On the PG-13 of Madness

Of late, there has been much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over Guillermo Del Toro’s announcement that he is in talks, again, over filming an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness as a PG-13 film. The big uproar, as usual when that particular combination of letters and numbers is uttered in conjunction with a horror film, seems to be over whether or not the film will be neutered. Of course it fucking won’t, but that isn’t the real problem with it anyways.

If you’ve read the book, it comes across fairly tame. Even those autopsies Guillermo mentions in interviews are clinical and detached. There isn’t anything shocking because that isn’t how Lovecraft wrote. The massive sex and gore we saw in adaptations were added entirely by the people adapting the stories. If filmed as written, they would come across as PG-13 without a flinch. Hell, his characters don’t even curse.

The real problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that no one in their right mind would film any of his stories as they were written because they would make horrendous films. His stories are dry, insular and detached and usually hinge more on reading about the past than the actions of the present. They make for some interesting reading, but not good viewing.

That’s why Stuart Gordon added so much raunchy sex and over the top gore to his filmic approaches to Lovecraft, as well as a shit ton of humor and absurdity. The different medium requires different approaches. Sure, the HPLHS did a great job with The Call of Cthulhu, but only for people that like watching dry, black and white and silent films with a small budget.

The financially successful Lovecraft adaptations were b-grade grindhouse fun. The faithful adaptations were doomed to failure, at least from a money point of view. This will never be the type of story that will attract blockbuster numbers. But I’m okay with that. I’d rather just read the damn book, anyways.