The Cryptoscatology Halloween Viewing List (Part 1)
by Robert Guffey on October 1
In this ongoing roundup of 2017’s best Blu-ray/DVD releases in the horror genre, we begin with a pair of blobs: CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959) and ISLAND OF TERROR (1966). The first film, co-directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava (only a year before Bava made his impressive debut as a solo director with the now classic BLACK SUNDAY), could very well be described as the first truly Lovecraftian film. It seems as if the most interesting H.P. Lovecraft films are those that aren’t actually based on the work of Lovecraft, Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979), John Carpenter’s IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994), and Francisco Athie’s VERA (2003) being prime examples. There’s something about Lovecraft’s indefinable style of horror that defies direct adaptation. And for some reason, movies that are ostensibly based on Lovecraft’s work almost always have very little to do with the source material. Some of these adaptations may result in fascinating films, Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR (1985) being the best example in this latter category, but few Lovecraft devotees would claim that Gordon’s darkly comic film is a faithful adaptation of Lovecraft’s somber, doom-laden prose.
Mario Bava, who directed well over half of CALTIKI after Riccardo Freda abruptly abandoned the project midstream, was a fan of Lovecraft’s writing, so it’s no surprise that many of Lovecraft’s favorite tropes appear in this film. In a subterranean Mayan city dwells an ancient mass of protoplasm–which presumably arrived from outer space centuries before, a la Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, and was mistaken by the Mayan natives as a powerful God they named Caltiki, a fictional word no doubt influenced by the popularity of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1948 nonfiction book, KON-TIKI–is awakened from its fitful slumber by the radioactivity emitted by the imminent arrival of a massive comet, and is soon busying itself devouring psychopathic scientists and stable households alike.