Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has been trying to make an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's celebrated novella "At the Mountains of Madness" happen for some years now. We learned late yesterday that it's finally going to happen, in 3-D and with James Cameron producing no less. The Internet is in danger of collapsing beneath the weight of the Awesome in that sentence.
As great as the Cameron/3-D bits are, for me the excitement begins and ends with the pairing of del Toro and Lovecraft. The late horror author always provides a challenging, rewarding read, and "At the Mountains of Madness" is one of his standout works. Del Toro's unique artistic vision falls perfectly in line with Lovecraft's, whose work is marked by career-spanning themes of madness and the dangers of the unknown. It is a credit to Lovecraft's talent that his work has largely defied big screen adaptations -- the writing is, simply, very dense -- and it is equally a credit to del Toro's abilities that he's cracked the story in a way that he feels confident about.
If you're not familiar with Lovecraft's work then you might be curious to know exactly why forward movement on "At the Mountains of Madness" is so exciting. That's why I'm here now, as you'll learn after the jump.
Lovecraft stands apart from many early horror authors in the way he gets inside his character's heads, charting their descent into madness. His works feature creatures, ancient, alien things whose very appearance can drive a person to insanity. Reading it though, you're not scared so much by the creature's description, but rather by the human witness's response to said creature. Del Toro will undoubtedly deliver nightmare-inducing creatures in his telling of "Madness," but he too excels at building suspense out of a character's arc into insanity. (see: Vidal's crumbling in "Pan's Labyrinth")
I mentioned above that del Toro will give life to the creatures in Lovecraft's much-explored Cthulhu mythos. This really deserves its own bullet-point though. Look at del Toro's "Mimic." His "Blade II" vampires. The Pale Man in "Pan's Labyrinth." Especially the Pale Man. This is a guy who has built a career out of putting nightmare-inducing imagery on the big screen. The words Lovecraft used to describe his beasts... del Toro will take those passage and turn them into something that will really freak us out.
He's Already Been There
Del Toro has been trying to get "Mountains of Madness" happening for some time, it's true. But he's already flirted with the Cthulhu mythos in film. "Hellboy" comic creator Mike Mignola has frequently credited the works of H.P. Lovecraft as an inspiration for his work. You can see it on display clearly in del Toro's "Hellboy" movie. The Ogdru Jahad, massive, tentacled beast-things seen at the movie's climax, are directly inspired by elements of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos.
The World Needs More Terrible Things From Guillermo del Toro
By "terrible" I mean "fear-inducing." Just about everything del Toro touches is imbued with some sort of imagery that is deeply unsettling. Despite that, he hasn't done something that could properly fall into the horror genre since at least "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), or possibly even "Mimic" (1997), depending on how you define the term. "Mountains" is inescapably a work of horror, and it will be good to see del Toro diving in with only one purpose: scaring us to the limits of our sanity.