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LOVECRAFTIAN AND COSMIC HORROR MOVIES, CURATED BY MIKE DAVIS
(Yes, this list is subjective. And it’s more than possible that there’s a great cosmic horror movie out there that I’ve missed. If so, please comment below and I’ll be happy to add it to this list. Thank you!)
ABSENTIA: A woman and her sister begin to link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances, including that of her own husband. (Read my interview with Mike Flanagan, director of ABSENTIA.)
ALIEN: The crew of a commercial spacecraft encounter a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission.
AM 1200: Haunted by recent events and on the run, a man finds himself the unwitting pawn of a possessed evangelical radio station and like his unfortunate predecessor must ask himself whether it is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
ANIARA: A spaceship carrying settlers to Mars is knocked off course, causing the consumption-obsessed passengers to consider their place in the universe.
ANNIHILATION: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.
BANSHEE CHAPTER: Journalist Anne Roland explores the disturbing links behind her friend’s sudden disappearance, an ominous government research chemical, and a disturbing radio broadcast of unknown origin.
BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE: Archaeologists find a strange structure that appears to be thousands of years old. The team becomes isolated when their communications fail and their sanity begins to unravel.
THE BURROWERS: In the Wild West a rescue party sets out to find a family of settlers that has vanished from their home under mysterious circumstances.
CABIN IN THE WOODS: Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin, where they get more than they bargained for, discovering the truth behind the cabin in the woods.
THE CALL OF CTHULHU: While sorting the affairs of his late Uncle, a man accidentally stumbles across a series of dark secrets connected to an ancient horror waiting to be freed.
CAST A DEADLY SPELL: In a fantastical 40’s where magic is used by everyone, a hard-boiled detective investigates the theft of a mystical tome.
CIGARETTE BURNS: With a torrid past that haunts him, a movie theatre owner is hired to search for the only existing print of a film so notorious that its single screening caused the viewers to become homicidally insane.
CLOVERFIELD: A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
COHERENCE: Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE: A secluded farm is struck by a strange meteorite which has apocalyptic consequences for the family living there and possibly the world.
THE CORRIDOR: Friends on a weekend excursion take a path into a forest that leads to death and destruction.
THE CREATURE BELOW: A young scientist discovers a malevolent entity which sets her on a bloody descent into the jaws of insanity.
CTHULHU: A Seattle history professor, drawn back to his estranged family on the Oregon coast to execute his late mother’s estate, is reaquainted with his best friend from childhood, with whom he has a long-awaited tryst. Caught in an accelerating series of events, he discovers aspects of his father’s New Age cult which take on a dangerous and apocalyptic significance.
DAGON: Adapted from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. A boating accident runs a young man and woman ashore in a decrepit Spanish fishing town which they discover is in the grips of an ancient sea god and its monstrous half human offspring.
DARK CITY: A man struggles with memories of his past, which include a wife he cannot remember and a nightmarish world no one else ever seems to wake up from.
THE DEAD CENTER: A hospital psychiatrist’s own sanity is pushed to the edge when a frightened amnesiac patient insists that he has died and brought something terrible back from the other side.
DEADWAX: A mind-bending neo-noir set in the obsessive world of vinyl collecting. Etta Pryce, a vinyl tracker, is hired by a rich collector to hunt a legendary rare record that has driven its owners mad and killed anyone that has dared to play it.
DIE FARBE (THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE): A boy, looking for his missing father, travels to Germany and uncovers a haunting legacy that a meteorite left behind in the area. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short novel “The Color Out of Space.”
DIRT DAUBER: A man awakes naked and confused in a isolated mountainous region, and soon encounters a strange local who offers to help him. The helpful stranger tells the man of local folklore that speaks of a murderous religious cult, a train tunnel cut deep into the mountain that leads to nowhere, and an insect-like fertility god that is said to dwell within it.
DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE: A graduate student questions his sanity after he rents a room in an old boarding house which was the residence of a 17th Century witch, and he figures out that the evil forces still roam within the walls.
THE EMPTY MAN: On the trail of a missing girl, an ex-cop comes across a secretive group attempting to summon a terrifying supernatural entity.
THE ENDLESS: As kids, they escaped a UFO death cult. Now, two adult brothers seek answers after an old videotape surfaces and brings them back to where they began.
EUROPA REPORT: A unique blend of documentary, alternative history and science fiction thriller, EUROPA REPORT follows a contemporary mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate the possible existence of alien life within our solar system. When unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean could exist underneath Europa’s icy surface and may contain single-celled life, Europa Ventures, a privately funded space exploration company, sends six of the best astronauts from around the world to confirm the data and explore the revolutionary discoveries that may lie in the Europan ocean.
EVENT HORIZON: The year is 2047. Years earlier, the pioneering research vessel Event Horizon vanished without a trace. Now a signal from it has been detected, and the United States Aerospace Command responds. Hurtling toward the signal’s source are a fearless captain (Laurence Fishburne), his elite crew and the lost ship’s designer (Sam Neill). Their mission: find and salvage the state-of-the-art spacecraft. What they find is state-of-the-art interstellar terror.
EVOLUTION: The only residents of young Nicholas’ sea-side town are women and boys. When he sees a corpse in the ocean one day, he begins to question his existence and surroundings. Why must he, and all the other boys, be hospitalised?
FINAL PRAYER (aka THE BORDERLANDS): A team of Vatican investigators descend upon a church in a remote area to demystify the unusual happenings, but what they discover is more disturbing than they had first imagined.
GLORIOUS: After a breakup, Wes ends up at a remote rest stop. He finds himself locked inside the bathroom with a mysterious figure speaking from an adjacent stall. Soon Wes realizes he is involved in a situation more terrible than he could imagine.
HEAD COUNT: A group of college students on a weekend getaway accidentally summon a supernatural entity intent on using them for its deadly ritual.
THE HAUNTED PALACE: Charles Dexter Ward arrives at a small village to visit the house he inherited from his ancestor who died there 100 years ago.
HORROR EXPRESS: While on the Trans-Siberian Express, an anthropologist and his rival must contain the threat posed by the former’s cargo: a prehistoric ape which is the host for a parasitic life-form.
INCANTATION: Six years ago, Li Ronan was cursed after breaking a religious taboo. Now, she must protect her daughter from the consequences of her actions.
IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS: The mind-bending worlds of author H.P. Lovecraft have long interested horror directors, but the films have rarely successfully captured his nightmarish mix of madness and mythology. John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness is not directly based on Lovecraft’s work, but screenwriter Michael De Luca draws his inspiration from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythology and then adds his own ingenious twists. John Trent (Sam Neill), an insurance investigator recently fitted for a straightjacket, tells his story to a psychiatrist. Hired to track down the missing pop-horror phenomena Sutter Cane, a Stephen King-like author whose fans are literally made for his books, Trent finds the supposedly fictional Hobb’s End. He watches the town collapse into madness, murder, and monstrous transformations: the fantastic horrors of Cane’s novels played out in front of his eyes. “Reality isn’t what it used to be,” deadpans one zombielike townsperson. In fact, it is how Cane writes it–but is he Devil, dark oracle, or simply a preacher in the service of an evil that grows stronger with every soul his books convert? The script never quite gets a grip on the blurry relationship between fact and fiction, but those details fade in the face of Carpenter’s demented imagery, shiver-inducing twists, and dark wit. It’s more eerie mind game than straight-out horror, a portrait of a world gone mad, and Carpenter relishes every hallucinatory moment.
THE LAST WAVE: Richard Chamberlain stars as Australian lawyer David Burton, who takes on the defense of a group of aborigines accused of killing one of their own. He suspects the victim has been killed for violating a tribal taboo, but the defendants deny any tribal association. Burton, plagued by apocalyptic visions of water, slowly realizes his own involvement with the aborigines…and their prophecies.
