Saturday, October 9, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Army of Darkness (1992)

Army of Darkness (1992)

Tonight is a Horror Movie Challenge AND a Swords & Sorcery & Cinema Night.   Since it is also my H.P. Lovecraft Film Fest there is really only one movie that can fit the bill for all three themes. Is it Horror?  It's close enough.

Army of Darkness (1992) is just one of those movies I can keep coming back to and mine for more gold. 

Of course, I did Army of Darkness for this once before WAY back in the early days of this blog.

I have also done Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2.  Not to mention all the coverage I have given the RPG with stats for KISS, Xena and Gabrielle, and even a Keep on the Borderlands conversion.

I would put it in my list of "Top Ten Gamer Movies." 

I suppose I should figure out what the other nine are.  Off the top of my head?  Highlander, Star Wars, Monty Python's Holy Grail, The Princess Bride, Heavy Metal, Excalibur, and some more.

Sounds like a future post really.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 16
First Time Views: 6.5

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.


October Horror Movie Challenge: Island of the Fishmen/Screamers (1979/1980) & Dagon (2001)

Screamers (1980)
I wanted to get in some Innsmouth action this October, but I wanted to get them in tonight.  Up first is Island of the Fishmen from 1979, but the version I found was Sreamers, the re-edit from 1980.

Screamers (1980)

While this one is sold as a "Lovecraftian" movie, the only thing it has going for it Lovecraft-wise is that the Fishmen of the title were once humans.  The movie is part "Dagon" with Innsmouth now closer to the Bermuda Triangle, and little bits of Atlantis, and The Island of Dr. Moreau and some bits of voodoo thrown in for good measure.  The movie does have Barbara Bach in it, so that is a nice plus. 

I can't help but get a strong Isle of Dread vibe from this. The creatures in this, the fishmen, look a lot like the Kuo-toa and Locathah from D&D. Even though neither of those creatures appears in the adventure. 

The plot works well for a Victorian-era game.

Dagon (2001)
Dagon (2001)

I watched this one back in 2010 but I was in a pretty bad mood.  I remember it now while rewatching it.  This is the problem I am running into, most of the movies out there I have already seen.  Though watching it again I recalled/noticed a few things.  The Innsmouth/Imboca people really have the Deep Ones look down. It is actually quite better than I remembered.  Also, Ezra Godden as our protagonist Paul looks a LOT like Jeffery Combs circa ReAnimator. Sounds like him too in many places.  Not a huge surprise since one of the producers is Brian Yuzna. If this had been made in the 80s or 90s then Combs would have been in it.  Likely this is because he was doing Star Trek Enterprise at the time. 

The movie is better than I remember.  Not great mind you, but still better. I am not sure I remembered Paul wearing a "Miskatonic" sweatshirt, but it is a nice touch. 

One thing is certain. If I ever run Isle of Dread again it is going to be more Dagon and less King Kong. 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 15
First Time Views: 6.5

Friday, October 8, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Color Out of Space (2010, 2019)

The Color Out of Space (2010)
Two different attempts at the same story.  One I have seen already and one that is new to me. 

The Color Out of Space (2010)

This one is a German film set in 1975. Part of the movie is in German. I was lamenting recently that I don't get to speak German enough, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind.  

The movie is in Black & White, which is a neat touch I admit. It is a bit slow but very moody.  The b/w cinematography is used to great effect when the titular "color" reveals itself. 

The story is moved from the eerie woods of America's North East to the equally eerie woods of Germany's Black Forest. 

I have to admit, nothing is lost in the retelling in German. While the special effects are not great, they are used to great, well, effect. The CGI purple "color" against the black and white film could have been cheesy, but they make it work here.  Plus this is one time where CGI feeling out of place is perfectly fine, even expected.  

While it doesn't follow the letter of the story, it follows its spirit I feel.  It could have used a bit more editing though, some parts dig drag on longer than needed.  But really quite fun.


The Color Out of Space (2019)

The Color Out of Space (2019)

This is the Nick Cage one from a couple years ago and I watched last year. In fact almost last year to the day. 

I don't have much more to add, save I wanted to rewatch it for this Lovecraft film-fest and see how it compares to the 2010 version. 

While this one is far more polished and more explicit in it's horror I do feel maybe, maybe something is missing that the 2010 version was able to capture.  Of course I think the 2010 version gets closer to Lovecraft's style of storytelling of "show less, imagine more."

Though I stick to my original opinion of Nick Cage in this.






2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 13
First Time Views: 5.5

Thursday, October 7, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unnamable (1988)

The Unnamable (1988)
I started watching 1988's The Unnamable tonight thinking for sure I had seen it.  Started it, couldn't remember it, then realized I had seen it.

The Unnamable (1988)

So there must be an unwritten rule that all modern adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft must take place in or around Miskatonic University and/or Arkham. After all, it makes good sense and if I were a filmmaker it is what I would do as well.  Of course, it doesn't mean you always have to do it.

Case in point there is almost more about M.U. here than there is about the titular monster/character here.  We get glimpses into the undergraduate life, the student body (and bodies), even people majoring in things other than medicine and the dark arts.  But all of this is just fluff for the main story.  Again a common problem, how to make a full-length movie out of a short story.

This one features Lovecraft's reoccurring protagonist Randolph Carter (this time played by Mark Kinsey Stephenson).

It is typical late 80s fare. Lots of gore. Lots of implied sexual antics.  

