“I remember when I was a kid out of the studios came the big event horror movies, ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Jaws,’ ‘The Shining,’” del Toro recalled. “It is my hope that this movie will be a tentpole movie [of that sort]. It has the scope of a Shackleton epic exploration movie but it’s full of tentacled things.”
Madness is one of the few novels Lovecraft ever wrote, and it is one of his best tales. Written later in his brief career, when he was moving away from horror toward science-fiction, it tells of an expedition to the Arctic that uncovers evidence of a lost civilization of aliens. Some of the aliens thaw out and slaughter members of the expedition, but there is a twist regarding the creatures that predates later STAR TREK episodes like DEVIL IN THE DARK. The novel also provides a sort of history of the alien invasion, depicted in hieroglyphics inside an ancient building, that clearly influenced some ideas in Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay for ALIEN (which were omitted from the final film).
Del Toro says the novel is perfect for a film adaptation, because it leaves room for the screenplay to develop drama and characterization:
“It’s not hard to be faithful to Lovecraft because what is great about the novel is that it’s a compilation of really dry scientific annotations that happen to be annotating something really scary. There is no character or dramatic thread,” he insisted. “You take those document and you then create a story. If you were [just rigidly faithful] you would be doing a National Geographic special on a crew that disappeared in an exploration mission.
“I’m happy with [my script],” he continued. “I know some people would like a happier ending but I’m happy with the ending there is.”