What happens when we imagine the unimaginable? This article compares recent films inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos with that author’s original early 20th century pulp horror stories. In Guillermo del Toro’s films Pacific Rim and Hellboy, monsters that would have been obscured to protect Lovecraft’s readers are now fully revealed for Hollywood audiences. Using the period-appropriate theories of Rudolf Otto on the numinous and Sigmund Freud on the uncanny, that share Lovecraft’s troubled history with racist othering, I show how modern adaptations of Lovecraft’s work invert central features of the mythos in order to turn tragedies into triumphs. The genres of Science Fiction and Horror have deep commitments to the theme of otherness, but in Lovecraft’s works otherness is insurmountable. Today, Hollywood borrows the tropes of Lovecraftian horror but relies on bridging the gap between humanity and its monstrous others to reveal a higher humanity forged through difference and diversity. This suggests that otherness in modern science fiction is a means of reconciliation, a way for the monsters to be defeated rather than the source of terror as they were in Lovecraft’s stories.
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