In this second viewing (or third, who knows) I can help but think Randolph Carter here is kind of a jerk. By the time he comes around to helping anyone half the cast is dead. Yeah, it's a horror flick people are going to die, but his laissez-faire attitude borders on sociopathic negligence rather than a cool distance.

I wanted to also watch The Unnamable II but I can't find it anywhere.  This is also a problem I am having with other Lovecraft-based flicks.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 11
First Time Views: 4.5

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)
Ok. I can already tell that a Lovecraft film-fest is going to be rough.  Lovecraft's writings rarely translate well to the screen, this one is no exception.

The Thing on the Doorstep (2014)

This one looks like it was a student film, except everyone looks too old to be a student. 

The story sort of follows the Lovecraft short story, updated to modern times.

The cast is all unknowns. For most of them, this is their only film credit.  

The filming has an odd sepia tone to it that I thought was more than a little annoying. It certainly gave it a solid straight-to-video vibe about it. 

Again this video commits the worst sin a horror movie can; it was boring. I made it halfway through and ended up fast-forwarding to the end.  I am sure I missed nothing.   But given that I can only give myself half a point.  


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 10
First Time Views: 4.5

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: From Beyond (1986) & Banshee Chapter (2013)

From Beyond (1986) might have been the very first Lovecraft-based movie I ever saw.  I remember having the poster of it hanging in my room until I went off to college and then my brother had it in his room.  I was pleased to also find a new movie based on the same Lovecraft short story and this film.

From Beyond (1986)
From Beyond (1986)

I have been re-watching Star Trek: Enterprise, so I have been getting a fairly constant dose of Jeffrey Combs, but he looks so damn young here.  Incidentally, the doors in the psych ward make the same noise as the doors on classic Trek. 

This movie reunites Combs with Barbara Crampton, director Stuart Gordon, and producer Brian Yuzna.  Gordon wanted a core set of actors he could work with to do a bunch of Lovecraft's stories.  It's didn't quite turn out that way, which is too bad really.  Crampton and Combs have great on-screen chemistry; especially considering they have no scenes where they are "romantically" linked.  This is also the best of the batch of the Lovecraft movies.  Having Barbara Crampton as Dr. Katherine McMichaels, a strong woman as a Lovecraft protagonist is fantastic.   Combs does a great job as Tillinghast and you never once think of him as West from Re-Animator.  Ted Sorel was also fantastic as the mad Dr. Edward Pretorius. 

The movie holds up really well. The only things that seem "dated" in it are the hairstyles and technology.   Even many of the special effects are still great. 

I think I would have rather had a sequel to this one more so than Re-Animator.

Banshee Chapter (2013)
Banshee Chapter (2013)

I sort of got the sequel in Banshee Chapter.  This one combines the Lovecraft tale with the CIA's MK-ULTRA program. It features Katia Winter (who I adored in Sleepy Hollow), Ted Levine (from Silence of the Lambs and more recently The Alienist), and Michael McMillian (formerly of True Blood).

This features some "found footage" material, used to great effect in Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity and I think it works well here too.    In this movie, the dimensional shifting abilities are from a chemical created by the CIA, and some short-wave radio broadcasts over Number Stations.  I will tell you this, if you don't like jump scares, avoid this movie.  

The mixing of Lovecraft's base story, secret CIA programs, weapons-grade hallucinogens, and creepy urban legends makes for an attractive mix.

Katia Winter plays Anne Roland, a journalist searching for her missing friend James Hirsch (McMillian) who filmed himself taking some of MK-ULTRA's super-LSD (DMT-19) and has now disappeared.   She investigates the mystery and stumbles upon a recording of her friend picked up by a short-wave radio hobbyist who also happened to have worked for the NSA.

Ted Levin brilliantly plays Thomas Blackburn, a Hunter S. Thompson-like character.   This is getting better all the time.

Anne views some CIA footage on the effects of the drugs. She watches one of the patients/test subjects get attacked by some creature in the dark.  She also learns that DMT-19 is extracted directly from dead human pineal glands. 

Anne finally gets in contact with Blackburn and they do some DMT-19 created by Blackburn's friend Callie (Jenny Gabrielle).  Callie, who took some DMT-19 earlier, begins to show the same behavior that James did on the tape.  They see creatures that they normally could not see.  Much like how the Resonator does in From Beyond.  At one point we see Callie, all white-skinned and black eyes, vomiting up a ton of blood. It's a lot of fun.  

Monique Candelaria also appears as "Patient 14," one of the CIA test subjects.  She would later make another contribution to Lovecraft media in "Lovecraft Country."

Maybe it is my ears, but I found it helpful to have the Closed Captions turned on.

We learn after some scares and a run in with Callie that Blackburn never gave Anne the drug. Though she can hear and see the creatures.  We also find out the drug can be transmitted via touch and Blackburn was a subject of the CIA experiments when he was a teen.

Pretty good flick, but it sort of fell apart at the end.  I read the director ran out of time for filming and you can kind of tell.  But still, it was fun.  They even name drop Lovecraft in it.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 9
First Time Views: 4

Monday, October 4, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: Re-Animator (1985, 1991, 2003)

Re-Animator (1985)
I can't do a Lovecraft film fest and NOT do the Re-Animator series.  Yeah, it is so loosely based on Lovecraft's Herbert West, but it left a long shadow, for good or ill, on all future Lovecraft film adaptions.

Re-Animator (1985)

The first thing I notice about this is how freaking young Jeffery Combs is.  Secondly how much gratuitous nudity there is in this.  Third, re-animated humans are SUPER STRONG!

