An Intro to Lovecraft (response to Markiplier)

Okay, context: Markiplier played a game based on H.P. Lovecraft. It was one of the few games accurately adapted from a story, in this case The Terrible Old Man. Watch that first.

I promised links. They are in the video description, but I’ll replicate them here:

http://stjoshi.org/ The home page of Lovecraft expert and biographer S.T. Joshi. If you click on “S.T.’s Blog” and go to the September 13th, 2014 entry (its not a normal blog so I can’t direct link) you’ll find the first of many articles where he discusses Lovecraft’s racism and shows how its exaggerated by critics. In “Selected Writing” his article to Charles Baxter also discusses that, and his review of Haefale’s book discusses August Derleth.

http://www.hplovecraft.com/ Website where you can read all of Lovecraft’s writing online.

http://hppodcraft.com/ Funny and informative Lovecraft-centric podcast, also does live readings.

Creepypasta Rantview – Whispered Faith

Sometimes I wonder why I keep getting into the world of online creepy shit instead of just, you know, reading more Lovecraft. Although actually I think I have an answer for that: Lovecraft may be demonstrably better than online writers, but he also has the uncomfortable pang of the familiar about him. Even if I’ve never read his entire body of fiction and am doubtless in for some surprises, he still feels like I know him too well. I wonder if that’s why people watch new television shows even when they know they’ll be bad instead of just endlessly re-watching old Doctor Who stories over and over, or buy new video games when they know Call of Duty will never be as good as Doom or Duke Nukem 3D (or Blood). That last actually provides some support for my guess, since I find those become new and fresh again whenever I hear of a mod, particularly one that presses boundaries. Call it the curse of growing up a gamer and expecting a new console generation every four years. Gaming ruined my adulthood more than my childhood, I guess.

So okay, once again I got bored and, seeking something new, happened upon a mention of a video called Whispered Faith. What made this unique was that it wasn’t about Slenderman, for once: It was about The Rake. Okay, cool. So I watch the first five episodes, which are conveniently numbered (unfortunately just like Tribe Twelve and other shows, this simple convenience gets thrown out the window pretty soon in favor of each vid having some meaningful title), and I actually quite enjoy it. Once more it had managed the perfect atmosphere and level of creepiness, even if the guy who investigates dude’s attic acts less “scared shitless” and more “just remembered that All My Children is playing in thirty minutes and is suddenly in a hurry.”

But then QUICK, GUESS THE SHOW-RUINING CLICHE:

A) Evil split-personality that winds up dominating the plot?
B) Evil cult worshipping (and possibly run by) the Rake which ends up dominating the plot?
or C) Series shifts gears and is now a manhunt with the paranormal elements pushed into the background?

[Let’s the Jeopardy music play for a bit]

Okay so what happens is he posts a vlog saying “Oh, its all over now,” its so out of nowhere that you immediately know its bullshit, and that’s proven by the very next video–which in standard totheark fashion is some cryptic bullshit that reveals he’s being watched, though at least this one has a clear message: “You have something that belongs to us. We want it back. Deliver it to us and this will all be over.”

Now personally, if that happened to me I would be all like “Well, what is it? Where do you want me to deliver it to?” Instead he OF COURSE drags his heels and just acts all scared and stupid, though to be fair he does eventually decide to deliver it…. only to find some girl at the spot he was sent to, who (shockingly!) got the same message he did to meet in the exact same spot at the exact same time. His brother then forces him away from the park on the grounds of “you’re freaking that girl out and acting weird.”

I’m calling it right now: That girl was actually a cultist and played dumb because she knew the protag had been followed by his protective brother.

The very next episode is “Home Invasion,” where the most stereotyped robe-wearing cultists show up at dude’s house and he freaks out. Again, in this same situation I would’ve been all like “oh, here’s your thing. Sorry about the other day.” But nope suddenly they wanna capture him because they’re Evil and they do things because Evil. Also apparently (this I found from reading spoilers online once I realized the show had crosse the Stupidity Threshold) the Rake is intelligent, can talk, and actually controls these guys.

That sound you just heard was my head hitting a desk three times.

Seriously, Lovecraft would never have been this stupid. Even when Cthulhu had cultists, it was always under the implicit assumption that the cultists are their own thing and may be acting under misguided, potentially untrue believes–it was NEVER that Cthulhu actually organized them or values their service in any way, or at least openly acknowledges that he does. The reasons can be examined in depth, but for the sake of my rant are very simple: The minute you have the monster being an evil lord, he’s essentially just a gussied-up Doctor Doom, twirling his moustache and going “mwahahaha.” It reduces something that should feel otherworldly into something so prosaicly human that it stops being extraordinary and instead becomes mundane. YOU SHOULD NOT DO THAT.

Which brings up the whole issue of having a cult in the first place. It can work, but the minute you do so you’re walking a fine line where the slightest mis-step makes your work silly instead of spooky. Besides the issue of having the cult actually have a line to the monster, another issue is that cults often become just stereotype villains, “Mwahahahah,” Evil With a Capital E who do things because That’s Evil. You can’t do that, not without immediately ruining the atmosphere of the story. It’s harder to be scared when I know the world runs on G.I. Joe logic. If you have to have a cult, have them act like actual fricking people and not cardboard cut-out stereotypes.

And that leads back to a problem I ragged on in my “Slenderman Sucks” video: Don’t introduce a story element that takes the focus away from your paranormal element. The story is interesting when its about some naked dog-man-monster. But now its suddenly about a cult with the dog-man-monster merely being on a shelf somewhere, again way too similar to how many Slender series eventually minimize or entirely phase out Slenderman, often for something that’s not even half as interesting. I cared about the Rake. I didn’t give two shits about this two-bit cult.

So in summary…. Whispered Faith: Starts out strong, but quickly botches itself just six videos in. That’s gotta be a record.