Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Call of Cthulhu

H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu is available on WikiSource.

H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu horror is both powerful and inaccessible because it is visceral. Cthulhu is a monster of indescribable horror that is being described. We are used to monsters in films, books and pictures so we can conjure up images of foul beasts easily enough, but it is decidedly harder to adjust our mental image when Lovecraft writes that "The Thing cannot be described".

Thus, the essence of Cthulhu horror is emotional rather than visual. Lovecraft tries to evoke the sense that the monster and the reality it belongs to is so morbidly incomprehensible that just bearing witness to it will bring insanity and inevitable death! This notion is not friendly to intellectual inquiry: we understand "monster" as something concrete but the Cthulhu monster is imbued with a fear of something abstract.

I see this abstract horror in stories that leave things unexplained: in the movies Cloverfield and The Mist we never find out where the monsters came from, how they got here or what they wanted. What Lovecraft adds on top of that is a sense of incomprehension; like a person from a two dimensional universe trying to comprehend our three dimensional universe. In the 90's Sam Neill starred in what I think are two horror movies that are very close to Cthulhu horror: In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizon. Both movies involve a somewhat hapless curiosity that descends into an incomprehensible, inescapable and abominable fate.

I enjoyed reading Call of Cthulhu because it was challenging to me; trying to comprehend what Lovecraft wanted to portray by writing a story about incomprehensible horror.

3.5 out of 5

Read this on my iPod Touch.