The scene where they reanimated Rufus the cat has stuck with me for years. Pretty much everyone in this is a little forgettable, save for Jeffery Combs as Herbert West and David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill.  Yes, Barbara Crampton is in it as Meg doing what she does best, screaming and getting naked. 

The version I just watched on the Midnight Pulp did not have the infamous "head giving head" scene, nor did it have the scene where West is injecting some of the reagent into himself like heroin. That might be in the sequel.  Which is for later tonight.  Though this one ends fairly definitively with West, Hill and Meg all dying in the end.  Yeah...I know the title of the movie here.

I have seen this movie, I don't know now, maybe three dozen times.  Never fails to amuse and entertain.  Though it has been a few years since I last saw it and I am surprised which parts seemed to new to me.

I might need to get one of the newer Blu-Ray releases of it.  Though that could just be my tired brain talking.

Bride of Reanimator
Bride of Re-Animator (1991)

Taking place after what is being called the Miskatonic Medical School Massacre, Herbert West and Dan Cain are still working on perfecting the re-animation process.   

This movie, along with the first, completes the Lovecraft short story, more or less. 

This one is also less campy than the first, which is interesting since the camp was one of the main features of the first one.  Although West seems a little more unhinged in this movie.  Almost out of character really. 

There is also far less gratuitous nudity and blood in this one. Of it's there, just not the same as the thirst movie.  I am getting the feeling the director and writers were trying to make a more serious horror movie.  The scenes where the "Bride" is reanimated are very reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein with Else Lancaster. The lightning and the rain in the scene helps that feeling. 

David Gale is back as Dr. Carl Hill, a fantastic bad guy to have really.  This also marks one of his last roles before dying due to complications from open-heart surgery.  Hill as a bat-winged flying head is really one of the joys of the film.  

The ending though is pretty campy and crazy.

Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
Beyond Re-Animator (2003)

Oh, I am going to be dragging in the morning.  I knew of this movie but did not recall it until I went looking for Bride of Re-Animator on my streaming services.  I found it and figured, let's make a night of it! Plus I need a new watch for this challenge.

This one is different from the other two even if it is supposed to be a direct sequel.  We begin with the last night of the last movie. Young Howard Philips (hehe) is camping out in a tent with a friend when they hear someone go into their house.  They investigate only to find his older sister, but they are quickly attacked by a zombie that kills his sister Emily.  Wandering out of his house he sees the police take Herbert West into custody. West drops one of his re-agents and Howard picks it up.

It's13 years after those events and Herbert West is in prison experimenting on rats. Dr. Howard Philips has joined the prison hospital as the new doctor.  

The movie was made in Spain and sadly has a less than polished feel about it.  I was not surprised to hear it was direct to SciFi production, though I guess it was in some theatres overseas.  The presentation is SD, not HD.

They try for a "Silence of the Lambs" feel to the prison, Arkham State Prison.

Elsa Pataky, aka Liam Hemsworth's wife, appears as Laura Olney a journalist who starts an affair with Dr. Philips.

Philips and West set up a lab space in secret to continue their experiments.  Meanwhile, Laura keeps investigating West's background. The use of the original music for the research/investigation scenes is a nice touch.

West has discovered that the reagent is only half the solution, there is also this "Nano-Plasmic Energy" that jump starts all the cells.  They try it on a pet rat and it comes back to life and 100% fine...well almost.

Laura goes to interview the prisoner that West revived, but is discovered by the Warden. Who promptly gets his ear ripped off. Laura refuses the advances of the Warden and he kills her too.  They bring Laura back to life and use the Warden's NPE to make her normal, but it has some weird side-effects, like making her homicidal.   West also brings back the Warden, but he manages to escape and steal the reagent.  He starts killing prisoners and guards to bring them back to experience death over and over.

A prison riot breaks out and prisoners and the reanimated are all locked in together. 

SWAT teams rush in to stop the rioters. We also learn what happens when a living person injects the pure reagent.  Spoiler, it's messy.

This one ends with Herbert West walking out of the prison into the night.

It wasn't great, but it was fun.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 7
First Time Views: 3

Sunday, October 3, 2021

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Dunwich Horror (1970, 2008)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)
The Dunwich Horror is one of Lovecraft's most enduring tales.  We get the demented and evil Whately family.  It is the story that gives us the most information on the Old One and Outer God Yog-Sothoth.   There have been a number of movies based on it, but tonight I want to focus on two, both starring Dean Stockwell.

Double the Dunwich Horror and double Dean Stockwell!

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

So from the start, this movie is not 100% sure if it wants to be Lovecraftian horror of more typical 70s occult-themed horror.  

I do love how the Necronomicon is given to a coed to return to the library like it was a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Dean Stockwell is Wilbur in this one.  He is really young and does a good job acting, BUT he is not a good Wilbur.  That is due to the script really, not the acting. I guess they needed someone to charm Sandra Dee, and a deformed 10-year-old would not do the trick.   Ed Begley (in one of his last roles) is our Dr. Armitage and he brings the right amount of pomposity to the role. 

The biggest crime here is that the movie is so slow. The Whateley home in this movie is far nicer than it ever was in the Lovecraft tale.  

The effects are not great, but fun.  The image of Wilbur's brother is kind of cool. 

There is a lot of conflating of the Old Ones with some sort of satanic aspect, which is fairly irritating, to be honest.  But is it more irritating than Wilbur getting a "love interest?" Hard to say.  

Among other things, this movie is notable for a very, very rare, blink and you will miss it, Sandra Dee topless scene. This was also near the end of her very prolific career. She would only appear in a few more TV episodes. 

