Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS

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more lore from the mythos
Fractured Mind Publishing
2019

  • Fourteen fresh tales of madness and monsters from Fractured Mind Publishing that will leave you wanting more while you thank the Old Gods for the Mythos that inspired these stories.

A friend of mine recently just had a short story published in an anthology collection of stories inspired by the great nightmarish mashup of horror and science fiction that H. P. Lovecraft foisted upon the literary world in the early 20th Century: More Lore from the Mythos. With a title like that, it sounds like this may have been a sequel to an earlier anthology book, but no–it looks like this is a stand-alone collection, not tied in to any anthology series. Yet.

Anyway, the fact that my friend got published here means two things to me: 1) I really need to get my middle-aged butt in gear and get something published that isn’t a review of something, and 2) I have an excuse to buy another book to read. As much of a Lovecraft enthusiast as I am, I also enjoy reading other authors play around in ol’ Howard Philips’ sandbox. Let’s see what we have, here…

  • “Everything That Was Before” (Edward Morris)

A disturbed man recounts how his former girlfriend transformed from human to…something else entirely… As the lead-off story, I have to admit at least it wasn’t your standard cut-n-paste writing style going on. Took me a bit to find the rhythm reading this, but overall was an interesting take on the Deep Ones.

  • “Little One” (Valerie Lioudis)

A demon offers a girl her most fondest wish in exchange for her soul…well, that was the idea, until he realized–far too late–who (or what) he was dealing with…and what her fondest wish really is… Oh, I rather adored this story. It has vibes of Clive Barker’s story “The Yattering and Jack” from the Books Of Blood collection, only here the twist is that the “human” is something far older than the Devil himself.

  • “The Call” (Aaron White)

Detective David Carter–great-grandson of one Randolph Carter–investigates a strange case of several dozen people–men, women and children alike–all just up and drowned themselves in the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean for no apparent reason, and it seems to be affecting everyone investigating the situation… Well, it was good to see a shout-out to Lovecraft’s recurring protagonist Randolph Carter, and in a story that’s genuinely eerie and heavy with the oppressive atmosphere and imagery. I could almost smell the ocean in this one, really.

  • “The Damned of Eldritch Creek” (Jon Tobey)

A young heir to a mysterious land that is not on any modern-day map decides to go and destroy the dam that his grandfather built, in the name of bringing back the natural ecology…only, it seems the dam is there for a purpose beyond electricity… Here we have a story that emulates Lovecraft’s more formal reportage style of writing, almost coming off as reading a 19th Century diary, only the story is clearly set in the modern times. It works, especially when the horrific beasties rear their unnatural heads.

  • “The Flood” (Oliver Lodge)

A brief yet rather bleak Southern Gothic style tale of a prostitute that’s haunted by the memories of her dead brother/lover, as she goes to spend her final moments of life with his remains during a torrential late summer flood. This story doesn’t necessarily reference the Lovecraft mythos directly; as a matter of fact, even after chewing over the story, I still haven’t figured out the connection. Other that it being set in New Orleans, a city that, in an of itself, can be considered a living entity within the mythos, I guess.

  • “Sweet Oblivion” (Michael Clark)

An immortal man sworn to fight the infestation of the Old Ones has a bit of a chat over coffee with one member of his enemies… Nifty how this story ties in key tragedies in history (the Salem witch trials, Jack the Ripper) with being influenced by the elder horrors the protagonist is fighting against. Also, I couldn’t help but picture actor Navid Negahban (Legion) as the possessed antagonist holding a conversation with the protagonist of the story. Such is how my mind works.

  • “The Mines of Innswich” (Ryan Colley)

In the small, obscure New England town of Innswich, in the late 1920s, a research assistant from Miskatonic University stumbles upon a secret chamber deep in the abandoned mines, and goes mad from what he sees… Halfway through the collection, and we finally get a proper tie-in to Miskatonic University, as well as a jolly-good old fashioned style Unspeakable Horror tale with a bit of a twist at the end.

