How PG-13 Killed Guillermo Del Toro’s Lovecraft Movie

What seemed to be too good to be true turned out to be just that. Universal has pulled the plug on Guillermo Del Toro’s adaptation ofthe seminal HP Lovecraft novel At The Mountains Of Madness, citing Del Toro’s insistence on making the movie a “hard R” rather than a PG-13 as the reason for the axing.

While Del Toro and co-producer James Cameron are said to be shopping the concept around to other studios, it seems unlikely that any other studio would have the bravery to make a big-budget movie aimed solely at an adult audience. The sad state of affairs is that today you simply can not spend $150 million on a movie which is not going to allow 14 year-olds into the cinemas and it doesn’t matter if you have a hugely accomplished director and the highest-earning film-maker of all time filming a literature classic – we still need to get the families in there together with their 3D-specs on.

The problem is that some stories need to be told a certain way. It’s frankly absurd to consider most of Lovecraft’s bibliography made accessible for people who are just barely entering puberty because at their core, they are stories that delve into the very bottom line of horror and insanity. Lovecraft wrote books and short stories about the edges of fear and what a human mind can tolerate to experience before it turns in on itself and if you round off those jagged edges then the poignancy is lost. It’s true that you can make excellent horror and still keep the PG-13, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring is an absolutely masterful film that didn’t compromise on the chills but was still made accessible for (ugh) a wide audience, but apart from a few noticeable examples it really isn’t an easy task to create something frightening and still keep the tween dollars rolling in.

Like this wouldn't make any Happy Meal infinitely more awesome.

Is this a death rattle of the big-budget movie for grown-ups then? I can’t say for sure, but it certainly doesn’t look too promising. The horror genre has always been plagued by snobbery and this causes a bad circle to occur, the same snobbery that has lead to only three horror movies ever being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and saw Sigourney Weaver snubbed for her game-changing portrayal in Aliens. So many horror movies today are made to suit both horror fans and (ughhh) a wide audience but ends up appealing to neither since true horror fans are going to sniff out a watered down imposter from miles away and non-horror fans aren’t going to be swayed by anything in the genre unless it comes packaged with some marketing spectacle, a la Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity.

And really, it makes little sense in a climate that witnessed SEVEN Saw movies rake in millions year after year after year. Say what you will about those movies but they were unequivocally made with a gore-loving adult market in mind and people flocked to them. Clearly the market exists but it’s a fickle and unpredictable one that studios are worried about going after. Del Toro has proven himself time and time again to be able to combine big-budget blockbuster appeal with an uncompromising visual and emotional style. The man knows and loves horror, not as a guilty pleasure but as a worthwhile genre in its own right and he treats it with grace and respect. He is the best man for the job and Universal cowering out is a tragedy if it turns out to be nail in the coffin for the film.

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