The movie ends with Dee's character, Nancy Wagner, pregnant with Wilbur's baby.  I guess he would be in his 50s now.  Sounds like a sequel to me!  The Bride of Dunwich!

The Dunwich Horror (2008)
The Dunwich Horror (2008)

This one has also been called "Witches: The Darkest Horror" and "Witches: The Dunwich Horror." This time the story moves to Louisana. 

Dean Stockwell this time plays Dr. Henry Armitage.  The movie is really not good, to be honest, but it is kind of fun.  It watches like a Call of Cthulhu adventure; exotic locales, strange artifacts, old evil tomes, guest-starring Jeffery Combs (as Wilbur no less).  Even John Dee, Olas Wormius, and the Knights Templar get name-dropped here.  Olas even shows up in a swamp for some reason.

Moving the location to the far south is an interesting one. I am sure in Lovecraft's time New England had its share of strange locales, but now on a larger scale the same "other place" is served by the backwoods southern parts of the country.  Or I might be giving the filmmakers too much credit.  I also can't tell if the effect of Wilbur being "slightly out of this dimension/time" is interesting or irritating. 

While it is not Lovecraft's Dunwich Horror and it is not very good, it kept me watching to the end.

So where are we at now?  I think it is time for another Dunwich Horror movie, this time make it closer to the Lovecraft tale and get Dean Stockwell to play old man Whateley! 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 4
First Time Views: 2

Monday, October 12, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Underwater (2020)

Underwater (2020)

I was looking for a change of pace tonight and this one showed up as recommended.  Sure. Why not.

This one turned out to be rather fun to be honest.  Not great, but not bad either.  Kristen Stewart was actually pretty good in it. It was pretty much like every other deep-sea monster movie; man ventures to places where he is not supposed to go, sea monsters attack. 

This one had both "humanoid" sea creatures and a great big mother-like, kaiju creature.  It would not be a stretch to think of her as Mother Hydra from the Dagon myths.  Or even Cthulhu.
There are Cthulhu symbols drawn on the various maps, so there is that.
The director has even said the creature is supposed to be Cthulhu himself, but I think Dagon or Hydra works better.

This only reminds me I need to do a Lovecraft Filmfest one month.

Don't go to this movie looking for great insights or deep plotting.  But if you like sea monsters then this is a fun romp.

It does have T.J. Miller (Deadpool) and Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones, Iron Fist) in it as well. So those are pluses.

Watched: 22
New: 14


NIGHT SHIFT and BlackStar Content:  A few notes.

A giant underwater creature is a little harder to pull off in a Night Shift or Old-School game.  But I am still thinking about my cross-generational game.  Maybe there is a London 1968 chapter, an Earth or Mars 2087 chapter (or even Enceladus which could be a vast Ocean), in any case, what is found here in 2087 on an under-water drilling base is a human, or near human, skeleton.  Then this leads to the mission in the 23rd century.  All horror.

So many good ideas really.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Color Out of Space (2019)

Oh. Now this was fun.

I have heard that some people didn't care for this one, but you can't watch it thinking it is a Lovecraft movie.  Lovecraft never translates well on screen.  Watch this one thinking it is a crazy Nick Cage movie.

Sadly I did not see this one when it came out, but I had heard a lot of good (and bad) about it.   Well the movie itself did not disappoint.  I mean really, Lovecraft, Nick Cage?  This has disaster written all over it but it gets pulled together well.

So the movie follows the story rather well. Well, as can be expected.

Our narrator, the unnamed surveyor, becomes Ward Phillips a hydrologist played by Elliot Knight.  I have to admit I did enjoy that the narrator, our POV character, is played by a mixed-race, Nigerian-British actor who is very active in gay rights.  Lovecraft would be so happy.

Nick Cage is at his Nick Cage best.  Super serious when he needs to be, and bat-shit insane with an accent when the movie needs that.  He reminded me of his characters in  Vampire's Kiss and National Treasure. And let's not forget, Cage has won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award.  He is great as troubled Nathan/Nahum Gardner. 

The sons are changed and there is a daughter, Lavinia played by Madeleine Arthur (who has some solid geek cred with credits in "Supernatural", "Legends of Tomorrow", "Tomorrow People", "X-Files", "Magicians", and "Spooksville").  Oh, and Lavinia, who plays a Wiccan, also has a copy of the old 1980 Simon Necronomicon.  That made me rather happy to see, to be honest.

And Tommy Chong.  Seriously.
Tommy Freaking Chong playing the "crazy man" Ezra/Ammi Pierce.

The hardest thing I think is to capture the horror of Lovecraft on film.  I am not sure how many half-failed attempts I have watched over the years.  In fact, I think the only good ones have been "From Beyond" and "Re-Animator".  Maybe, MAYBE, 1970 The Dunwich Horror with Dean Stockwell.

What I REALLY enjoyed about this was I watched it with my two boys.  We all love Lovecraft and we all love Nick Cage movies.  So this was a nice treat.

This is supposed to be the first of a shared universe of Lovecraft films, but it did rather poorly in the box office.

Watched: 7
New: 7

NIGHT SHIFT Content

What NOT to use here?  Might need to grab my 5e Cthulhu Mythos book and give this one a go using the Night Shift game.  The characters can play the parts of investigators to the scene.  My kids would LOVE that.




