Older Gods: A Faithful Lovecraftian Horror Tale

Image Courtesy of Wagyu Films

It’s rare these days to do cosmic horror well, particularly with regard to H.P. Lovecraft’s vivid imagination. His stories are inspiring film, TV, and video games rather consistently lately, from HBO’s Lovecraft Country to Joe Lynch’s forthcoming Suitable Flesh, or Cyanide game Call of Cthulhu. Even rumblings of Guillermo Del Toro wanting to adapt Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness as an epic have been muttered. Yet, even with the weight his Academy Award-winning clout brings, major studios seem unwilling to grant him a budget suitable for an Eldrich god to make the film. Filmmakers like Del Toro continue to dream of these cosmic demons and the madness-consuming journey that will lead protagonists to them, but only indie directors have had the guts to push through and continue the well-spring of fear that has made the sci-fi horror writer of the ’20s and ’30s become a modern-day adjective. David A. Roberts is the latest director to join a wealth of talented compatriots with Lovecraftian creations, and if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, his film Older Gods is certainly worth a look.  

Chris stands in front of a spralling tree in Older Gods
Image Courtesy of Wagyu Films

After his childhood friend Billy (Ieuan Coombs) is assumed dead by suicide, Chris Rivers (Rory Wilson) heads out to his remote homestead in the Wales countryside to try and wrap his head around the senseless tragedy. Chris uncovers a host of video files and documents Billy left for him, knowing the end was imminent. Much of Billy’s content concerns a symbol, a circle within a circle, and a conspiracy involving a religious cabal seeking to bring an ancient evil into our realm. As Chris digs deeper into what Billy was involved in, intensely strange things begin occurring, from cosmic nightmares to the appearance of a strange cloaked man stalking Chris and breaking into Billy’s home.   

Grief spirals permeate throughout Chris’ struggle with both the relentlessness of Billy’s documentation and the events happening around him in the aftermath of loss. By blaming himself, Chris resigns himself to understand what happened to Billy, and if you know your Lovecraft, that never ends well. 

I have seen a lot of indie Lovecraftian films, from pretty much everything in Stuart Gordon’s filmography to last year’s Offseason, The black and white indie Color Out of Space, ahead of Richard Stanley’s interpretation featuring Nic Cage. No matter what you think of any of them, one of the most challenging aspects of adapting Lovecraft or crafting a Lovecraft-inspired film is getting the Lovecraft elements to fit around a pace that works. Not many can pull it off, yet Older Gods captivates, engages, and embroils the viewer without sacrificing story or action while incorporating many of the author’s stories and themes.

The cult symbol of a circle within a circle in Older Gods
Image Courtesy of Wagyu Films

Roberts moves the story along by combining components, pushing Chris into a hike while he listens to Billy’s recordings through his iPhone, podcast style. It’s much better than just watching the video play on the laptop, as we sometimes get in low-budget features, a choice that can kill the pace of a film. Roberts can then settle the viewer through nature, introduce a heart-stopping detail, and then turn the calmness of Chris’ environment against them. These little juxtapositions resonate throughout Older Gods, from the seemingly boundless farmland Billy’s cottage resides on to the intimidating isolation Chris feels while he stays there. Or watching a psychiatric patient’s evaluation tape while Chris feels he’s succumbing to madness.  

Shaun Bishop’s cinematography adds to keeping Older Gods from staggering as well, from roaring vista shots out of the front window of the cottage to the dreamscapes of Chris at odds with an entity supernaturally as large as a planet. Chris is forced to see himself as the minuscule David against the vast, cosmic horror of Goliath in a single frame, and it works in a grandiose fashion of humbling terror when considering a man is at adversarial odds with the universe.  

David A. Roberts doesn’t tread a whole lot of new ground with Older Gods. Still, the subtle undertones of abject permanence shine through as Chris walks in Billy’s shoes and defies the overbearing insistences of the elder gods and their followers. Like in Lovecraft’s Celephais, eternity exists in the believer’s mind, so the gods’ offer of eternity becomes a promise with a quid pro quo attached for ritualistic sacrifice. Using his moral conscience, Chris weighs his beliefs against being chosen by the gods. The film becomes antagonistic to religious hypocrisy, proposing a philosophy about choosing what’s conscionably right over an apocryphal version of immortality or heaven concept. Chris’ moral obligations to others, such as Billy’s memory, his pregnant girlfriend, and his unborn child, touch upon humanity’s strengths to do what’s right even when provided an easy path while saddled with the burden of grief.  

Chris looks over his shoulder in Older Gods
Image Courtesy of Wagyu Films

The film’s finale oozes with uplifting sentimentality and perhaps a little too much. Though it fits the arc of Roberts’ story and themes, especially to consider the paths of those righteous enough to resist temptation and follow their own moral compass, it is also overstuffed with corny dialogue in a bit of a lingering scene. Despite this, Older Gods remains a stunning, dread-soaked edition to cosmic horror. Wilson tosses the film on his shoulders and, thanks to Robert’s excellent script and extensive direction, creates a horror drama the viewer can lose themself in. The cinematography’s foreboding atmosphere and the expansive environment’s isolative qualities help elevate this supernatural story, providing unease and a few unexpected scares as well.  

Older Gods is currently available to rent or purchase exclusively through Amazon. Wagyu Films says the movie will expand to other digital retailers by the end of July.  


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  1. I felt this film dragged on with much of it taken up by repetition of same or simialr things over and over and OVER. I sped through it in the end as I hate not to know how things come out but I would never watch it again or recommend it to anyone. An utter waste of time

  2. What utter tripe. No explanations given regarding the host of odd events, just stuff that happened that the viewer has to accept. Were the cult real or was the lead character mad? Did he stab the skinless cult leader or did he stab himself? Do I find myself caring by the end of this drivel? No. This hollow and lifeless outing that started with promise and intreague soon became a tireless cliché with wet sentimentality holding the longest screen time. An absolutely awful film with little to no storyline or originality. Very cheap and amateur. So many loose endings left untied that it was like the loose fringe at the edge of a rug, rather than the intricate woven pattern that gives stimulation. Utter dross.

  3. Hmmm… I can’t see my comment. I will ASSUME that you simply hold comments until you can ‘Screen’ them, which in my lowly opinion is not truly ‘objective’ (you can ALWAYS remove anything offensive later) But, if it got lost, well… then you are out a good compliment 😊

  4. Very well written, especially for a difficult type of film to evaluate. Really appreciate you including references to many other Lovecraftian films, which would strongly suggest you know what the hell you are talking about… 😁

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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