Monday, August 5, 2019

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood...With Cthulhu

Truthfully, I find Cthulhu himself a bit played out, but invoking his name is a nice shorthand for the concept I had in mind. Warning: This will contain some spoilers for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, so read at your own risk.

In contrast to the rather enervated protagonists of a number Lovecraft stories and pastiches, rpg characters tend to face eldritch horrors with action. Cue Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, the (perhaps unlikely) protagonists of Tarantino's latest, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, who prove surprisingly handy at dealing with kill-crazed hippie cultists, even then intoxicated.

Los Angeles in 1969 is pretty far from Lovecraft country both geographically and conceptually, but their is precedent at least for California Noir as a Lovecraft pastiche setting. (See Kim Newman's "Big Fish," for one.) And if Charlie and the Manson family lurking in the desert and an abandon TV and movie Old West town can't be connected to the Mythos, then what is the Mythos good for?

I could see an initially clash with Manson just being the tip of the iceberg. A raid by the protagonist on the Spahn Ranch would follow, and what horrors would be uncovered?

Of course, the horror need not be cosmic and certainly it can be cosmic without any of the Lovecraft staples, but I think this sort of spin on the film would make a good one shot or con game, at least.


David W Henley said...

That seems plausible to me. This worked pretty well and should provide a springboard of sorts.

Anne said...

Aside from "Ring" are there any really good haunted movie stories?

I realize this is like asking "Aside from 'The King in Yellow' are there any really good haunted book stories?" ... but are there?

There's also the genre of a person investigating rumors about a movie that's Lovecraftian in the sense that learning accurate information about the movie destroys their sanity.

I think in that genre, the revelations tend to be morally shocking rather than supernatural - the movie depicts un-simulated violence, the movie is proof that some beloved figure is secretly abhorrent.

The danger of learning this information might also be physical in the "he'll have you killed to protect his secret" sense, in addition to the psychological danger of witnessing something so awful and/or having your illusions shattered.

(So I guess I'm thinking of "Super 8" - but it follows the same logical plot structure as "Chinatown" and "Who Framed Rodger Rabbit" and "Soylent Green" and also "Altered Carbon" and "Miss Don't Touch Me".)

I guess the only question about trying to incorporate supernatural horror elements is whether it cheapens the realistic moral horror? It's probably safer for gaming to err on the "corrupt land deals" side of the genre.

Trey said...

@Anne - In the Mouth of Madness and "Cigarette Burns," come to mind. I'm not sure rpgs do realistic moral horror well enough to cheapen it. They are probably worse on it than cosmic horror, which tends not to go so well, as I mentioned in the post.