  • “The Time Guardian” (L. E. Harrison)

See, there’s this Time Guardian named Julian, whose mantra is “Rescuing Rainey Sullivan is going to be the death of me.” The Rainey in question being the 14-year-old daughter of the chief of the Time Guardians, who likes to send Julian in to rescue her from whatever misadventure she gets herself in… This story kinda feels like it’s not whole, like there’s more to this story than what we got. Entertaining for what it is, but it’s almost like craving a steak, but only being given a slice of summer sausage.

  • “The Wyrd Voyage” (Kari Leigh Sanders)

Three Norwegian witches from about the middle of the first Millennium AD head out to sea to confront a new Old God about his shenanigans…and then Loki shows up… This is a nifty mash-up of Lovecraftian lore and Norse mythology, which is always fun. However, thanks to recent pop culture, I can’t help but picture Tom Hiddleston appearing as Loki while reading this…which probably means I owe Disney royalties or something…

  • “Last Orders” (Dale Drake)

Two would-be grave robbers are in search of the fabled Necronomicon, supposedly hidden within the crypt of an eccentric rich man; what they find is a bit more than they bargained for… Lovecraft loved his dank, hidden underground passages and rooms, and here the imagery is used to good effect. The ending made me want to take a long, hot shower, muttering “unclean, unclean, UNCLEEEAAAN…”

  • “The Maze” (Charles Reis)

A college student uses a public restroom, only to discover that it’s a portal to an alternate realm, where he and a handful of others are stuck traversing a labyrinthine maze, filled with unspeakable horrors and controlled by an unseen Puppet Master… This story reminded me of Brian Lumley’s novel The House of Doors, and its sequel The Maze of Worlds…only, this story was written better and got to the point far more efficiently.

  • “Growing Just Beneath” (Steve Van Samson)

A homeowner takes on some yard work removing a parasitic vine that has infested his dogwood tree and lawn; it’s not as simple as it sounds… I have to say, this one reminds me of one of the more classic Stephen King short stories from the early days, one from maybe Skeleton Crew, or even Night Shift; something that takes a seemingly innocuous everyday grunt task and turning it into a nightmare.

  • “The Shed” (Patrick Rahall)

An old farmer has been feeding and caring for some…thing in his shed, and one night he discovers–a bit too late–that it’s about to reproduce… Another story that made me want to take a long, hot shower after reading, despite a key scene involving a shower. Unfortunately, I was at work when I read this, so I couldn’t. Probably for the best.

  • “The Gate Keeper” (EV Knight)

A collector of skeleton keys suddenly finds themselves in possession of a key to the gates of Hell, and as such saddled with a Hell-ish responsibility…that was an attempt at a pun… Anyway, this final story was a good way to end the collection, as I was rather amused at the image of someone being followed around by a bunch of dead souls like lost puppies.

Overall, I found More Lore from the Mythos to be, for the most part, an entertaining collection worthy of the mythos. I say, “mostly”, because I really don’t think the story “The Flood” ties in with anything Lovecraft had established. If anything, it seemed more on-par with a Poppy Z. Brite short story than inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Also, there’s that incest aspect there that may be problematic for some people. One could argue that “Growing Just Beneath” also has nothing to do with the Lovecraft mythos; however, the mind-bending insanity that results is key to the aesthetic of a good Lovecraft tale, so I can see why it was included.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering which of these authors is the friend I was talking about at the start of this article: I’m not telling. You’re going to have to guess. Otherwise, yeah, I would recommend checking out More Lore from the Mythos. My Kindle edition was only $4, so you get some good chills for your buck.

Movie Review: The LAST LOVECRAFT

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last lovecraft, theOutlaw Films
2009
NR

Jeff, a down on his luck office worker, finds out he is the last living relative of horror novelist H. P. Lovecraft. What he doesn’t know is that Lovecraft’s monsters are real and will soon threaten the very existence of mankind. Jeff and his best friend Charlie are forced to embark on a perilous adventure and they enlist the help of high school acquaintance Paul, a self-proclaimed Lovecraft specialist. Together the three unlikely heroes must protect an alien relic and prevent the release of an ancient evil known as Cthulhu.

I first came across The Last Lovecraft, subtitle Relic Of Cthulhu, on Netflix back in 2011. I recall watching about half before falling asleep. That had more to do with my level of exhaustion at the time than any kind of boredom with watching the movie. I didn’t wake up until the end credits were almost finished, and I didn’t really feel like going through the movie again. It was a few years after the fact that I got around to a rewatch. this time I managed ot stay awake for the entire run.

