Horror Classics Revisited 4- At the Mountains of Madness

Unless you’ve been living in a blasted heath somewhere, if you’re a horror fan, you have probably heard of H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, most folks will tell you that his writings are some of the most influential in modern horror fiction. Recently, a great tragedy took place when Guillermo del Toro’s screen adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness was shelved indefinitely. It led me to want to revisit the novella, mainly because I now know that I won’t get to experience it in another medium, but also because I usually go on a Lovecraft kick every couple of years or so.
The story follows a group of scientists who travel to Antarctica to acquire some specimens beneath the icy surface and find the remains of ancient life forms that are unknown in the realm of science. Things only get more bizarre from there on out, as the explorers discover an old city built in a mountain range, black bubbly creatures called Shoggoths, and something so horrible that when one of the characters sees it, he goes insane.
Much like his other fiction, At the Mountains of Madness deals with a character or group of characters who unwillingly are exposed to knowledge of extraordinary, godlike beings that occupy our universe and places outside it. Unlike his other fiction, the novella takes a more science fiction approach, and suggests that the “Elder things” and Shoggoths are aliens. There’s some debate among scholars as to whether or not they have supernatural origins or if the novella is a deconstruction of his previous mythos, choosing a scientific approach opposed to relying on occult symbols.
Regardless of the creatures’ beginnings, or whether this is an extension of an old mythology or the start of a new one for Lovecraft, the story is terrifying. Lovecraft, from the opening line, proves his mastery of creating an ominous atmosphere. He uses strong in-depth descriptions of the landscape to make each scene real, while keeping the portrayal of the creatures vague to give them a sense of being uncanny. As the characters explore the city and read the heiroglyphs upon the walls, there is an overwhelming sense of how small our existence is in such a vast and often hostile universe.
Now, Lovecraft is not for everyone; he can get a bit wordy and there is little to no dialogue, which may turn off some. If this is not a bother, anyone who is into horror should really check this one out. It’s a true frontrunner in the genre, blending SciFi and Horror where few had done it before. The concepts are far out and the atmosphere is layed on pretty thick. Want to get scared? Listen to the audio on headphones while sitting alone in a dark house.

4 responses to “Horror Classics Revisited 4- At the Mountains of Madness

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