THE LAST WINTER: In the Arctic region of Northern Alaska, an oil company’s advance team struggles to establish a drilling base that will forever alter the pristine land. After one team member is found dead, a disorientation slowly claims the sanity of the others as each of them succumbs to a mysterious fear…
MESSIAH OF EVIL: A young woman goes searching for her missing artist father. Her journey takes her to a strange Californian seaside town governed by a mysterious undead cult.
THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN: A photographer propelled to explore his dark side begins tracking a subway serial killer whose brutal butchery makes for the most nightmarish images ever captured on camera in director Ryuhei Kitamura’s adaptation of a short story by horror heavyweight Clive Barker. Leon Kaufman (Bradley Cooper) is just another struggling photographer in search of the perfect subject. Encouraged to explore the sinister side of humanity by a prominent art gallery proprietor (Brooke Shields) who is set to display his upcoming debut, Leon goes against the wishes of his girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb), and begins stalking notorious serial killer Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) — whose sadistic murder spree has been making headlines all across the country. As Leon’s fascination with Mahogany gradually grows into obsession, his descent into the killer’s putrid world of murder begins to corrupt his soul while simultaneously dragging his concerned girlfriend down a perverse path of darkness from which there is no return.
THE MIST: After a mysterious mist envelopes a small New England town, a group of locals trapped in a supermarket must battle a siege of otherworldly creatures…and the fears that threaten to tear them apart.
MOLOCH: Betriek lives on the edge of a bog in the Netherlands. When she and her family are attacked by a stranger one night, Betriek sets out to find an explanation. She discovers that something is chasing her.
NECRONOMICON: THE BOOK OF THE DEAD: Lovecraft visualizes several stories in Necronomicon: “The Drowned”, “The Cold”, and “Whispers”. “The Library” segment is the frame story, which begins and ends the movie.
THE NEW DAUGHTER: A single father moves his two children to rural South Carolina, only to watch his daughter exhibit increasingly strange behavior. (Read our interview with the director of THE NEW DAUGHTER.)
NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE: After being forced to take a room in a boardinghouse, an immigrant in search of the American Dream finds herself in a nightmare she can’t escape.
PANDORUM: Two crew members of a spaceship wake up from hypersleep to discover that all their colleagues are missing. Despite this, it appears that they are not alone.
PHANTOMS: In the peaceful town of Snowfield, Colorado something evil has wiped out the community. And now, its up to a group of people to stop it, or at least get out of Snowfield alive.
PICKMAN’S MUSE: A stellar adaption of “The Haunter of the Dark”. An artist, Robert Pickman, becomes obsessed by visions of unworldly horror, revealed to him through an ancient artifact discovered in an abandoned church.
PONTYPOOL: A radio host interprets the possible outbreak of a deadly virus which infects the small Ontario town he is stationed in.
POSSESSION: A spiral staircase movie, a never-ending metaphysical game of cat-and-mouse, a moral aspiration to the Heavens, a “spotlight” on God, a scornful detective movie, a horror movie and frightful, high-octane baroque work – Possession is all of that at once. It is a film that provokes, but it provokes intelligence above all – not just the merry continuation of our little social mechanisms.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS: A group of graduate students and scientists uncover an ancient canister in an abandoned church, but when they open the container, they inadvertently unleash a strange liquid and an evil force on all humanity.
PROMETHEUS: Following clues to the origin of mankind, a team finds a structure on a distant moon, but they soon realize they are not alone.
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT: A mysterious artifact is unearthed in London, and famous scientist Bernard Quatermass is called into to divine its origins and explain its strange effects on people.
RESOLUTION: A man imprisons his estranged junkie friend in an isolated cabin in the boonies of San Diego to force him through a week of sobriety, but the events of that week are being mysteriously manipulated.
