At The Mountains of Madness -Script Leak

AT MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS_ASA very disturbing report from the Temple of Ghoul blog indicates that a leaked draft of the script to Guillermo del Toro’s planned film version of H. P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness  has turned the slow-building novel of cosmic horror and humbling revelation of man’s place in the universe into a violent, action-adventure monster fest.

Dejan Ognjanović wrote “…It feels like a HELLBOY movie without Hellboy, with a light dose of Carpenter’s THE THING.”

The THING comparsion is to be expected, as many readers (myself included) have felt that John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There (the basis of THE THING), was inspired by Lovecraft’s tale, as his example of how to tell that kind of story properly. 

At The Mountains of Madness’s 1936 serialization was very controversial among science fiction fans of the period, and Campbell — who would later become editor of ASTOUNDNG STORIES and the fantasy magazine UNKNOWN— would specifically prohibit stories in Lovecraft’s style.

Apparently, the script for AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS updates the era of the story of to the 1930’s, with a frame taking place in 1939.   One of the survivors of the first 1930 expedition tries to dissuade the leader of a new Antarctic expedition from returning to the site, and we flashback to the meat of the tale. This does in fact mirror the structure of the original.  

However. in this script the discovery of the Elder Things, which we learn were the rulers of Earth in the primeval past is not the focus. Instead, their servants, the protoplasmic shoggoths, take center stage. They fill the place of the shape-shifting, self replicating alien of John W. Campbell’s story. Rampaging monsters and bloody mayhem escalate the horror quotient, building to a climax that reportedly includes the appearance of a Cthulhu-like minor Mythos diety (and identified as Cthulhu itself in the draft Ognjanović  read).

Guillermo del Toro’s description that his version of the film needed to be R-rated was a warning sign, as there’s really nothing in the Lovecraft original that would be likely to garner more than a PG-13.

Lovecraft1934This script might make an interesting sci-fi/horror thriller, but it’s sure not anything  old HPL would have approved. Why adapt a classic of the genre if you have no intention of following the spirit of the story? Why not just make your own film “inspired” by the works of H.P. Lovecraft?

Perhaps the fact that there’s a “prequel’ to THE THING already in the pipeline might cause the filmmakers (including James Cameron as a producer) to give more thought to the emphasis and nature of the film. Who needs two shape-shifting alien menaces in a frozen setting competing with each other? It’s likely to give the public the feeling that AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS is the copy, rather than the original.

About the Author

Tom Powers

Tom Powers was Editor of Starlog.com from 2005-2008. He's been involved in independent filmmaking, voice acting, and also writes fiction and fact-based articles elsewhere as Thomas V. Powers.

4 Responses to “ At The Mountains of Madness -Script Leak ”

  1. The purported early draft of the script is freely available at cthulhuwho1.com and other sites on the web.

    So why would you only read a reviewer’s comments, when you could read the same document he was looking at?

    Try the above location, or do a Google search for others; and do your own review of the script which may, or may not, be the real thing.

    CthulhuWho1

  2. “Why adapt a classic of the genre if you have no intention of following the spirit of the story?”

    I have a feeling I can guess the answer to that question: Del Toro probably wants to bring the tale to the screen, but the adaptation presents a challenge.

    The original stems from an era in which Lovecraft was moving away from horror toward science fiction; the shoggoths are almost an after-thought, as if Lovecraft felt obligated to include a monster in a story that otherwise emphasized a Sense of Wonder. Del Toro would have to find some way to make the book’s third act – which consists mostly of reading pictures and heiroglyphics that tell the story of this ancient race – work on screen. I think it could be done, but making a scary movie about shoggoths is probably easier.

  3. To CthulhuWho1 — That’s a reasonable point. My simple answer is that I have absolutely no intention of reading the entire screenplay of a film before it’s even made.
    I don’t mind learning a few general spoilers — which indicate the direction the film is taking — but I don’t want to preview the entire film. Despite my strong reservations, I do intend to see AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, and I’d like to be able to enjoy it without doing mental comparisons to one of the drafts throughout.

    To Steve — I agree. Making a scary shoggoth story is much easier than adapting the novel. Lovecraft was not an action writer, though The Shadow Over Innsmouth comes closest. The Call Of Cthulhu has a nice build to a climax, and might make a better film adaptation, though it would have to be padded out. (I’ve always thought that the first parts of the 1933 KING KONG had a perfect atmosphere for a Cthulhu film.)

    My main worry is that we may wind up with a movie that those not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft might think is pedestrian and imitative.

  4. Lovecraft was not fond of the visual medium and felt that his work would not translate to film.

    The very best we can hope is that the film gets made with del Toro not being manipulated by the studio because they don’t understand the subject matter. I think he is more than capable of conjuring a sense of Lovecraftian horror if left to his own devices.

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