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John’s Horror Corner: Cthulhu Mansion (1992), a haunted house B-movie capturing none of the magic of H. P. Lovecraft.

November 14, 2019

MY CALL: Just another weak, cheesy B-movie that felt a decade older than it actually was. But sometimes that’s exactly what we want, right?

MORE MOVIES LIKE Cthulhu Mansion: Watch Lord of Illusions (1995) instead. But if you want more Lovecraftian movies/adaptations, go for The Unnamable (1988), The Unnamable 2: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1992), The Resurrected (1991), Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Dagon (2001), Dreams in the Witch-House (2005) and The Dunwich Horror (1970). And although not specifically of Lovecraftian origins, his influence is most palpable in From Beyond (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), The Void (2016), The Shrine (2010) and Baskin (2015)—all of which are on the more gruesome side to varying degrees.

This uber-basic color-by-numbers 80s horror starts when a group of twentysomething criminals (incl. Melanie Shatner; The First Power, Subspecies II-III) on the run take hostage the carnival magician Chandu (Frank Finlay; Lifeforce) and his daughter Lisa (Marcia Layton) in their mansion.

The acting is terrible; the writing is worse; and whereas the premise is quite simple, the “story” is incomprehensible. A low point was when Chandu read from an occult book with “Cthulhu” written on the cover—you know, so we all know it’s magical and evil. Or was it when we learned that the carnival performer lived in a mansion? And why, other than those two tidbits, is this called Cthulhu Mansion? Other than some haunting evil presence, it didn’t feel Lovecraftian at all despite claiming to be adapted from the work of H. P. Lovecraft.

The special effects are really weak and forgettable. Some giant monstrous hands pull a woman into a refrigerator (dumb, but I giggled); a guy drowns in a blood shower (annoyingly dumb); another turns into an slimy gooey pseudo-zombie (maybe the highlight of the movie); a lumpy cyst-covered mustard demon (always entertaining, I suppose); stop-motion creeping vines (weakest attempt ever at ripping off Evil Dead); and lame telekinetic haunted house shenanigans (really dumb).

Written and directed by Juan Piquer Simón (Pieces, Slugs, The Rift), I certainly expected better. Not “good.” But a tastier kind of cheese than the random aimless cheese that was this B-movie. Bit of a spoiler—not that it could possibly matter for this movie—but the “big reveal” of the story basically makes Cthulhu Mansion a poor man’s Lord of Illusions (1995).

This movie is not good at all. But it’s a decent “bad movie night” kinda’ flick.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2019 8:40 pm

    I remember renting this on VHS. A disappointment after Slugs but better than The Rift although I’ve been told I need to give that one a second chance.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 14, 2019 8:43 pm

      I think I’d favor The Rift as well. But this is certainly worth a one-time watch as long as it’s not your feature for the evening. 🙂

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 15, 2019 12:08 pm

      So, it amusingly occurs to me that this came out the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Imagine if these were in theaters at the same time… and you thought to yourself “well, there is Gary Oldman, but I’m a biiiiig Lovecraft fan.” So many regrets would follow. hahaha

  2. rdfranciswriter permalink
    February 16, 2022 5:35 pm

    Dagon. Criminally under the radar. That adaptation came out quite well.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      February 16, 2022 7:28 pm

      I adore Dagon. We’ve been threaten a podcast episode on that one.


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