Hohl, David J. (In Search of Lovecraft)


I recently came across the title of a film that caught my eye and instantly had to seek out the people involved and learn as much as I could about it. In Search of Lovecraft looks to be a treat of a different breed. A blending of several unique styles with a world that has been severely under-exposed within the realm of horror. I got a chance to ask a few questions of the film’s director, David Hohl.

D.W. Bostaph: The title of the film is In Search of Lovecraft. What can you tell us about it?

David J. Hohl: Well, it is a mix of reality and fiction. A reporter doing a Halloween story on Lovecraft soon falls into insanity when she discovers that the mythos are actually true. I got this idea from many sources, but a few of my inspirations are from reading Lovecraft’s letters and learning that he got all his ideas from dreams. Then there are real life occult groups that believe Lovecraft contacted certain occult information sources through his dreams, and that the mythos are real. Some of these actual occult groups practice Lovecraftian Magick. And of course, Lovecraft himself is an inspiration.

DW: So the film is not only about the fiction Lovecraft wrote, but blends in aspects of his real life as well?

DH: Yes, it mixes real life with the mythos. Picture a documentary on the life of Lovecraft, and the reporter working it discovers the mythos are real! The film is a blend of real biography, mythos and occult.

DW: I love the lead character’s name (Rebecca Marsh)! A great nod to real fans of his work, and for myself it shows a bit of the blending of the lines you intend to do with the film.

DH: Thanks! I try to throw in many little things that only Lovecraft fans will get. We also are trying to throw in real occult tid-bits that only certain people will understand. Any horror fan will love the movie, but Lovecraft fans will especially appreciate it.

DW: H.P. Lovecraft’s work has, for most filmmakers, proven to be a difficult source to pull from. Why do you think this is?

DH: Mainly because it deals with vast concepts and most of the fear created by his work is made in the mind of the reader. He is the master of giving just enough information to let the readers fill in the blanks and create the terror themselves. Today’s films, especially studio ones, rely on the opposite; overwhelming. Special effects and digital images, they leave NOTHING to the imagination, and that is where terror lives; in the dark parts of your own mind.

DW: And this is the approach you plan to take with your film? Pointing out the shadows, but not telling us what lie within them?

DH: Exactly! Ever been in a scary place and you see something out of the corner of your eye? That is what is scary. Of course, we do have some gore and effects for the fans of that. However we are subtle and we still use the principle of horror being primarily in the mind and in the shadows.

DW: Are there any movies that you think succeed in translating Lovecraft’s material?

DH: None that I have been really blown away by, but I do have a favorite. The Resurrected did a great job in many aspects. I especially liked all the scenes with Chris Sarandon. I think it was a fantastic job he did, and it really made that movie. I would love to work with him on a future Lovecraft film. Of course, Re-Animator was loads of fun, but I never really considered it Lovecraft. At least, not the Lovecraft that I enjoy. It was one of his earlier works, before the mythos was really developed.

DW: You like the mythos stories the best? Explain.

DH: The stories that came later in his career. At first he did not have the mythology, the cosmic theology of the mythos developed over time. My favorites are the ones that take place on a cosmic scale, where the universe is at stake, and character’s trade their sanity for knowledge/truth.

DW: Horror is seeing a glut of film remakes right now; one possible reason is the lack of new or fresh ideas. The writings of H.P. Lovecraft seem to be a no-brainer when it comes to material for new films. Do you think most studios/producers are afraid of touching the material given its varied history with cinema.

DH: I really don’t know what they are afraid of. I guess they read some of the stories, and feel that the general public are too stupid to like them. After all, there are no 90210 characters in traditional Lovecraft stories. Studios are looking for a part for Tom Cruise and are not able to find one in Lovecraft. Just my guess.

DW: Yet then we see people like Guillermo Del Toro trying to do a studio film out of At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s best known works in regards to the Mythos writings, what is your take on someone like him translating H.P.?

DH: I can’t say anything about him, as I don’t know him. I respect anyone who can go as far as he has as a director. If I were producing it, I would have chosen someone with a different style. He seems to rely on big effects and a flashy style, but you never know, maybe he can change with projects. In any event, I’ll go see it as I am a fan of Lovecraft. I hope it’s good. I wish him luck.

DW: The mythos and characters created in Lovecraft’s writings are so vast and wide reaching, and so many modern marvels of horror literature cite H.P. as one of the biggest influences on their decision to become a writer in the first place. Why do you feel his reach has been so vast and remained so powerful?

DH: It’s because they are really cosmic in scope and archetypical. Lovecraft leaves so much up to the imagination, and, like my film, sometimes blends reality and fiction. He was also wise in basically making the mythos and open source, and he told his writer friends to add to it as they wish. In that way it is a growing mythology, even today with many new stories and films.

DW: Possibly even accepting your film into the mythos when it is finished?

DH: I would love that, but only time and fans will tell!

DW: Outside of the Lovecraftian worlds, what type of horror films do find the most effective?

DH: Haunter of the Dark is my favorite, and it also inspired some of In Search of Lovecraft. My favorite films are those that leave the terror in your mind. One example would be the original Haunting. The Blair Witch Project is another more recent example. Both of these were scary, but showed little directly.

D.W.: I am glad you brought up Blair Witch. When I first read what the film was about, two films popped into my head. One was Blair Witch and the other was Last Broadcast. Is there going to be a pseudo-documentary feel to the project?

DH: Much of it is docu/news style, but at a certain point they come face to face with the mythos. At that point everything is knocked out of reality and the docu feel is replaced by a 3rd person more traditional filmmaking style. But nothing is as it seems, and reality is always a blur. This is real life meets the Lovecraft mythos. Check your sanity at the door and enjoy the ride.

DW: That’s it for now, peoples! I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for In Search of Lovecraft. It sounds like something that is a bit daring for the Lovecraft world, and if these guys are as much on track as it seems, this could be a great trip down the shoggoth hole. Filming is set to start in February, and hopefully we will see this sometime this summer. Stay tuned for more!!

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