Friday, September 18, 2020

One Man's God: Melnibonéan Mythos

Elric by Jeff Dee

Getting back to the mythos in the Deities and Demigods proper I want to take a look at one filled with demons, elementals and other creatures of the multiverse.  The Melnibonéan Mythos of Michael Moorcock.

The Melnibonéan Mythos is one of the two expunged mythoi from the D&DG, the other being the more popular Cthulhu Mythos.  I talked about those myths and some of the controversy around them in a previous installment of One Man's God.  I'll also talk a little more about that at the end, but first, Gods and Demons.

Elric of Melniboné was my gateway to Cthulhu.  I had done all the high fantasy that was popular in the 80s and Tolkien in particular.  But I was looking for something a little darker, something that also appealed to my same frame of mind that loved horror films.  Elric then was the logical next step.

Maybe as much as Tolkien, the works of Michael Moorcock laid down the foundation that was going to be the lens of D&D.  The alignment system, the multiverse, champions of Law and Chaos, all these things came to D&D via Moorcock.  Though in truth for this piece I could also just say Elric since these are the mythos we are discussing today.


Melniboné and Demons

The tales of Elric and Melniboné are overrun with creatures called demons. Everyone from Arioch on down is referred too as a demon in fact.  Elric's own ancestor, Terhali, also known as the Green Empress, ruled Melniboné for 605 years a thousand years before Elric. Her long life was attributed to her mother, who was a demon.  Other creatures in the books are also called demons. Arioch himself appears in many Medieval grimoires as a demon and in Milton's Paradise Lost, Book VI, Line 371.

Whether or not these meet the AD&D Monster Manual criteria for a demon is to be decided.  Let's explore some other details first.

Law & Chaos, Good & Evil

The battles in Elric's world(s) are not just of Good vs. Evil but of Law vs. Chaos. Chaos is shown to be a destructive, and often evil force.  Elric and his kin are all dedicated to the Lords of Chaos and have pacts with many of these lords.  So the "alignment" system of Elric's world view is the same as that as D&D really.  It's where we get it in fact.  So this does free up one issue; creatures described here as being Chaotic Evil are likely appropriately described in their own world and an AD&D one.  We are not going to run into issues here of Chaotic Evil creatures that also protect mothers like in the Aztec myths for example.

Lords of Hell and Demons

The Elric saga takes a "multiple hells" view on the cosmos.  There is more than one hell and they ruled over by Lords of Chaos.  Some of these Lords are also explicitly demons. They are called such in the text.  In many ways, One Man's God and my own games have evolved to be more like this point of view. 

Demons vs. Elemental Lords

There are many creatures of power in the Elric tales (and Moorcock's books as a whole). Some are explicitly demons. Others though are classified as Elemental Lords. These creatures do not see to differ very much the Princes of Elemental Evil first seen in the Fiend Folio.  In the 4e cosmology they would be called Primordials and the Titans and Giants are their offspring.  This also fits in well with the mythology Gary was building in the GDQ series.  So there are at least some relationships between these Elemental Lords and the Demons.  But that is for another day.  Though all of this leads me to two conclusions:

  1. Many demons/creatures/lords of the Elric saga are very much like the demons of AD&D. Or maybe it is the other way around.
  2. Elric might be listed as a "Magic-user 19th level" and "Cleric 10th level" but what he really is, using the current term, is a Warlock.  In fact he might be the exemplar from which we draw from.

But more on that later.

Elemental Lords & Animal Lords

Before I get to the Demons, let's look at the various Elemental Lords Elric has pacts with or is able to summon. We can compare them to other examples in other AD&D works.

In the Melnibonéan Mythos, we have Darnizhaan (NE, Earth), Grome (N, Earth), Kakatal (CN, Fire), Misha (N, Air), and Straasha (N, Water).  Generally speaking, these creatures are more powerful than the Princes of Elemental Evil found in the Fiend Folio. Which would track if these are the "Kings" and the others are just "Princes."

Elemental Lords are not the only creatures Elric encounters. There are also the various Animal Lords, or Master Types.  These are almost taken verbatim for the Monster Manual II Cat Lord and in the later editions of AD&D/D&D.  Among the Animal Lords are Fileet (Lady of Birds), Haaashastaak (Lord of Lizards), Meerclar (Lady of Cats), Nnuuurrr'c'c (Lord of the Insect Swarm), Nuru-ah (Lord of Cattle), and Roofdrak (Lord of Dogs).  Back in the 80s we treated Meeclar as the Cat Lord before the "current" Cat Lord and Bast as the one before Meeclar.  Gary would go on to support our claim in the 90s when he made Gord the new Cat Lord.  all of this fit into our worlds very nicely.

The Demons

Let's get to the demons.  There are lot of creatures in these myths are weird and Chaotic Evil.  BUT, does that make them an AD&D demon?  Well, some fit perfectly, others, we might need to file off some of the edges to make them fit.

Arioch (and Xiombarg)

Let's address the Chaos Lord in the room.  Arioch.  In the books he is Elric's patron.  I believe he is even described as a Patron Demon.  He often referred to a Lord of Hell, a Lord of Chaos and it is said he is worshipped as a god in many worlds.  But is he a god? He is certainly very powerful. On the side of a God is the fact that he can have many avatars on multiple worlds (though in D&D 3 and beyond this would be called an Aspect), on the side of Demon is the fact that he can be summoned, sometimes even against his will. It is possible that Arioch (Knight of Swords), as well as Xiombarg (Queen of Swords) and Mabelode (King of Swords, and not in the D&DG) are Demons, they are just very, very powerful ones on the level of the Arch Dukes of Hell.  

