Why is Lovecraft so hard to adapt?

I was just thinking about all the adaptations of Lovecraft - video games, etc. And there have been really a lot of them. A shocking amount, really. But it seems that a good number of them just aren’t really very good. And it isn’t to say you can’t make good work from his ideas but it sometimes feels like his ideas work best when they don’t specifically invoke Lovecraft directly.

Maybe I am talking out of my ass. But it seem like the most successful adaptation to video games lately was Bloodborne and that one does some VERY UnLovecraft things. I thought 2007’s Cthulhu was great BECAUSE it was not a direct adaptation.

That isn’t to say it was the best movie but I think it was at the very least…interesting in a way that the actual direct film adaptations by the Lovecraft society could never be. To me, Lovecraft’s ideas are often greater than the stories they are invoked within. They really do speak to the imagination and give us the notion of something greater. Is The Call of Cthulhu a good book? While I would never deny its importance and its influence, it is a very awkward piece of storytelling. Does that make it a failure? Absolutely not. But it does present challenges to the person reading his work.

Ok gotta finish this later. The baby needs a diaper change.

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Have you played Darkest Dungeon? I do like how it presents Lovecraftian ideas (and sometimes monsters!).

Just recently I’ve been playing CoC: Dark Corners of Earth. I’m not far into it (just arrived at Innsmouth) but I like how the theme works in the game.

I did play Darkest Dungeon and I think it gets Lovecraft very right in some ways. In a sense, games get Lovecraft right better than film does and can. Because his work instills a very specific fear that can be elaborated on much more efficiently by a game than a film can. Because you can spend 10 hours with a game developing a fearful atmosphere whereas a film (typically) is 2 hours at most.

DD is good because its mechanics are very Lovecraftian. It is a very effective Lovecraft game.

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The number one reason is that Lovecraft strongly relied on atmosphere, not specific visual horrors, and that’s always hard to achieve regardless if you’re doing a Lovecraftian adaptation or not. If you think about it, Lovecraft was often telling you about a horror rather than showing it to you. He was also very literary in his approach to narration, which never translates quite well to other mediums.

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Yup. I found Lovecraft to be a bit of an “awkward storyteller” but the device of implying, insinuating and staying in feeling provides the power.

I’ve observed the same thing about disappointment with all the movie adaptations. They just seem so flat. Partly because I think nobody has attempted a serious high-budget attempt with a respected and appropriate director. (ie Spielberg would NOT be a choice. But perhaps David Fincher.)

I agree with others here. Although his writing style would never fly nowadays, it is like a foreign film. Once you get to the place where the mental translation is automatic you are free to absorb the content.
He also breaks the advice of modern conventional writing: “Show, don’t Tell!”
He tells everything! It’s all exposition.

Oddly enough, I’ve never associated Lovecraft with the cosmic horrors and gods, they are just a background world (universe?) supporting a style that is thick with atmospheric as felt by the narrator,not seen. First-person view only, a sense of dread for the reader. The protagonist sometimes has no idea what lays in store, always unhappy endings, claustrophobic, and a subject that contains elements of the weird and often horrific mysteries behind the closed doors normal reality.
The protagonist rarely has any control over the outcome; just a long slide downward to the end. Damn its hard to say this well.
I can only recall one book that hit this nail on the head but I’ve had no luck rediscovering it.

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Lovecraft adapted to the medium of the day (paper) and language carried much of the atmosphere. Reading is not a major part of a video game and one must adapt to the new medium which means risk as a new medium is not tried and tested. Dear Esther, Kholat and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter did a great job of using graphics to display an oppressive atmosphere; but a new medium like video is fast evolving and delays can leave one obsolete before release. I fear that Asylum graphics already feel old.