So, what we have with The Last Lovecraft is something of a dark comedy horror fantasy that has its black ichor-d heart in the right place, but kind of struggles the dismount. Being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft and his Cthulhu mythos, I wanted to really like this movie. It does have some interesting ideas going, and the main human characters are affable enough. But, where they really go wrong is the depiction of Starspawn and the Deep Ones themselves. They’re kinda goofy. But, then again that may have been due to budgetary restraints. Still, to see a general of Cthulhu wearing a hoodie and affecting a thug stance is…well, it doesn’t lend itself to awe and terror, really. The story is your standard Adventurer’s Journey that we’ve been through before, nothing too innovative with that.

Again, I really wanted to like The Last Lovecraft. I really did. But, even though I didn’t unlike the movie, it ended up being more “meh” than I hoped it would be. I’ll admit that it at least doesn’t try to insult anyone’s intelligence by trying to be something else. It’s worth a look, at least.

Book Review: NEW ADVENTURES IN H.P. LOVECRAFT’S DREAMLANDS Vol. 1-4

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Brian Lumley
Tor Books
1986-1990

By now, if you know anything about British author Brian Lumley by the book reviews I maintain on this blog o’mine, that one of his most obvious literary inspirations was H.P. Lovecraft. Not only has the lore inspired and influenced Lumley’s own blend of weird science fiction and horror hybrids; like many other authors have done before and since, he’s also gleefully frolicked in the mythos of the worlds Lovecraft built in his short career in speculative fiction. One of these was a four-volume set of books set in the Dreamlands from the Dream Cycle stories, featuring the adventures of erstwhile dream-questers David Hero and Eldin the Wanderer.

Each of these four books clock in at a surprisingly brief (for Lumley) 240-some-odd pages, really more of a set of four novellas. Normally, I would do a separate review for each, but in this instance , given the brevity of the books, I decided to read each one of them first, and review them all together in one review. You’re welcome.

1 hero of dreams

  • Volume 1: Hero Of Dreams

Something vital is missing from David Hero’s comfortable, ordinary existence. One day is much like the next, simple, predictable…boring. But the nights! Each night David Hero finds himself transported to a marvelous world where brave men and women battle terrible creatures possessed of cruel, dark powers. Despite his fears, the Dreamworlds tempt David, drawing him farther and farther from the waking world. Here he finds noble warriors; beautiful, loving women; and challenges almost greater than he can imagine.

2 ship of dreams

  • Volume 2: Ship Of Dreams

Once David Hero was an ordinary man living in the real world. Now he is trapped in the Dreamlands, cut off from the waking world. David Hero’s dreams and nightmares have become his only reality. Led by wickedly beautiful Queen Zura, the zombie armies of the dead are on the march. They will destroy the beautiful Dreamlands, making them a permanent, deadly nightmare. Unaware of the marauding zombies, David Hero and his friend Eldin voyage through the clouds in a wondrous skyship. their journey is interrupted by a pack of faceless nightgaunts, terrifying creatures, half-man and half-bat–and all evil! David Hero is one of Zura’s first targets. As a man of the waking world, he can withstand her terrible seductive power and shatter her shambling armies. David Hero must be the first Dreamlands hero to die.

3 mad moon of dreams

  • Volume 3: Mad Moon Of Dreams

Swollen, glowing oddly in the gloom of night, the moon hangs lower and lower over the Dreamlands. Its weird, unearthly light transforms beautiful landscapes into twisted nightmares and imperils the sanity of any who walk abroad after sunset. Beams of terrible power stab the unsuspecting earth, destroying the land, shattering buildings, and dragging people into the shrieking sky, straight toward the hellish moon! David Hero, once a man of the waking world, finds himself fighting side by side with his worst enemies–Zura and her zombie armies, the Eidolon Lathi and her termite men–against the slimy, many-tentacled moon monster.