I am inclined to make them powerful Demon Lords/Princes.  Their power is such that would disrupt the hierarchy of Hell (the AD&D Hell), but in the Abyss they can plot and scheme all the like.  Again they have never been described as anything but Chaotic Evil.  I would also argue that their stats in the D&DG might be a touch high. Elric did kill Arioch in the end.

Assassinator of the Gods

Back in the AD&D days we always combined this creature with Ma Yuan of the Chinese Mythos. Though they were not exactly the same.  In this case, I am inclined to make this a completely unique creature. 

Clakar

Chaotic Evil winged apes that can be used as guards.  A bit like a summoned demon, but nothing about them screams demon to me.

Elenoin & Grahluk

These two are in a perpetual race war against each other. Not demons. I always thought of them as the female and male of the same species in a division that has gone very, very wrong.  I say every few years both races have a "pon farr" like time where both are compelled to mate.  While both can be summoned I took this more as they were responding to some other pact made. So they are not demons, but likely commanded or ruled by demons.

Kelmain

Humanoids from Limbo.

Mist Giant

More of a monster than a demon.

Mordagz

Now here is an interesting character. A former Lord of Chaos, he has been "demoted" to a Storm Giant. He could qualify as the classical definition of a demon; a former god reduced in power and status.  His alignment though is Chaotic Neutral.

Pyaray

Now this guy. Lord of the Ocean Abysses. Looks like a demon. Commands a flotilla of sunken ships manned by undead sailors. his soul is stored in the blue crystal on his head like a demon amulet.  Yeah, this one fits the demon description rather well.  His 250 hp makes him a bit more powerful than Demogorgon, but otherwise he is a good fit. We also know that Pyaray and Straasha are bitter enemies. so if Straasha is an Elemental Lord, we can have Pyaray be a Demon Lord.

Quaolnargn

Ok. This one is explicitly called a "demon from the Abyss."

There are more creatures in the tales, but these are what appear in the D&DG.

Elric as a Warlock

The big surprise here is not that there are demons and elementals in this mythos, but that Elric might be better represented as a warlock rather than a wizard, or as he is described in the book, a sorcerer.  We see Elric using magic, but mostly we see him summoning creatures to do his bidding. We rarely see him use the sorts of magics that one might expect of a 19th level magic-user/10th level llusionist/10th level cleric/5th level druid. However, all this magic can be used by a warlock. 

I did a quick build with Elic for the 5th Edition warlock. I made him a tiefling to cover his demonic ancestry and it worked out well.  But a better choice might be a Demonic Pact Warlock using some old-school rules.


My Warlock book for Swords & Wizardry would be a good fit here since I also re-classified the various demons to work with multiple "hells" and planes.

Elric of Melniboné

19th level Warlock, Demonic Pact (Melnibonéan)
Tiefling Male 

Strength: 6
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 17
Constituiton: 3
Charisma: 20

Invocations: Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Arcane Mastery*, Arcane Mastery (Greater)**, Arcane Mastery (Superior)***, Beast Speech, Eldritch Sight, Minions of Chaos, Pact Blade, Thirsting Blade

Spells:
1st: Black Fire, Charm Person, Command, Detect Magic, Mage Armor, Obedient Beast, Spirit Servant
2nd: Agony, Burning Gaze, Cause Light Wounds, Clothes of the Emperor, Grasp of the Endless War, Magic Circle Aganist Spirits, Share my Pain
3rd: Astral Sense, Circle of Respite, Clairsentience, Fiend's Shield, Lifesteal, Summon Winged Steed
4th: Arcane Eye, Call Imp, Divine Power, Fear, Spell storing
5th: Blade Dance, Conjuration of Elementals, Extend Spell (Greater), Song of the Night, Ward of Magic

*6th: Invisible Stalker
**7th: Conjuration of Demons
***8th: Symbol

I rather like this. 

And Arioch would fit rather well in my Warlock book too.


And finally,

The "True" Story of the Melnibonéan and Cthulhu Mythos in the D&DG?

Up first an article from DM David.

https://dmdavid.com/tag/the-true-story-of-the-cthulhu-and-elric-sections-removed-from-deities-demigods/

And a video from Seth Skorkowsky on "The Notorious Deities and Demigods (Ft. Sandy Petersen)"

Both are worth the time to go over.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

October Movie Challenge: Housewife (2017)

This one has been on my list but I debated because I saw some fairly poor reviews. But I wanted to see it so tonight was the night.

The movie starts with Holly and Hazel, young sisters, playing with dolls.  Hazel is drawing, including a very strange one with tentacles coming out of the clouds.   Hazel notices that she is getting her first period so Holly calls for their mother who is going on about "visitors".  The mother tells Holly to stay behind while she takes Hazel.  Holly goes to see where they went and she sees her mother drowning Hazel in the toilet.  Her mother chases her through the house to catch Holly, but her father comes home.  Holly's mother kills him but Holly manages to escape.

Fast forward to today and Holly is a bored housewife.  Holly and her husband Tim get invited to a cult meeting, UML, where they find their former lover Valery is now a "family member" of UML.
The cult's leader seeks out Holly and manages to read her mind and learn about her pain.

Holly, Valery and Tim head back home where they rekindle their love affair.

But things are not that simple.  Holly begins to question reality.  Did they come home? Did she meet up with Bruce the UML leader again?  Is she seeing her mother and sister?   A session with Bruce makes her think she killed her sister.

Then it gets weird.

I won't ruin the ending for you, but in truth I kinda liked it.  Weird, surreal and frankly a lot of fun.