THE RESURRECTED: Charles Dexter Ward’s wife enlists the help of a private detective to find out what her husband is up to in a remote cabin owned by his family for centuries.
THE RITUAL: A group of old college friends reunite for a trip to a forest in Sweden, Northern Europe, but encounter a menacing presence there stalking them.
THE RIZEN: The year is 1955. NATO and the Allied Forces have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. Now, they have finally succeeded but what the Army has unleashed threatens to tear our world apart. One woman must lead the only survivors past horrors that the military has no way to control – and fight to close what should never have been opened.
THE SHRINE: Two female journalists and a photographer travel to Europe to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances, only to find themselves embroiled in a struggle against a kind of evil they never expected.
SPIDER LABYRINTH: Alan Whitmore, a young American researcher, goes to Budapest to visit Professor Roth, with whom he collaborated on a secret project called “Intextus” while a mysterious killer is on the loose…
SPRING: A young man in a personal tailspin flees from US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harboring a dark, primordial secret. This genre-bending horror romance from filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead blends stunning locations, bold performances, and a unique visual style.
STEPHANIE: After a mysterious global crisis, a young girl is left alone to hide from a malevolent power that stalks her home. Her parents eventually return and the struggle begins to save their daughter.
THE THING: Researchers in the remote Antarctic dig up the remains of a spacecraft that has long been frozen in the ice. But the alien life unthaws and infects the living (not only humans but sled dogs too), living and gestating inside them. This Thing is chilling in every sense of the word, with plenty of terrifying, adrenaline-pumping moments that build it to a powerful and shockingly nihilistic conclusion. It’s a harsh and uncompromising movie (hewing more closely to the original 1930s story “Who Goes There?”)–so much so that it probably never would have been given a green-light by any studio in the more cautious and doggedly upbeat 1990s.
THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP: A psychological horror film based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft. Daniel Upton’s relationship with his friend Edward Derby is abruptly changed after Edward becomes romantically involved with an enigmatic hypnotist. As Edward’s behavior becomes more erratic and events unexplainable, Daniel investigates. Is it madness…or something far more terrifying?
UNDER THE SKIN: A voluptuous woman of unknown origin (Scarlett Johansson) combs the highways in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again.
UNDERWATER: A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deepwater research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
THE VAST OF NIGHT: One night in New Mexico, in the late 1950s, a switchboard operator and radio DJ discover a strange audio frequency which could change the future forever.
THE VOID: Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.
THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS: Written in 1931, H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic genre-bending tale of suspense and alien terrors is brought to life in the style of the classic horror films of the 1930s like Frankenstein, Dracula and King Kong. Using its MythoscopeTM process – a mix of vintage and modern techniques – the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society expands on Lovecraft’s original tale while still bringing you unparalleled authenticity. Horror and science fiction collide in the adventure of Albert Wilmarth, a folklore professor at Miskatonic University, as he investigates legends of strange creatures rumored to dwell in the most remote mountains of Vermont. Wilmarth’s investigation leads him to a discovery of horrors quite beyond anything he ever imagined, and ends in a desperate attempt to escape the remote New England hills with his life and sanity intact. The studio that brought you The Call of Cthulhu now presents one of Lovecraft’s weirdest tales as a feature-length talkie starring Matt Foyer as the intrepid folklorist, Albert Wilmarth. Celebrated television and stage star Barry Lynch plays Henry Akeley, supported by an ensemble of outstanding actors. Shot on location in New England and in Hollywood, The Whisperer in Darkness brings Lovecraft’s intense imagination to vivid life in the style of the 1930s.
WOUNDS: Disturbing and mysterious things begin happening to a New Orleans bartender after he picks up a phone left behind in his bar.
YELLOWBRICKROAD: 1940: the entire population of Friar, New Hampshire walked up a winding mountain trail, leaving everything behind. 2008: the first official expedition into the wilderness attempts to solve the mystery of the lost citizens of Friar.