A Horror Fan’s View on H.P Lovecraft’s ‘At The Mountain of Madness’ and ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’

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Let me start by saying I’m not an avid H.P.Lovecraft fan. In fact the only reason why I started looking into the work of Lovecraft is because my other half is a huge Lovecraftian Fanboy. Personally, I never got what was so terrifying about his stories. That was because I never knew what Lovecraft was about, that and I’ve been absorbed into what I think is scary. Freddy Kruger, Jason, Chucky, and the Jigsaws of my generation. A conversation with my other half, which steered into the background of Lovecraft’s work, peaked my interest. And, as my long-term readers know, I’m a sucker for anything that will scare the living daylights of out me. That does not include Spiders, Spiders can leave the planet and I’ll be a happy bunny.

Anyways, the conversation was generally about our favourite horror authors, I explained what I thought about Edgar Allen Poe and he said Lovecraft. Upon telling me about a Lovecraftian creäture that whispers the details of the end of the world to you while you sleep. He stated:

‘ Insanity is the scary part.’

The common theme in Lovecraft’s novels is insanity. Characters seeing a glimpse of something and going insane, figuring out what no human being should know and their minds completely giving out. I hear the term, ‘ It’s indescribable’ a lot when talking to the other half about Lovecraft’s creatures. That is true. When reading ‘ At The Mountain of Madness’ the narrator describes every inch of the creäture and I could not picture it in my head, I simply could not get my head around the words on the page. I could picture the human and dog remains that were ripped a part. I could see the blood across the snow, but I could not imagine the looks of these creatures with Star Fish like tentacles for heads. ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ was a little easier to imagine, before reading the book I watched a Let’s Play of a video game that was loosely based on the story. I knew what Innsmouth Eyes looked like, or at least another person’s idea of what they look like.

Lovecraft’s insanity and my term for insanity are completely different, I understand the concept of seeing something so horrific that you literally lose your mind, it happens in real life, I have an idea of what would make me lose my mind. The popular concept of Insanity being locked inside your own head with the nightmares that you can not escape from is kind of scary. When I think of insanity being scary, I think of something like the video game Outlast, where you play a person that who is locked inside an insane asylum with the residents on the loose and trying to kill you. You can not fight them, you can not protect yourself, all you can do is run, hide and pray they don’t find you. You could argue that it is the same, both concepts of insanity have you being locked inside of a place that you can not escape, whether it is voices, something you’ve seen, done or just a person stalking you in the shadows.

The location and story of ‘At the Mountain of Madness’ made me think of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ aka ‘Who Goes There?’ by John Campbell Jr. Humans in the Antarctic discover something alien that has been there for thousands, maybe millions of years. It kills them leaving only two, both shaking from the experience, one survivor is on the brink of insanity. Both are stories about Isolation, Paranoia, insanity, and stumbling on to something that should be left alone. Being chased by an unknown that you can not or do not want to see.

My other half always says that what he loves about Lovecraft is the no win scenario, there is no happy ending. Eventually Cthulhu will awaken, a person who has seen a Shoggoth will have something taken from them, you will die, it will happen and there is nothing you can do about it.

‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ has this element in it. The narrator just stumbles into Innsmouth and learns of its history, only find out about himself in the end. He can not do anything about it. It is going to happen, no matter how hard he looks in his mirror, no matter how much he denies it. He is getting older, he will change. His video game counter part does not fair better either. Due to our ‘there is always a happy ending society’, I assume that the idea of a no win scenario doesn’t exist for some of  you. If you are finding it hard to comprehend think of it like this:

One day our sun will die and when it does, our solar system will end. That is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune will no longer be around. Our sun will swell up and extend to Jupiter’s orbit, that means the inner planets will be swallowed up by the Sun. We will die. There is no surviving, no escape, all we can do is wait for it to happen. Even if some of the outer planets survive they will become rogue planets floating in the frozen depth of space. There is no happy ending for us or them. It is human nature to try to rationalize the fear away, we have billions upon billions of years left, the human race will die out by then. That doesn’t change anything. It will still happen. There is no escaping it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting the out come to change, we go about our lives thinking that everything we do will change the outcome of life. Like fish we swim about our daily lives but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no happy ending. There is merely insanity.


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