Monday, March 28, 2011

"R'lyeh Raven"

"Ia! Ia! The Elder Bird Gets the Shub-Niggurath"

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" is exactly what it would sound like with a mouthful of pale, juicy, obscenely writhing worms. That, along with other reasons that I'm having difficulty staring back at lobsters, are after the fold...

(more nuggetnomicon nom nom nom below)

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu (1926)
While doodling away at the local public library last week I came across an excellent article in the New Yorker magazine: Daniel Zalewski wrote a featured in-depth profile about one of my favorite beings in film, Guillermo del Toro. I've been deeply excited over rumors of his long-rumored development of a full-length feature based on the epic signature story by a favorite author, H.P. Lovecraft's "At The Mountains of Madness."
"To anybody who owns thousands of comic books, “At the Mountains of Madness” is as central to the American canon as “Moby-Dick.” H. P. Lovecraft, who was born in 1890 and died in 1937, wrote densely interlinked stories that convey “cosmic horror.” More than one tale features a giant tentacled alien named Cthulhu. Lovecraft refers to Cthulhu several times in “Madness,” and del Toro, in writing his script, had devised a way to integrate the iconic beast into the climax. (“Its membranous wings extend, filling the horizon, its abominable head silhouetted by lightning in the clouds!”) Del Toro could create a totemic god."
Short of John Carpenter's flirting with Cthulhu Mythos that lurk under the background of his 1994 film "In The Mouth of Madness," the closest and most successful* on-screen manifestation of Lovecraftian monsters were elements woven into del Toro's 2004 adaptation of "Hellboy." I've used some of the special features contained in the four-volume extended DVD set of that movie for class assignments on storyboarding, and after Peter Jackson (not withstanding the travesty of his Overkill Kong that failed to eclipse the wonder of the 1933 original), del Toro would seem to be a director particularly well-suited for executing the nightmarish vision of Lovecraft's ultimate descent into terror. Incidentally, he provides one of the top three director narrations available on "Pan's Labyrinth," with meticulous and insightful background detailing the decision-making process and production design - an absolute must-hear that has run on in the background of many a studio session. Del Toro is probably of the few people who could be trusted not to fuck everything up, remain true to the writers hallucination vision, and not hopelessly mangle another monumental edifice to geek subculture. That said, the latest inclusion of Cameron, Cruise and insidious, annoying 3-D technology does not bode well for the project.
*Apologies to Stuart Gordon for the 2001 guilty pleasure "Dagon" - a Lovecraftian equivalent to "The Evil Dead." 

In this Darklore article Erik Davis writes of Lovecraft's enduring legacy and profiles the appeal of a sub-genre that transcends the classical trappings of simple, stereotypical horror:
"Nowhere is this more evident than in the loosely linked cycle of stories known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Named for a tentacled alien monster who waits dreaming beneath the sea in the sunken city of R’lyeh, the Mythos encompasses the cosmic career of a variety of gruesome extraterrestrial entities that include Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, and the blind idiot god Azathoth, who sprawls at the center of Ultimate Chaos, "encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws.” Lurking on the margins of our space-time continuum, this merry crew of Outer Gods and Great Old Ones are now attempting to invade our world through science and dream and horrid rites."
Lovecraft was one of those authors I was originally drawn to in a large part because of the fantastical imagery inspired by his tales, which are evidently now even safe for children (besides doing a basic image search, peruse The Lovecraftsman, also this thread and this site for some more outstanding examples of more incredible fan-art). Pale depressives had no outlet yet in my high-school as there was no such thing as goth, just plain old-fashioned loner weirdos, or being an art-major. At an age where I obsessively collected the books of British fantasist Michael Moorcock, "Yes" music from albums illustrated by Roger Dean filled the air, and posters by the Brothers Hildebrandt wallpapered the room - Lovecraft marked a dark departure from adolescent innocence. Hippie-props like the ceramic Pegasus bong who's magnificent up-swept wings cradled the sides of your face were exchanged for a malignant, face-hugger octopus with its tentacles wreathed in smoke as it gargled bubbly suck-noises. 
But when "Hello Cthulhu" icons start cropping up, the unholy void between pop culture and counterculture had officially been breached. In a disturbingly plushy manner, I might add.

Speaking of ridiculous and obscure inspirations, this image started out with a robin, but the crimson breast eventually became buried under a beakful of wormy goodness, and it morphed into the default Poe-esque stand-in. The semi-translucent "alien egg skin" effect of the background is from a highly filtered hack of the "new infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope" of the North American nebula. Call it my "Colour Out of Space."
“Slowly but inexorably crawling upon my consciousness and rising above every other impression, came a dizzying fear of the unknown; a fear all the greater because I could not analyse it, and seeming to concern a stealthily approaching menace; not death, but some nameless, unheard-of thing inexpressibly more ghastly and abhorrent.” – H.P. Lovecraft , The Crawling Chaos (1921)

Sketch by Elbot Carman


  1. You need have no fear that of Tom Cruise or 3D anytime soon. Universal has apparently declined to go ahead with the movie. Del Toro refused to back down from a likely R rating and Universal wasn't willing to pay out $150 million for an R rated film. So he's making a movie called Pacific Rim instead.

  2. Ah crap, good for him, sticking to his standards, bad for us...

    And gee, what an original plot:
    "Rim, which Legendary sees as a PG-13 movie, is a monster movie that sees powerful extraterrestrial force threaten the Earth's existence, with humans uniting to fight them off."

    Maybe it's a preview of 2012 elections.