Hello Ghouls and Boils,
This year marked the end of Andrew Migliore‘s reign as Festival Director in Portland and the beginning of Aaron Vanek‘s satellite festival in LA. I am sad that Andrew is hanging up his hat, and even if others run the fest in Portland – I know it will not be the same. But he of course will always be the founder and I am sure he will attend any festival that is held (and finally – for once – get to see all the movies!). I am pleased that Aaron, long time Lurker and weird tale filmmaker, is working to keep the torch going in LA. It sounds like this year started off in a wonderful way and I hope to make it to the fest myself next year. Luckily, I “met” Ted E. Grau online and he agreed to write up a report for She Never Slept. Now we get to read all about it and see the inaugural fest through his eyes! I would also like to thank Ivy Grau and Daniel E. Lambert for the lovely photos! But I will not keep you waiting any longer and turn this over to our Guest Minion (Reporter) Ted’s capable hands. Enjoy, my fiends!
Sarah L. Covert
A Family Affair:
Unfilmable Cinema and Uncommon Warmth
H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
By T.E. Grau
There is something about the fear and wonder of the unknown that brings people together and bonds them in surprising ways. Shared awe and group horror have been obscenely popular since the first inspired antediluvian hominid cleared his throat, stood up at the fire, and grunted out the first spooky story that the gathered clan – and the entire planet – had ever heard. Indeed, we as a species love to be amazed, and we love to be scared, and we love to do both amidst a crowd.
This is why we’re so nutso about going to the movies, where we can shriek, cry, and sit dumbfounded in a darkened room amongst a group of strangers all experiencing a shared sense of wonder. Literature, on the other hand, isn’t enjoyed in the same communal way, until that prose is adapted to the lighted screen. IF it can be adapted, that is.
The “unfilmable” label has hung heavy over the mind-bending literary works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft for nearly a century, ever since the reclusive patriarch of cosmic horror, twisted sci-fi, and dark fantasy first put pen to paper in his creaky Providence, Rhode Island home. Pessimistic naysayers poo-poo’d the idea that indescribable monstrosities could be realized in a rigid, two dimensional medium, and scoffed at the attempts, instead of picking up a camera, paying a few buddies in beer, and actually trying to get something weird and wonderful captured on celluloid.
Thankfully, triumphs against this defeatist credo were on full display at the first annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival – Los Angeles, organized by Aaron Vanek and Andrew Migliore [Festival Founder] and held Saturday, September 11, 2010 at the Warner Grand Theatre in surprisingly quirky downtown San Pedro. The theatre itself was a thick slice of art deco yumminess, which totally fit the darkly anachronistic vibe of the night, brought to life through six films of various shape, color, and size, all bonded together by their respective nods to the Lovecraftian Mythos, from the outright faithful adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories (the sweeping, silent film ‘Mythoscope’ rendering of “Call of Cthulhu” by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, Bryan Moore’s quietly beautiful “Cool Air,” and the haunting “The Music of Erich Zann” by John Strysik, notable as possibly the first indie Lovecraft film ever made), to those that echo his original works (Stuart Gordon’s squishy classic “Re-Animator”), to those that definitely fit the genre of lurking dread, but are totally original works (the slick and terrifying “AM 1200” by David Prior, who threatens to have one hell of a career in Hollywood). Tying it all together was the definitive documentary, Frank H. Woodward’s riveting “Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown,” to educate anyone in the crowd who wasn’t familiar with this powerful yet largely overlooked writer, why he wrote what he wrote, and the scope of his influence on such renowned scribes and filmmakers as Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Ramsey Campbell, and others.
But no one at the fest seemed to NOT know, and in that comfortable womb of knowing, there bred a warm and easy familiarity, not just with each other, but with the work, those who undertake the work, and even those who wandered into the festival and into this pool of smiling cosmic horrorheads for the first time in their lives. This was a showpiece of the bleak, a celebration of uncaring dark gods and the meaninglessness of humanity in a cold and forgetful universe. So why was everyone smiling? Why was everyone so goddamn chipper? You would think you were at an old timey Sunday cake social in the friendliest small town in the world with the way everyone was so helpful, respectful, engaged, and, well… happy. Where was the angst, the ennui, the growling antagonism toward a world and existence that – according to Lovecraft – was just an illusionary facade, hiding the unknowable truths of Outer Gods who long ago left us to fend for ourselves, with a whispered promise to one day come back and destroy us all?
It wasn’t there… as no matter how stark the subject matter, how utterly black and madness-inducing the themes, the joy of sharing in the pure spectacle of the infinitely monstrous has somehow created a perfect bubble of contentment for all those who are in the Lovecraftian know. From the T-shirt vendors (such as the fabulous Sigh Co. Graphics) to the various gathered filmmakers, actors (including the legendary Jack Donner, powerfully mesmerizing in Bryan Moore’s “Cool Air”), artists (like the distinctive Mike Dubisch) and authors (including the brilliant Cody Goodfellow), to the smiling Lebanese lady who was selling sensually gothic boudoir attire – it was a surprisingly nice festival. A festival of nice, all honoring the creator of some of the most unsympathetic, cosmically nihilistic literature this tiny, insignificant ball of space dust has ever seen.
The reason behind this seems to be in Lovecraft’s literary accessibility and generosity, as he was one of the rare writers in the history of letters who not only allowed his works to be sampled and explored by his peers, but actually encouraged it, acting as a Pater Famlias to a brood of grateful progeny who have never felt his physical embrace, but respect the hell out of him for providing them with so much. In a hyper-litigious age of rampant creative theft and over-zealous copyrighting to guard against artistic filching, Lovecraft would seem an anomaly, as much now as he was back when he was struggling to sell his shocking tales to low paying pulp mags. But even the most marginalized during their time will be remembered afterwards if the talent is manifest. With H.P. Lovecraft, it is manifest in infinite abundance, honored since his untimely death in 1937 in pastiche fiction, all manner of visual art, and more recently, through lovingly crafted films like the ones showcased at the debut of the Los Angeles festival created in his honor, where all of HPL’s children danced, sang, and shined flickering light through exposed film, to celebrate the man who brought so much horror , and so much happiness to so many who came after, all heeding the call.
Long ago, when our country was younger and more naive, an awkward poet turned horror writer mused, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” At the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, that fear of the unknown was expressed in a palpable joy and giddy anticipation about the vast possibilities of Cyclopean vistas of indescribable, non-Euclidean strangeness, yet to be discovered by those who dare dream.
Sometimes, that which scares us can make us happy. It’s not the most rational PSA, but then again, not much in this rapidly expanding universe makes sense anymore.
And Lovecraft fans are okay with that. Overjoyed, actually.
Just ask us…
(T.E. Grau is an author, screenwriter, husband and father living in Los Angeles, who is trying like hell to turn The Cosmicomicon into an actual blog, instead of the emptiest nook with the coolest header in all of cyberspace. T.E. would like to thank Yog-Sothoth.com for sending him hence, Aaron Vanek for being a splendid host, and Ivy Grau for charming Stuart Gordon just long enough for me to knock him upside that beautiful head of his and steal an interview… Thanks also to all my interviewees [the audio of which was sent to YogRadio/Yog-Sothoth.com] for putting up with my bumbling: David Prior, Eric Lange, Mike Dubisch, Cody Goodfellow, Bryan Moore, John Strysik, Stuart Gordon, Jack Donner, Frank H. Woodward, Eben Brooks, Allison Lonsdale, and Aaron Vanek. Warriors for the ‘Craft, all…)
Ted E. Grau – Guest Minion (Reporter)