Weird Fiction in Film
I love listening to "Elder Sign" - a podcast by Claytemple Media, in which the two hosts discuss weird fiction short stories and novels of all kinds. I must admit that before listening to it, I hadn't been aware of the variety and diversity of this wonderful genre. I think most people don't associate it with much beyond the Lovecraft mythos, and I am really bad at defining it myself.
To make clear what I want to talk about, let me quote Wikipedia:
"Weird fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Weird fiction either eschews or radically reinterprets ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and other traditional antagonists of supernatural horror fiction. Writers on the subject of weird fiction, such as China Miéville, sometimes use "the tentacle" to represent this type of writing. The tentacle is a limb-type absent from most of the monsters of European folklore and gothic fiction, but often attached to the monstrous creatures created by weird fiction writers, such as William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, and H. P. Lovecraft. Weird fiction often attempts to inspire awe as well as fear in response to its fictional creations, causing commentators like Miéville to paraphrase Goethe in saying that weird fiction evokes a sense of the numinous. Although "weird fiction" has been chiefly used as a historical description for works through the 1930s, it experienced a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s, under the labels of New Weird and Slipstream, which continues into the 21st century."
I'd add to this already quite muddled and unclear definition the fact that I perceive a definite slant towards archeological horrors (gods and monsters from ancient times) - which I absolutely love! -, folkloric and mythological elements in general, the surreal (like Lovecraft's dreamlands) and writing styles that often show more literary ambition than "conventional" horror - by which I mean distinct and often artsy styles of writing, no qualitative judgement.
Pretty much everything that falls in the category of "Weird Fiction" fascinates me and it is definitely my favorite genre of stories.
I don't see the term used very often when it comes to movies, though I think it would be a very appropriate sub-category, spanning a wide variety of films, from all eras, but especially the past 10 years seem to me to have been rich in this regard. For example (to not drop the obvious A24 output right away) I learned the term "Greek Weird Wave" the other day and many of those films look like they'd fit my little category neatly.
My favorite "Weird Fiction" films, from the top of my head:
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer
- A Field in England
- Werckmeister Harmonies
- Viy (the original, not the remake)
- The Color out of Space
- The Lighthouse
- Hour of the Wolf
- Under the Skin
I think in film, too, the term "weird fiction" would probably be closely tied to Lovecraft and, sadly, I don't know a lot of Lovecraft films that I like.
If you've read this until this point, you must also be at least a little interested in this kind of stuff, right?
Might I suggest you watch my definitely weird "Cthulhu Trilogy" then?
It's an old no-budget trilogy - My first three feature films. I'm still quite proud of them, to be honest.
This is a RomCom that gets invaded by eldritch horrors, shot mostly in sets built by children for a small town children's theater. A fairytale gone bad, a hero's journey interrupted by outside forces, a farcical experiment inspired by weird literature and 2000's romcoms.
After Cordelia murders her husband to take control of the family business (a crime empire), he starts haunting her, her 16-year-old son discovers a door to a nightmare dimension (and his own sexuality) in the basement and her daughter plots to kill her. This is a very dark comedy, mixing familial melodrama with horror elements and absurd humor.
The least weird and most outright comedic of the three is "Zeckenkommando vs. Cthulhu", a found footage comedy, in which a small town punk band has to battle the forces of evil. It doesn't have English subtitles yet, but if people keep asking me for them, I will get around to finishing them soon!
If you watch and like one of them, leave a review somewhere (for example on Letterboxd) - You'd absolutely make my day!
This, by the way, wasn't just a sham article to shamelessly plug some old stuff of mine. I'd really love to discover more films that fall into the category of "weird fiction" and would be very grateful for suggestions! Also: Do you even think, this category makes any sense? Have you encountered it a lot in film discussion? Do you think it's comprehensible and valid? Let's discuss!