A Labor of Lovecraft: Cthulhu-Inspired Monsters Are On the Rise

The Trench in Aquaman

WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Aquaman and Bird Box.

While December is usually a time of warmth, celebration and togetherness, the end of 2018 saw multiple films introducing frightening monsters lurking in the unknown. First, there was director James Wan's Aquaman, which took us to the darkest depths as imagined by someone terrified of the ocean, and introduced us to the Karathen. Simultaneously, Netflix viewers were teased with mysterious unseen beings in director Susanne Bier's Bird Box. Both those terrors had one thing in common: They clearly drew inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft's monsters. Cthulhu, to be more specific.

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An early 20th-century writer of pulp fiction who remained obscure in his own lifetime, Lovecraft achieved fame only after his death, becoming a highly influential horror author. However, he's a controversial figure, because many of his stories feature bigoted terminology and themes. But we're not really here to talk about the author so much as the undeniably intriguing monsters he created.


The majority of those stories revolved around monsters or aliens from worlds far beyond human comprehension. In fact, a common fate for characters who attempt to understand those creatures is insanity, which is the case in the author's best-known short story, "The Call of Cthulhu," published in 1928 in Weird Tales magazine.

The story centers on Cthulhu, one of several powerful beings known as the Great Old Ones. He is described as a gigantic creature possessing a head resembling an octopus, the wings of a dragon and a humanoid body covered in scales. As you'd probably expect, Cthulhu is an evil being who affects humanity on a subconscious level, although he sleeps at the bottom of the ocean, trapped in the sunken city of R'lyeh.

Fittingly enough for a story published in Weird Tales, "The Call of Cthulhu" gets a lot weirder. Despite the stranger elements of Lovecraft's stories, his mythos captivated readers, which is how he acquired such fame, albeit posthumously. There are several elements that creative minds continue to adopt and implement to this day.

Karathen in Aquaman

NEXT PAGE: The Old Ones Are Coming (to a Theater Near You)

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