4 iced on aran

  • Volume 4: Iced On Aran

Atop the Dreamlands’ most majestic mountain is an unusual sculpture garden, featuring statues of the Dreamlands’ legendary heroes. For generations insane artists have created and tended the glistening statues of ice. Each hero is represented by twin portraits–perfectly matched except for the expressions of horror frozen into one of each pair! Seated on a chilly rock, David Hero is the mad sculptor’s newest subject. He sees nothing to account for the fear and dread on the icy faces that surround him. Until he attempts to rise from his pedestal–and discovers that the rock is not the only thing shrouded in ice! Trapped by black sorcery, David Hero has only one chance at escape.

Overall…yeah, this entire series was kind of a slog to get through. I’m not really that big of a fan of the pulp style that Lumley utilizes in a lot of his mythos stories, and here it’s just about as purple prose and over-the-top as they get. After the first book, the two main characters–who were both members of the waking world–get permanently stuck in the Dreamlands due to their real selves dying off at the end of the first book. I would think that the saga would have been a bit more interesting had there been a kind of contrast between the two reconciling their waking and dreaming identities in their lives. But, apparently that kind of dichotomy was too much to explore. Keep things with the swashbuckling swords and sorcery daring-do and all that.

Truth be told, it took me far longer than it should have to get through this series. The first book I had to pick up as an eBook, as I couldn’t find it in physical form anywhere. Regardless, I probably won’t be reading these again any time soon.

 

Ode To Lovecraft

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HP-LovecraftSuch madness. Such insanity. So eloquently written, so masterfully captured within the pages of the dusty ancient tome I hold within my own hands. To glimpse even for a moment inside the festering mind of one possessing such mad genius is my lifelong desire, my quest. Lovecraft is the closest I am known to come to this task.

His dark imagination, conjuring such delicious fiction of insanity, madness and utter lunacy. Brilliance. To conjure such fantastic dark yarns and then craft them in such a fashion that would make them plausible, that itself speaks of the man’s reluctant genius. A hack writer? Perhaps. But a brilliant hack writer nonetheless.

Pity he was an atheist. To harness this kind of creative and dark insanity – not just copy his style, mind you, as most writers of the so-called “Christian fiction” are want to do – in a way that doesn’t betray my own philosophical and theological discourse as a Christian is the great task before me. Dark dreams and nightmarish realms dwell within the cobwebbed and twisted recesses of my mind, no doubt. I do not seek to shun my nature, far from it. I wish to embrace my unique brand of madness.

::END TRANSMISSION::

HALLOWEEN’ING 2014: Day 7 – H. P. Lovecraft

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HP-LovecraftNormally, when people think of spooky, Halloween-y story telling, the name of Edgar Allan Poe immediately springs to mind. And for good reason. And was the same for me since High School…until I discovered the works of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft.

He himself being inspired by Poe, Lovecraft’s stories nevertheless seemed to draw their inspirations from a very different kind of dark well. Lovecraft’s stories managed to weld together dark fantasy and horror with science fiction, giving an added dimension to an already well-mined literary genre.

I first heard about H. P. Lovecraft by a very ironic source: an anti-rock book I had back in my mid-teen years, titled The Rock Report. In it, Pastor Fletcher A. Brothers tried amusingly to tie in the fact that deceased Metallica bass player Cliff Burton was a big fan of H. P. Lovecraft (the Metallica songs “Call Of Ktulu” and “The Thing That Should Not Be” being based on Lovecraft stories), and thus that was why he perished in 1986 when the tour bus slipped on a patch of ice and rolled over him. Back then, even I thought it was quite a stretch to make that connection, but the name of Lovecraft had a certain mystique to it. It wasn’t until the earlier 2000s, when I was rekindling my love of darker fiction when I read my first Lovecraft story in a collection of Gothic Tales: “The Outsider”. From there, I picked up a mass market paperback collection of his stories, Wake Up Screaming, where I was further exposed to the classics “The Lurking Fear”, “The Unnamable”, “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”, “Herbert West–Reanimator”, “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, and others. I’ve been collecting and reading his stories ever since then.

