Post #383: Top 10 Tuesday, Top 10 Cthulhu Mythos Stories Not By Lovecraft

Lest you think that all we do here in Castle Blogferatu is lounge about watching movies all the live-long day, there’s also an impressive, if I do say so, library to be availed. In particular there’s a good deal of Lovecraft and works inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos.

Lovecraft is, of course, a troubling figure. The reach of his influence is undeniably far, but the man himself was a fairly rabid racist and xenophobe (it’s said that he later regretted and attempted to disavow such benighted attitudes).

The fact remains, though, that the world he created continues to be expanded on and added to, a practice that is unlikely to stop any time soon. So here’s a list of my Top 10 Cthulhu Mythos Stories Not By Lovecraft.

#10 Diana Of The Hundred Breasts (Robert Silverberg, 1996)

I must confess, I’m not the biggest Silverberg fan. Many years ago I bought a copy of Lord Valentine’s Castle based entirely on its cover. I have never finished it. Still, this story is engaging and touches on something I’ve thought about as a lecturer on mythology, and that’s the idea of the gods of myth and legend are in fact various Elder Gods (a sentiment shared, to ridiculous proportions, by folks like Giorgio Tsoukalos).

#9 Little Lady (J.C. Koch)

J.C. Koch is one of the numerous pen names used by Gini Koch. This particular story follows a group of bandits/thugs who have just burned down some small Western town and brought the survivor with them. She’s supposedly going to lead them away from any pursuers and on to safety. She intends to bring them to meet her “father,” and things very quickly become far more than they seem. The end of this story in particular is undoubtedly cosmic horror of the first order. I found it in an anthology called The Madness Of Cthulhu.

#8 Sticks (Karl Edward Wagner, 1974)

An illustrator happens upon some stick lattices whilst fishing in the Adirondacks. That’s just the beginning. What’s even more interesting about this is what we’ll see later in The Blair Witch Project and, even more strikingly, Season 1 of True Detective. Also interesting is that Wagner edited two books for, wait for it, Carcosa Press where Wagner saw the and apparently took inspiration from the illustrations of Lee Brown Coye.

#7 A Study In Emerald (Neil Gaiman, 2003)

I enjoyed the hell outta this story. Based (obviously) on “A Study In Scarlet,” it’s just so damn clever. I don’t wanna give too much away, but Holmes and Watson as well as Moriarty and Moran live in a Lovecraftian London. There’s some interesting role reversal in terms of character and narration, and the whole thing is just a helluvalot of fun.

#6 Bad Sushi (Cherie Priest, 2007)

I wrote about this a while back in Horror 365 Movie 97. John Pinette once did a bit about trying to lose weight and dreaming that Dr. Phil was outside yelling, “It’s not what you’re eating. It’s what’s eating you!” Indeed. Like The Stuff. In this case, an aging sushi chef, Baku, notices that something’s a little off about both the sushi he’s been preparing and the patrons who’ve been partaking of it. The careful reader will also be rewarded by a big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of clever cultural and Lovecraftian references. Bon appétit.

#5 Jerusalem’s Lot (Stephen King, 1978)

I mean, there had to be a Stephen King story on here. Night Shift is one of my all time favorite short story collections. This story is widely considered a prequel to ‘Salem’s Lot and is pretty much his homage to Lovecraft, almost as if King were trying to exorcise the influence of “The Rats In The Walls” by writing it out of his system. Very Lovecraft and maybe some of Stoker’s Lair Of The White Worm sprinkled lovingly throughout. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone told me Ken Russell read “Jerusalem’s Lot” in connection with his Stoker adaptation as well. Jus’ sayin’.

#4 The Big Fish (Jack Yeovil, 1993)

Kim Newman writes under this name. I first ran across him on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments as well as at least one documentary about Video Nasties. This story does a fantastic job marrying detective fiction with Lovecraftian horror, better, in fact, than “A Study In Emerald.” That may be a personal note as I love noir every bit as much as horror, and Yeovil’s P.I. is much more Marlowe-esque. The story therefore becomes a kind of Murder My Sweet meets “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and Yeovil’s ear for that hardboiled Chandler-y dialogue is flawless.

