According to Bleeding Cool and Dread Central, not much is known as only a pilot script exists, to be used to shop around to networks at the moment. The pilot is written by Matthew Francis Wilson––who, based on my research, may have previously gone by M. Francis Wilson, is a newcomer to television writing and it is unknown whether he pitched the show or was hired to write it.
Aside from the Lovecraft brand itself, the producers of the series bring the most clout to the project. Lorenzo Di Bonaventura––who was the tip of the spear when it came to developing the Michael Bay-helmed Transformers series––and Dan McDermott––a screenwriter and producer who seems to have worked on mostly short-lived but interesting television shows.
Legendary Entertainment has made quite a mark as being a rather prominent producer of successful, if not critically consistent, genre films. Big hits for the relatively new studio––established in 2000––300, The Hangover, Inception, Pacific Rim, Man of Steel, Crimson Peak, WarCraft, Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, Jurassic World, Straight Outta Compton, and basically all Christopher Nolan movies since Batman Begins.
Their expansion into television is relatively new, but rather high profile with the Netflix exclusive, Love, having garnered a bit of attention on its initial release, as well as the SyFy adaptation of the beloved James S. A. Corey book series, The Expanse, which friends-of-the-show, Nerdhole, discussed in-depth recently, and Colony, created by LOST writer, Carlton Cuse, for USA Network. The latter two debuted this year and are renewed for second seasons.
So, while to some the credentials (or lack thereof) of those directly involved with this new series may seem troubling or make a fan circumspect, Legendary itself has a respectable track record on television even if they are rather new to the medium.
The show seems peculiar because, as sources described, it is unclear whether these will be adaptations of Lovecraft stories or new stories leaning on the Lovecraft stories. Bleeding Cool described the show as including “characters, locations and story-lines from sixteen of Lovecraft’s most popular tales” while Dread Central says the show will “feature characters, narratives, and locations from sixteen of the late American author’s titles.” Both sources cite that the show will specifically draw from “The Call of Cthulhu“, “The Dunwich Horror“, and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” Since H. P. Lovecraft had published over fifty stories in his lifetime and collaborated on almost another fifty with friends and as a ghost writer, there is no shortage of material to draw from.
While this is the first time a show has been explicitly based on Lovecraft’s work, the father of cosmic horror is no stranger to television. His stories have been adapted to varying degrees of faithfulness on horror anthology shows, with Rod Serling’s Night Gallery being the most prominent adapter. In most cases, Lovecraft’s work served as direct or indirect inspiration for stories and series. From the 1991 HBO noir movie, Cast a Deadly Spell to an episode of The Real Ghostbusters titled, “The Collect Call of Cthulhu”, Lovecraft’s creatures and themes have often served as a great starting point for new stories rather than go through the difficulty of adapting his somewhat anachronistic and often problematic work directly. Lovecraft himself even appeared in the season six episode of Supernatural, “Let It Bleed.”Adapting Lovecraft’s work until now has been a particular tough nut to crack. Most famously, Guillermo Del Toro tried for years to get his version of “At the Mountains of Madness” off the ground, only to have funding pulled out from under him for creative and monetary differences. The closest and, perhaps, most successful adaptations come in the form of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s (HPLHS) cinematic adaptations and their full cast audio drama adaptations of his stories.
The main aspect of Lovecraft that seems to clear the hurdle from page to screen are his monsters, which arguably hopscotches what his stories are actually about. While his creatures indeed played an integral part to many of his stories, they were rarely about the monsters, but rather the existential dread they represented.
Which type of Lovecraftian adaptation we’ll see on screen––either monster stories, pessimistic existential epistolary narratives, or something in between––remains to be seen. Either way, there hasn’t really been a Lovecraftian tv show or movie that has really appeased the devoted fan base as well as broke through to mainstream appreciation. With luck, this new series, if picked up by a network, can bring what so many people love about his stories and mythology to a new, broader audience.