The Lovecraft Anthology, vol. 2, by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted by various authors and artists 7.0
I may not be an H.P. Lovecraft aficionado, but I enjoyed the first volume of ‘The Lovecraft Anthology’ sufficiently enough to bother with the second. Though I felt that the themes seemed to be ever-recurrent from one short story to the next, there had been some genuinely disquieting pieces between its covers.
And since good horror isn’t always easy to find, I thought I’d explore Lovecraft’s madness further.
Published by Abrams on October 1, 2012, and edited by Dan Lockwood, volume two collects nine stories of insanity and interdimensional horror – including some of Lovecraft’s lesser-known, but no-less-formidable ones. As they are all adapted by different writers and artists, the resulting style varies wildly throughout.
1. Pickman’s Model: I enjoyed this one because it combined the art world and horror in such a way that it puts in a different light the madness that some artists are reputed for. Here we are told, via an outside party, about an artist who has been exploring the dark side of the human psyche. Except that, as our narrator recounts, he discovers that the horrors that the artist has been painting may not just be an expression of what he’s exploring: they may actually be a reality – a terrifying, mind-numbing reality. It was a brief story that ended rather abruptly, but I enjoyed it because it built up just enough mood and then left us in suspense. 7.5
2. The Temple: This one was unexpected. Set in a German U-boat during WWI, it recounts the ordeals of the submarine commander after his crew encounter a humanoid creature at the surface. Upon inspection, they find on its body a statue of mysterious origins. From that point onward, the ship’s formerly professional and disciplined contingent begins to lose its bearings, resulting in sabotage and mutiny. The resilient commander survives it all… but is trapped in the vessel, which can no longer move – that is, until unknown forces takes it to a hidden temple at the bottom of the sea. Knowing that he will never return, he writes his account of the incident before disappearing inside the eerie construction. I loved this one because it felt more realistic than some of Lovecraft’s other stories and it emanated an unmistakable sense of danger and claustrophobia (no doubt due to my having watched ‘Das Boot’). The style of the art also echoed the era, which was nice. 7.75
3. From Beyond: This one finds our protagonist rushing to visit Tillingham, his best friend, whom he hadn’t heard from in ten weeks: They had a falling out when Tillingham, a scientist, spoke of an ultraviolet ray device that would allow humanity to perceive the dark things that our current senses won’t capt. Responding to his urgent call, what awaits him is to chill the bone. Frankly, I like the idea of this one, but it became fairly abstract and Tillingham’s motivations weren’t especially clear to me – that is, I didn’t buy it. And although the ending wrapped it up neatly, it wasn’t satisfying. Neither was the art. 6.5
4. He: A writer wanders around New York City looking for wonder, but finds instead squalor and a creepy underbelly. It’s on a nighttime stroll through the city streets that he meets another man who sees a lot of himself in him. The old man takes the writer on a long stroll, showing him parts of the city that he’d otherwise never have seen – and leads him to his home. There he shows him ungodly things lurking in the city’s dark recesses. Except that it wasn’t clear to me what they were, aside for the lights. Then the man went mad for a brief amount of time – or so it appears. Who knows. This one wasn’t exactly exacting in its details, though the mood was eerie. 6.5
5. The Hound: Told in flashback, from the perspective of a participant now on the edge of committing suicide, it tells of two men who sought out uncommon experiences and who started grave-robbing and collecting what they found. One night they come upon an amulet that is said to have been referred to in the infamous Necronomicon. Following this discovery, all sorts of misfortunes befall them, so, after the death of his partner, our protagonist decides to return the amulet from whence it came. Except that this does not go according to plan, leading him down a path to madness. This one was okay, but the storytelling was a bit uneven. 6.75
6. The Nameless City: This one follows an explorer who has found a deserted city even older than the pyramids. But, as he explores it, he discovers that there’s a secret entrance not far removed from where he initially began. Engulfed in a sand storm, he delves deep underground and his torch dies out, leaving him in darkness to reveal the old city’s secrets – which include inhabitants very alien to all that he’s known. Then the sandstorm rushes into the underground foundations and he is forced even further into the void. I liked the idea of the story but, for some reason, found myself having to re-read everything twice. 6.75
7. The Picture in the House: A man is wandering in the woods, looking for a house he’d seen on a previous stroll; it had left him curious, intrigued by its eeriness. He decides to enter it and finds a rare book on a table in this seemingly uninhabited shack. As he peruses it, his eyes catch a gruesome scene of human butchery. That’s when an old man comes out of the shadows and initiates a conversation about the tome and its content. The more he speaks, the more our protagonist seems to lose his mind – and only one brutal thing can put him out of his misery. This one’s very brief, almost like a trial run than a story proper, but it’s okay. 6.75
8. The Festival: A man visits Kingsport, a town that his “people” originated from, with the intention of celebrating Yuletide in the manner that was custom at the time. When he arrives there, he finds a silent town deprived of any traditional Christmas cheer. Assuming that the locals have different customs than what he’s familiar with, he proceeds towards the home of his ancestors, where he is welcomed by an aged mute. At first finding comfort in the abode, he soon finds a copy of the Necronomicon, leaving him disquieted – and that’s before he’s guided by the old man to the eve’s festivities, and discovers the truth about his elders. I enjoyed the subtle eeriness of this one and how it mixed it up with Christmas. The art also supported the tale quite nicely. 7.5
9. The Statement of Randolph Carter: This brief story finds a man being interrogated by the police about the whereabouts of Harley Warren, an occultist with whom he went exploring an ancient graveyard. Warren, sure that no man other than himself can handle what awaits down there, wouldn’t let Carter join him down in the underground passage. Instead, he gave him a phone with enough line that they could stay in contact. Except that, after Warren disappeared in the darkness, what Randolph heard drove him to the brink of insanity. This one’s very brief and the cartoony art style seemed discrepant, but I enjoyed how unpretentious it felt. 7.0
All told, though I’m no convert to Lovecraft and highly doubt that I’ll read his works as originally published, I think that I could be prodded into watching a movie version of one of his stories. I have no doubt that, if well-produced and directed, it would be a bone-chilling experience – one to leave an long-standing imprint.
I look forward to this possibility.