#3 Pickman’s Other Model (1929) (Caitlín R. Kiernan, 2008)

This is another story from Horror 365 #97. It picks up shortly after where Pickman’s Model leaves off. Blackman, her narrator, is yet another a long line of ill-fated Lovecraft narrators: “the mind may not…simply forget the weird and dismaying revelations visited upon men and women who choose to ask forbidden questions.” It’s straight out of the Lovecraft playbook. It works well as a standalone story. It also works as a sequel, reading much like a finely executed second chapter to the source material.

#2 Fat Face (Michael Shea, 1997)

This one’s just straight up creepy as hell. A prostitute has her curiosity aroused by a face she sometimes sees in the window of a building she regularly passes. Eventually this curiosity gets the better of her, and she goes to satisfy it. The story is chock fulla Mythos standards: unexplainable attraction to the unknown, strange architecture, soft but unidentifiable strains of music. And for some reason, the description of Fat Face himself always reminds me of Butterball from Hellraiser.

#1 Flash Frame (Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 2010)

“The Yellow Wallpaper” freaked me out over the color yellow for a good long time, especially sickly, aged, decayed-looking yellow, the kind of yellow that pervades “Flash Frame,” Moreno-Garcia’s story of a cursed film which has many of the same effects on viewers as The King In Yellow has on readers. It’s a peculiarly haunting story, the kind that, once you start it, it takes a hold and won’t let go for a while. You start to get a sense of what this story is getting at if you watch Antrum or Fury Of The Demon, but ultimately they don’t come close to the grip “Flash Frame” will have on you. I don’t wanna spoil this for anyone, so I’m gonna stop here.

And that’s this week’s Top 10. Have you read any of these? What’s your favorite Lovecraftian fiction by other writers? Let me know in the Comments.

Post #382: The Last Wave

I’m given to believe by those who would know better than I that Richard Chamberlain in The Thorn Birds was swoony. Tempting the dishy priest to break his vows is apparently something some folks find hot hot hot hot hot. But before all that, wedged nicely in between holy orders and being a Musketeer, Chamberlain was in The Last Wave, an Australian folk horror oddity from Peter Weir.

I’m also given to believe by those who would know better than I (having neither seen nor read The Thorn Birds) that Father Ralph was a greedy, grasping, overly ambitious, sexually obsessed, hypocritical piece of shit. So, y’know, a Catholic priest.

I like Weir. I’ve seen most of his movies. Of those I’m familiar with, this one is hands down the weirdest. Or maybe Weir-dest. Picnic At Hanging Rock is a close second, but this one is just stuh-range. It opens with some rural school kids out playing when they hear thunder, but see no clouds. This is followed by a freak rain storm accompanied by huge hailstones.

Next, Billy Corman, an Aboriginal man, runs through a sewer complex apparently fleeing someone or something. Soon he passes another man, Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), who says something about Billy having stolen something.

Billy ends up at a pub when Chris and some other men come in. Billy flees again and is pursued by the others. They catch up to him in a vacant lot, and a car can be seen in the nearby street. In the car is an older Aboriginal man, Charlie. As he stares out from the car, Billy grabs his chest and falls to the ground. The other men are rounded up and charged with murder.

Normally a tax attorney, David Burton (Chamberlain) is assigned to defend them through the Australian Legal Aid system and is immediately stonewalled by his defendants. It isn’t long though before David starts having nightmares that seem somehow prophetic. One involves Chris holding out a sacred stone to him with blood on one corner of it.

We find out later that David has had such dreams since childhood. At one point his stepfather even reveals that David had dreamed the exact circumstances of his mother’s death before it happened. Throughout all this, the freak storms continue, including a storm of black rain (the movie’s alternate title was Black Rain in fact).

Eventually Chris informs David that David himself may in fact be “Mukurul from across the sea,” a spiritual entity associated with the Dreamtime. He warns David to leave him and the other men alone or he will die because of what he sees in his nightmares. All of this brings David into conflict the Charlie, the shaman.

