Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness (2018) poster

Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness (2018)

Rating:


Canada. 2018.

Crew

Director/Screenplay – Sean Patrick O’Reilly, Based on the Graphic Novel by Bruce Brown, E.T. Dollman, Erik Fokkens, Dwight L. MacPherson & Sean Patrick O’Reilly, Producer – Michele O’Reilly, Music – George Streicher, Animation Director – Skylar Zerr. Production Company – Arcana Studio.

Voices

Kiefer O’Reilly (Howard Lovecraft), Jeffrey Combs (Uncle Randolph/H.P. Lovecraft), Tyler Nicol (Winfield Lovecraft), Mark Hamill (Dr Henry Armitage), Christopher Plummer (Dr Jeffrey West), Finn Wolfhard (William Dyer/Herbert West), Michelle O’Reilly (Sarah Lovecraft), Sean Patrick O’Reilly (Spot/Cthulhu), Vijay Vaibhav Saini (Professor Jaswant Atwood), Scott McNeil (Hamish Rice), Ashleigh Ball (Ellen Ellery), Alison Wanduza (Mary Lovecraft), Doug Bradley (Nyarlathotep)


Plot

It is 1898. Young Howard Lovecraft receives a visit from his Uncle Randolph who appears knowledgeable about the experiences Howard has had with entities from beyond this realm. When they are attacked by night-gaunts, Randolph theorises that Howard’s use of magic rituals has thinned the dividing line between worlds. Randolph decides the only course is to go to the Miskatonic University and consult with Dr Henry Armitage and his board of occult experts. They believe that Randolph’s theory might be possible and so agree to undertake a journey by airship to the Antarctic to visit the laboratory of Dr Jeffrey West. West was a colleague of Armitage and Howard’s father who recklessly opened a dimensional portal. There they press West to open a portal to Cthulhu’s home world Vhrool. However, after doing so, Randolph reveals that he is really the grown-up version of Howard and has come to awaken Cthulhu from within Spot.


This was the third in a trilogy of animated films about the adventures of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft as a child (see below and the page Lovecraftian Films for films based on other Lovecraft works). It was preceded by Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) and Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom (2017). All three films were made by Sean Patrick O’Reilly who manages the British Columbia-based Arcana Studio. O’Reilly based the films on his own trilogy of graphic novels published between 2009-2013.

All the same complaints that could be made of the other Howard Lovecraft films are also applicable here – flat low-budget CGI animation that makes everything look like a 90s computer game. The story and characters are fine but the animation majorly gets in the way of anything looking convincing. A perfect example is a scene where various parties try to drive off one of the creatures by throwing potions at them and all that we get seems to be small green spots appearing on the screen.

As with the other films, we get a variety of namedrops to Lovecraft with reappearances of Henry Armitage and a visit to the Miskatonic University. There is also the inclusion of the Mad Scientist Dr Jeffrey West who created the portal and whose son turns out to be Herbert West who we see has developed a fascination with resurrecting the dead and has created his own zombie. The portal leads to the planet of Vhrool, which Lovecraft identified as the home planet of Cthulhu. We also get an appearance from Nyarlathotep, another major entity among the Great Old Ones, and the night-gaunts from The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (1943).

Uncle Randolph (Jeffrey Combs), Howard Lovecraft (Kiefer O’Reilly) Herbert West (Finn Wolfhard) and Dr Henry Armitage (Mark Hamill) in Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness (2018)
Expedition to Vhrool – (l to r) Uncle Randolph (voiced by Jeffrey Combs), Howard Lovecraft (voiced by Kiefer O’Reilly), Herbert West (voiced by Finn Wolfhard) and Dr Henry Armitage (voiced by Mark Hamill)

In fact, the plot where we see the older version of Lovecraft, having somehow come back in time (there needed to be a little more explanation about the hows of this) and posing as an uncle with the intention of getting them to the portal and reawakening Cthulhu is the most substantial plot of the three films. I still do have a problem with the conception of Cthulhu as the equivalent of a child’s puppy but the story represents something more advanced. I only wished the animation had been there to carry it.

Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965), The Shuttered Room (1967) and The Dunwich Horror (1969). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordon’s splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordon’s subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Necronomicon (1993), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Gordon’s Dagon (2001), and other works such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulhu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2009), The Color (2010), Pickman’s Muse (2010), The Whisperer in Darkness (2011), The Dark Sleep (2013), The Haunter of the Dark (2015), Herbert West: Re-Animator (2017), Color Out of Space (2019), The Deep Ones (2020), Markham (2020), the tv series Lovecraft Country (2020) and The Resonator: Miskatonic U (2021). Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown (2008) and In Search of Lovecraft (2008) are documentaries about Lovecraft. Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simon’s cheap and loosely inspired Cthulhu Mansion (1992); John Carpenter’s Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parodies Lovecracked: The Movie (2006), The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (2009) and Call Girl of Cthulhu (2014); while the Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012) and Lovecraft (Paul Titley) appears as an imaginary companion in Ghostland/Incident in a Ghostland (2018). Lovecraft’s key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Franco’s surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.


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