Cool info and pics on a Stuart Gordon feature of H.P. Lovecraft's SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH!!!!
Published at: Oct. 26, 1998, 9:11 p.m. CST by staff
Recently I conducted a poll on the site asking you readers what you wanted in a horror film. You may have noticed I have been conducting lots of 'horror' related polls recently. Why? Well, this Saturday is HALLOWEEN, and why the hell not. I've been busy preparing a backyard Halloween party (if it doesn't rain...knock on wood!). But the options were: 1) Thoughtful, creepy, ominous scares, 2) teenage slasher terror, 3) fountains of blood and guts, 4) Victorian vampire stylings, 5) descents into madness, 6) no rules, 7) smart characters and lastly 8) dumb characters.
Well the top 4 placers, representing 85.1% of you or 1631 people, wanted Thoughtful, creepy, ominous scares with smart characters with no rules that descend into madness.
Wow, and to think only 3% of those polled wanted teenage slasher terror. Well gosh, there sure isn't any films out there in the market place right now that fit the above description. But there are a couple of scripts floating around out there. One is a project call MEPHISTO'S BRIDGE (aka SPANKY) that is a Guillermo Del Toro project that was at PHEONIX PICTURES for a long time, but now is on the free market place. In short it's about a faustian style deal that goes way way waaaaaaaaay awry. It is heavily influenced by a fella by the name of H.P. Lovecraft. A god amongst horror writers. I'll have more on this project in the future, but right now I want to talk about a project Stuart Gordon has been trying to get up off the ground for a long long time.
It is based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story called SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH. Recently I met Stuart Gordon, director of RE-ANIMATOR as well as the fantastic THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT, at the Heart of Texas Writer's Festival here in Austin. He was on a panel with me, and afterwards we started talking about some projects of his. Afterall that was one of the reasons I was there.
I started complaining about the continual deluge of teenage slasher films, and how noone was making great horror films like CURSE OF THE DEMON or CAT PEOPLE. And I mentioned all the great material that could be mined from the old Pulp magazines of the 30's, 40's and 50's. It is a tragedy that so much great material is forgotten. That's when he mentioned SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH. Every horror literature fan must read this story to be 'cool', it is simply one of the staples of the genre.
My eyes lit up and I said, "When is it coming out?!?!?!" You see, I am familiar with the story. He then told me that he had taken it around to several studios, but everytime he began to describe the community and inhabitants of INNSMOUTH, the execs allegedly started wondering why the people turned into fish. He then told me that a couple even suggested the film would be great if they turned into VAMPIRES!!! Ummm that's called SALEM'S LOT buddy. Anyway he seemed a bit disheartened that nobody amongst the developing world could see the story for it's fantastic potential. I told him to send me the script and I might write something up. So that's what I'm doing. There are quite a bit of spoilers in this, so ya might want to go away, but dammit somebody needs to make this project, to get it going cause if ya read, you can see how friggin cool this is!!
Well that wiley ol fart sent me not only the script, but a bunch of pre-production sketches by Bernie "God" Wrightson! Here's the vision for CTHULHU...
Who is CTHULHU? Well partner, go on over to AMAZON.COM or another one of them booksellers and type in H.P. Lovecraft, cause you have a wonderfully creepy world to discover. CTHULHU is the eldest god of the horror world of Lovecraft's. As the legend goes he has slept for aeons and when he awakens... he will devour the world. But more than anything Cthulhu is cool. Just ask Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker or Stephen King. They will fall to their knees and begin praising that cool bastard. He is the figurehead of the arcane world that Lovecraft described.
I bet the main thing you are thinking is, "What the hell is this SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH about?" Well, it is simply a great horror story, and Stuart Gordon's script perfectly captures that forboding and strange scary world. Innsmouth is a town up there in and around Maine. Yeah, right there in Stephen King's backyard. It's a fishing community out on a little island ya have to take a ferry to reach. The folks around those parts are rumored to be a bit in-bred. Take a look at this sketch that Wrightson did of a couple them weirdoes.
Well, the story follows a fella in pursuit of his lovely bride. You see on thier wedding night right about the time they were going to... you know... do the deed, everything got a bit weird and the wife (think young beautiful blonde (19) Reese Witherspoon type) wound up missing... kidnapped... run off... Whatever ya wanna call it. The young husband (early 20's think Ben Affleck/Matt Damon type) goes off to search for her. Following her trail to this town of Innsmouth. The folks are a bit... odd looking, like this waitress here...
The town is full of strange people like this waitress, but our main character doesn't focus on them too closely. He just dismisses it as in-breding and wants to find his lovely wife. However, the overall impact of all these strange, wierd looking people is cumulative. As the film continues he descends further and further into the madness that is Innsmouth. You see he finds her, but she doesn't want to go with him, she spurns him. He decides to leave, but the last ferry has left. Now he's stuck in Innsmouth overnight. So he goes to get a hotel room and here's what the innkeeper looks like.
Well you can bet he starts suspecting things right about now. As the sun goes down, the town of Innsmouth becomes more active, his world goes nuts. Suddenly he finds the citizens stranger and stranger, he begins fearing for his bride, he begins to see changes in her, the townspeople, her relatives. Fear becomes the overwhelming feeling of the film. A downright scary film. Something that makes ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE EXORCIST seem like a nice night on the town. This is what horror is. When everything turns on the main character of the film. He meets his grandfather-in-law...
Now I don't know about you, but when I begin seeing relatives like this.. well dammit I want to get the hell out of dodge. I mean, thems some genes I don't want my fluids mixing with. Now folks, take a look at grandpa and can you honestly tell me that ain't 1000 times cooler than any god damn fucking VAMPIRES, I'm sick to death of damn VAMPIRE movies. These fellas kick ass!!! Now this next shot is what defines horror.
Look at that poor Affleck/Damon bastard. Nothing in any horror film in the last several years begins to touch the scares in this. It ain't a series of beheadings, gut-rippings or limb-tearings. Instead it is HORROR. Real honest to goodness terror. The types that DIMENSION and NEW LINE try to tell. If a film like THE HAUNTING OF HELL HOUSE takes off, then just sit back and see the horror genre breath. Here's a story that ain't every been told, that has it's roots set with one of the greatest horror writers of all time. MAKE THIS MOVIE!!!
Stop making the same films over and over again, grow a pair of balls and make an original Horror film. This would work! No Rules. Smart Characters. Thoughtful, Creepy, Ominous Scares! It's what we fans want!!! Now I don't know, maybe we don't. Maybe I'm a lone loon, but I want this type of story told. I want to see it's visions envisioned. Stop making films like DEEP RISING that have the vaguest attempts at a story, and tell great ones.
I'm going to try to write about a new horror film languishing in development each day this week. There are a lot out there maybe we'll see some of them someday. Because these stories deserve to be told!