Reviews of “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (1936) and related work

“The Shadow over Innsmouth” (1936Text) – previously

H. P. Lovecraft (writer).

I couldn’t ask for a finer treatment of the motif of interbreeding with fish people, which remains a silly idea. The sea here represents a dysteleological death as in Dickinson’s “The Waters Chased Him as He Fled” (1945), but also women as in “The Horror at Martin’s Beach” (1923). In the last twist, Lovecraft sublimates his recurring motif of a white man discovering a non-white ancestor—“Facts concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” (1921)—or spouse—“Medusa’s Coil” (1930)—and cleans out the literal racism. I wonder whether the excellent result, akin to the ending of “The Temple” (1920), illustrates the feeling he was going for in the overtly racist works.

Lovecraft tries his hand at writing action here, and does it very well. The Poe fanboy’s turns to the dramatic reminds me of “The Oblong Box” (1844). On a side note, it might have been more appropriate for this story to use the name of Dunwich instead of “The Dunwich Horror” (1929). There is a Dunwich in England: The third busiest port in the country before a series of storms and coastal erosion in the late medieval period began to destroy the once-great city. Its church fell into the sea in 1919, late enough that Lovecraft could have heard of it.

References here: Great Cthulhu, War with the Newts (1936), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Roadside Picnic (1972), The Shape of Water (2017).

text fiction

“Once More, from the Top” (2001Text)

Adam Scott Glancy (writer).

Read in Dark Theatres (2001).

A fine fictionalization of “The Raid on Innsmouth”, one of the scenarios in the Chaosium sourcebook Escape from Innsmouth (1992), itself a spin-off of HPL. Glancy’s story makes for a better scenario than “The Raid on Innsmouth”.

text spin-off TRPG Delta Green fiction

Dagon (2001Moving picture, 98 minutes)

A boat with two couples on board crashes onto some rocks outside a Spanish fishing village due to a freak storm. One couple gets ashore to summon help but there’s nobody on the streets of the village. They all seem congregated in the local church. The sound of chanting emanates from within. Over the door is written “Esoterica Orde de Dagon.”

Supernatural horror with modern graphic slasher elements. Based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth rather than “Dagon” (1919). Heavily modernized and CGIed to hell and back in some scenes. The tension dies at times, particularly when the Miskatonic-graduate hero kicks creature ass with a muddy hubcap, but that is to be expected from any careless filming of HPL. Some modern deconstruction and humour, but not too much, and lots of clichés, including Leatherface syndrome. Absurd fighting sound effects, and a fitting end. Just about the right mix of kitsch and homage.

moving picture adaptation fiction