In the third act, Chris leads David to a subterranean complex that was once an ancient temple. David pieces together the pictographs on the walls and how his visions fit in with them. He then confronts Charlie and flees the complex only to exit onto a beachfront. The final shot is David looking up and either seeing or having a vision of a towering wave.

It’s at times a surreal film that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s a vision (visions that often border on hallucination). What I like most about The Last Wave is not only its Folk Horror nature, but also its cosmic horror implications. These aren’t overtly Lovecraftian, but they’re there, especially in the prophetic nightmares, the underground temple, and the mystical stones.

Along those lines, it’s also worth pointing out that David undergoes a kind of self-discovery similar to the one experienced by Robert Olmstead, the narrator of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The realization isn’t as transformative for David, but the horror is arguably just as strong.

Ultimately, the end of The Last Wave is undeniably bleak. Either David is on the shore witnessing what is about to be a massive destructive event, or it’s a vision, in which case, like Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown, he’s doomed to live the rest of his life under the influence of the nightmare those visions have revealed.

 Streaming- Criterion Channel, HBO Max
 Rent- Apple TV, Prime

Post #381: Top 10 Tuesday, Top 10 Folk Horror Flicks From My Watchlist

In what should come as a surprise to absolutely none of the 3 of you who frequent the cinematic abyss that is Castle Blogferatu, we are currently well and truly into a deep Folk Horror rabbit hole thanks to Sunday’s post and rewatch of Kier-La Janisse’s Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror.

As I mentioned, there’s a big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of movies I didn’t realize were folk horror, shockingly haven’t seen, and disturbingly never even heard of. It seemed only prudent, then, to take a Prussian-like forced march through the 80+ movies I added to Letterboxd and come up with my Top 10 Folk Horror Movies On My Watchlist. I also tried to limit myself to titles I hadn’t heard of before. Y’know, jus’ fer funsies.

#10 November (2017)

The devil, lycanthropy, various entities from the spirit world, Black Death, all thinly personified in a medieval Estonian village. Well okay then. I’m sure there’s some kind of sociopolitical allegory and/or undercurrent here as well.

#9 The Dreaming (1988)

An Aboriginal tomb gets opened up, an Aboriginal girl dies of a mysterious injury, and nightmares from The Dreamtime invade a doctor’s life.

#8 Kadaicha (aka Stones Of Death, 1988)

Another Aussie flick. This one involves teen murders in the suburbs of Sydney. Might have some Poltergeist vibes.

#7 Tilbury (1987)

Based on the tilberi, a figure out of Icelandic folklore. It involves a rib, wool, communion wine—it’s a whole process that creates creature/demon thing that sucks milk from cows. The movie focuses on this but also throws in a bizarro love triangle.

#6 Draug (2018)

On to Swedish legend, the draug is a kind of revenant. The story in this case also involves the search for an 11th Century missionary.

#5 The Legend Of Hillbilly John (1972)

Kind of a quasi-anthology based on Manly Wade Wellman’s stories of John The Balladeer/Silver John. Hillbilly John roams the south with a silver-stringed guitar he uses to confront and confound The Devil.

#4 Eyes Of Fire (1983)

The American frontier in 1750. A group of worshippers, one of whom may or may not be a witch, follow their outcast preacher and venture forth to survive on their own, an idea we’ll see again in The VVitch.

#3 The Sermon (2018)

The only short on this list, the clip I saw has some serious Shirley Jackson vibes. I’ll probably start with this one.

#2 The Moon And The Sledgehammer (1971)

A documentary? Well yeah, sure. It focuses on the Page family living in a Sussex woodland and more or less disconnected from the modern world. What looks creepy about it is that it sets up the “reality” that could make something like The Wicker Man possible.

#1 The Last Wave (1977)

A couple years after Picnic At Hanging Rock, Peter Weir tells this story about four Aboriginal men accused of murder. There’s a mysterious death, and the lawyer assigned to defend the men begins to have disturbing dreams. Sounds like it kinda sets the stage for The Dreaming later.

And that’s the list for this week. What’s your favorite Folk Horror flick? Have you seen any of these? Let me know in The Comments.