Give me a nice, thick musty tome of H. P. Lovecraft tales to read by the wane light of…well, my reading lamp, and a steaming mug of spiced coffee, and that makes for a very nice seasonal holiday story time, indeed.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP

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BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEPLions Gate
2006
R

Based on the short story by H. P. Lovecraft. An intern doctor at an insane asylum in the early 20th Century conducts experiments on the inmates involving electricity to the brain. After coming across a newly arrived patient that seems to be a conduit of an evil entity beyond our realm, the intern slowly delves into madness as he seeks to unlock the man’s secrets and bring forth this monstrosity into our world…

It’s fascinating how filmmakers can make an 80+ minute film out of a story that’s only four pages long. Obviously, there’s a bit of padding done to the story, but considering the source material, I do believe these guys pulled it off nicely, especially in tone and ambiance.

Essentially, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep can be looked at as a visual decent into madness, with the heavy use of quick-cuts, various filming techniques, a deft interchange between black and white film and color. Think of the headache-inducing style used on Natural Born Killers, only not as intense.

While at first I was a bit dubious about the highly over-the-top and almost kitchy acting style of the actors, after listening to the film maker’s commentary, they noted that they wanted it that way to emulate the acting style used in the numerous classic horror flicks of that period, in the 1930s. Overall, this low-budget movie goes for emulating the dread and madness that Lovecraft stories are infamous for and translating it to film, and I believe they’ve achieved that. The CGI rendering of the Cthulu wannabe at the end was a bit off-putting (not that greatly done), but overall I enjoyed the film more than I thought I would. Good for a night of artsy madness…

Movie Review: LURKING FEAR

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lurking fearFull Moon Entertainment
1994
R

“Your young will feed our young. Your blood will be our blood.”

In this chilling tale based on a story by horror-master H. P. Lovecraft, an isolated desert town has been ravaged for years by grotesque creatures who dwell in the depths beneath the local cemetery. Cathryn Farrel returns to this miserable place with one goal in mind: to avenge the brutal death of her beloved sister by the creatures. In the midst of a storm, she wires the decaying graveyard with enough explosives to blow the entire undead population back to hell…for good! Young John Martens shows up with his own score to settle. His mission is to recover a fortune in loot buried somewhere in the cemetery by his now dead father. Before the night is through, these two strangers find themselves unlikely allies in an effort to defend themselves against the hungry undead as well as an equally deadly gang of misfits who aim to beat John to the hidden cache. In a terrifying, bone-chilling clash, they battle with ghouls in a blood-soaked finale.

In my time as a connoisseur of the horror genre, in all its forms of media, I’ve come to the conclusion that finding a good, decently straight adaptation of an H. P. Lovecraft story would be harder to find than proof that the Necronomicon is a real document. At best, we have movies and teleplays based on his stories, for better and for worse. And really, I’m fine with that. The genius behind Lovecraft’s stories lay in inspiring imagination and fears, rather than reproducing them from page to screen. Even the Cthulu mythos was merely inspired by him, and not fully fleshed out (other authors did that in later decades). And if you want to get down to it, Lovecraft’s stories are sparse enough that to make a full length movie with them, the end result usually takes liberties.

Take, for instance, the 1994 Full Moon Pictures adaptation of Lurking Fear. Based on the serialized story The Lurking Fear, about the only things that resemble any part of the original story in this movie are the albino ape-like monstrosities (and NOT “hungry undead”, as the above back-of-video blurb misinformed us…nerd rage) that dwell in underground tunnels that emerge above ground during massive thunderstorms, and the mention of the name Martense. Otherwise, this movie version here is about a lady out to wipe out said albino ape-like creatures as vengeance for killing her sister, enlisting the help of a chain smoking doctor (played by Jeffrey Combs, something of a mainstay in Lovecraft adaptations) and a priest to rig up a booby trap around an abandoned church’s cemetery where the rest of these creatures dwell. Meanwhile, a just-released felon travels to the same cemetery in search of a hidden money cache his father left there, with a mob boss and his cronies in hot pursuit. When the storm hits, and the unholy offspring of the Martense clan began to come topsoil, everyone finds themselves trapped in the church in a precinct 13-style showdown that will end in a big fireball of death. Boom.

All things considered, Lurking Fear wasn’t too bad of a loose adaptation. The story didn’t drag too much, with only a small handful of stumbles. The acting was deliciously melodramatic, which actually worked for it. And the creature effects were pretty effective. Overall, Lurking Fear would be worth a rental, perhaps with The Unnameable, for a fun night of H. P. Lovecraft-related shenanigans.

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