Watched: 30
New: 23



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

OMG: Cthulhu Mythos

I am fresh off of Gen Con 2019 where I got the chance to play a lot of Cthulhu; Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Tech. We even checked out Cthulhu Wars.  I figure it is a good time to talk about the Cthulhu Mythos as they appear in the Deities & Demigods.


Of course, there are a few points that need to be cleared up.  Or rather, should be clear already.

There is a lot of talk about how TSR didn't have the rights to the Cthulhu myths and that Chaosium threatened lawsuits.

Well, here are the words right from the author, Jim Ward.


Ok that out of the way. Let's talk about the mythos in D&D.

It is not an exaggeration to say that for many gamers their first exposure to the Cthulhu mythos were the entries in the Deities & Demigods, published in 1980.  The Call of Cthulhu RPG came out in 1981.  Zenopus Archives has a nice rundown of what was going in D&D and TSR at the time.

One of the main purposes of One Man's God is to fit the gods and monsters into the likes of AD&D style demons.  It would be easy to do this with the various Cthulhu monsters.

I absolutely do not plan to do this.

The biggest thing about the Cthulhu mythos and Lovecraft's purpose is diametrically opposed to this. "This" meaning to lump the Cthulhu Mythos into the likes of demons, devils, werewolves, and vampires. 

In fact, D&D would later change to accommodate the Mythos with the addition of the Far Realm.

The Far Realm was introduced in the pages of the 2nd Edtion adventure The Gates of Firestorm Peak and later expanded in 3rd Edition's Manual of the Planes.  It is a bit of a Lovecraftian pastiche, but it still works nicely. It was expanded even more under 4th Edition where it became part of the core cosmology and in-game history.

Outside of the Deities & Demigods and the books mentioned above, Cthulhu and Friends would go on to make more appearances in D&D.

If 3rd Edition is still your jam, then you have the Call of Cthulhu d20 rules, the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 for monster stats, and Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos - Pathfinder, plus the aforementioned Manual of the Planes.

For the OSR crowd, we have Realms of Crawling Chaos and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

This only a fraction of the 2300+ entries on DriveThruRPG and even more elsewhere.



Of Gods and Monsters
Back to the present discourse, what does the D&DG have for us in terms of Cthulhu mythos?

In D&D terms we have our Gods: Cthulhu, Azathoth, Cthuga, Hastur, Ithaqua, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth. All of these gods are "Greater Gods" with the maximum 400 hp, save for Nyarlathotep who is a "Lesser God" at 200 hp and Ithaqua a "Demigod" at 250 hp.

The monsters include Byakhee, Cthuga's Flame Creature, Deep Ones, the Great Race, Mi-Go, Primordial Ones, and Shoggoths.

Most of these are not even what we could, or should, consider demonic.  Sure they are monstrous and even some are evil, but mostly they are another kind of life that is not really interested in humans.

With that, we will leave the Cthulhu myths and head on to other gods.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: Realms of the Crawling Chaos

One of my favorite Old School books has been Realms of the Crawling Chaos by Goblinoid Games.  It's a nice blend of both D&D Basic-era (via Labyrinth Lord) and the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft.  We get a little bit of Call of Cthulhu and the Cthulhu Mythos from Deities & Demigods.

Available as a PDF and softcover for years it is now out in hardcover for backers of the Advanced Labyrinth Lord Kickstarter.


The book looks fantastic, as to be expected.









The hardcover book is 60 pages worth of material and deals with running a Lovecraftian-inspired game of horror fantasy.
A few new races are introduced for a Race-as-Class style game with notes on other classes to use in an advanced game; Sea-Blooded, Subhuman, White Ape and White Ape Hybrid.

Next, are some new magical formulae and some new spells all based on various Lovecraft sources. Enough to sprinkle into various dammable texts for the players to find AND then really get into trouble with.

We come to the monsters and all the old favorites are here. Comparing them to other sources of similar monster will give you plenty of differences in stats, which is a good thing really. Players who are familiar with other books should not have knowledge their characters do not.

A small section on Eldritch Artifacts, a staple of many of Lovecraft's mythos stories.

And finally a section on Psionics which differs from other books/games.

We get some appendices on Eldritch tomes and an artifact generator.  Appendix 3 covers the use of these psionic rules in Mutant Future. And Appendix 4 covers the stories and books used.

We end with the OGL section.

If I have one complaint there are no rules for sanity or madness. A fair staple of many Lovecraftian games.

The book is awfully fun and is full of great ideas.  If you are a fan of Labyrinth Lord and Lovecraftian tales then I would most certainly grab this.

For me, this is has been the "missing" part of both my BlackStar game and War of the Witch Queens.  I say "missing" but I have had the PDF forever.

This is actually a HUGE part of my BlackStar game.  This plus Starships & Spacemen So I am going to talk a little about in the frame of reference of that game soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

True Detective: The Forests of Leng

If you have been here for a while you will know that I am a fan of the murder mystery show "True Detective".  Of course, I loved the first season and really disliked the second season (hate is too strong of a word).   Well the third Season started last week, we got three episodes so far and I am completely hooked.

I am not going to give out too much of the story but it revolves around Detective Wayne Hays, played by the amazing Mahershala Ali and the kidnapping and murder of two children (so far).  While investigating the room of 10-year-old Will (one of the missing children) we get to see this:


Yup. That's an AD&D book "The Forests of Leng".  A book we all know does not exist.

