director Frank H. Woodward
When I first heard of H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), I had no context for him at all. I had taken high school American Literature, which was pretty deeply ingrained with the standards, but I had gone all my teen years without hearing about Lovecraft at all. Who was he? When did he write? Where was he published? How is he considered against those like Edgar Allan Poe or later writers?
Over the years, I would read a number of his stories and see several films made from his works. But frankly, it wasn’t until the internet that I got any access to biographical information on the mysterious man. Not that he’s such a total mystery, not anymore. And now, with Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, we’ve got a nicely produced documentary with the likes of Neil Gaiman, John Carpenter, Guillermo Del Toro, Ramsey Campbell and many others speaking their own opinions of praise and wry discredit along with the historical background.
The film doesn’t necessarily reveal anything new that you couldn’t possibly find on Lovecraft’s Wikipedia page or with little other web research. It is interesting to hear his notable fans discuss his strengths and shortcomings, analyze his work. It’s fun to hear all that.
The documentary is almost in an A&E Biography style, at least, a simple, clean, straight-forward one, with Lovecraft’s words from letters and stories, read aloud to give some sense of his work to those uninitiated.
The film deals with the biggest elephant in the room about Lovecraft, his rampant xenophobia and racism, by discussing it in earnest.
I am one who likes to know more about the subjects in which I am interested. So, a documentary like this one is quite nice since it is so directly on a subject that intrigues me. It makes me think that academics probably has come around to him. Academics that deal with the pulps and genre writers on a level that allows them to be spoken of in the same breath as “literature”.