There are a few problems of course.  This book uses the trade dress of the 2nd printing of the AD&D 1st ed books featuring covers by Jeff Easley, but this scene takes place on November 7-8, 1980.

We can't see the cover very well, but there appears to be a tentacled monster on it.


Film Goblin does a fantastic break down of the cover and the Leng-Carcosa connections in both Season 1 and Season 3 of True Detective.  Go there for the Lovecraft and G.R.R. Martin connections as well.

I will not retread that ground here.
I do however want to speculate what a Forests of Leng book might be.

So we know that in 1980 the idea of a mega-module, ala T1-4 was still some ways off.  But I look at this and think that this would be a good mega-module...but that is not really enough is it.

No the closest thing I think this could be is a campaign world book like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms or World of Greyhawk books.

It should have new classes, spells, monsters and of course locales include the titular Forests of Leng and the dread city of Carcosa.

Back when TD Season 1 was out I thought how fun it would be to run a Southern Gothic adventure with Ghosts of Albion.  I even called Ghosts of Albion: Carcosa.

I should come up with something.

EDITED TO ADD:


These mockups appeared on Juan Moore's Instagram accountHe designed these props for the True Detective show.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

At the Planets of Madness

Throughout October and November, I have been rereading everything from H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.  In particular, I have been focusing my attention on their "Cosmotism" and sci-fi stories.  All the while thinking about how I want to approach my own "Star Trek meets Cthulhu horror is Space" game, something I have been working on under the title of "Black Star".

Of course looking at Lovecraft through the lens of Sci-fi rather than horror gives the stories an extra dimension.  Once I got back to the "Dream of the Witch House" and the equations of Walter Gilman I knew there was something there.  I figured what if we took the Gilman equations and used those to power Warp drive?  It seemed like a great fit! Really, really great.  Too great. I had to go back to my shelves and sure enough, the idea is not my original one.

Eldritch Skies was published by Battlefield Press a few years back does exactly this.  I was a consultant on the original Cinematic Unisystem version, but now you can only get the Savage Worlds version.

Still, I am pressing on to use the Gilman drive in my own games.  The Gilman equations are added to normal warp drive to produce the Gilman-Cochrane drives.  I'll adapt Eldritch Skies as needed with plenty of Lovecraftian beasties to fill my CAS-style planets.  Hey, it makes as much sense as the Spore Drive.

Converting the stories to Sci-Fi/Horror adventures is easy.

After the first adventure which is Star Tre + Galaxy Quest + Alien + Lovecraft + Event Horizon I figure I can do these:

At the Planets of Madness.  The PCs find a planet that is older than the known Universe! To make matters worse there is evidence of an ancient civilization.  (At the Mountains of Madness + the Image of Fendahl)

Ghost Ship.  The PCs find a derelict adrift in space and it is full of the ghosts of the dead crew.  Originally this was going to be the Enterprise B when I ran it as a pure Trek game. (The Haunting of Hill House, Dreams of the Witch House, the Flying Dutchman)

The Color out of Hyperspace.  A slow moving wave is "eating" up parts of space and everything in its wake.  (Color out of Space)

Starcrash on Hyperborea.  A shuttlecraft with the PCs crashes on a primitive frozen planet.   (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea + The Galileo Seven +  All Our Yesterdays)

At least that is what I have so far.  I want to use more of Clark Ashton Smith's planets, in particular, his planets around Polaris.  It is also giving me a chance to adapt some Tékumel material to White Star.  This page on Wikipedia, Stars and planetary systems in fiction,  has been invaluable for finding planets and star systems I can use.

Much like Lovecraft, I started out in life as an astronomer.  Also, like Lovecraft, I discovered I lack the skills in math to ever get very far.  Though in my defense my wall comes up around Calculus 2.  I did go on to get a degree in Statistics and Measurement.   But the idea of using some long unused parts of my brain are appealing to me.

I have posted a lot in the past about various worlds.  All of these can be used too.


Time to boldly go where no one can hear you scream!

This post is part of my contribution to the RPG Blog Carnival for November 2018.
This month's topic is "All these Worlds..."
Looking forward to what my fellow RPG bloggers are doing this month and how many ideas I can use from them!



Friday, October 5, 2018

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Watcher in the Woods (1980)

There was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when Disney was going through a slump. It roughly corresponds to the time when Walt and Roy Disney died and before the coming of Micheal Eisner.  This gave us some very different kinds of movies from the House of Mouse.  The Witch Mountain series on the onset and the Black Hole near the end typify of what I think of when I say Dark Disney.
We also got the thriller with multiple choice endings, The Watcher in the Woods.

Now I'll be honest, at age 10 this movie gave me a scare, but I was fascinated with it too.  It' doesn't quite hold up to today, but it was still a ton of fun to watch again.

I have to say Bette Davis left a mark on my psyche so deep that I think every old witch I have done is a bit of a reflection of her Mrs. Aylwood. Or maybe that and her role in Disney's earlier Return to Witch Mountain (1978).  Both films were directed by John Hough, so that might explain the similar vibe.

The Watcher in the Woods is also part of a string of movies, books, and other media popular at the time (and before) that took the point of view of "it's not supernatural, it's alien!" but never to the extent that Lovecraft took it.

Still, it is interesting to view this movie through the lenses of Lovecraftian cosmic horror.  Especially if you stick to the original ending of the movie the alien creature at the end (The Watcher) could very easily be a Mi-Go.



The ending is still a little too happy to be real Lovecraft.

I watched the less interesting Official version.

But it was still a blast to go back to this!


Watched: 3
New: 2