The World of Cosmic Horror


Mehru Siddiqui

Think of our solar system and ponder on the fact that it is not the center of the universe. Think about a universe with no center. A universe we will never be able to understand or explore. No limit. No true sense of reality. What role do you play in that universe? Do you even have a role? These are questions that were popularized by the Cosmic horror genre.

What is Cosmic horror? Cosmic horror, also known as Eldritch horror or Lovecraftian horror, uses the fear of the unknown and incomprehensible to showcase humanity’s insignificance in comparison to the vast universe. Cosmic horror was created and popularized by early 20th-century author H.P Lovecraft. It typically uses aspects of horror like gore or shock. 

But what makes Cosmic horror so terrifying? While the monsters are certainly frightening, the horror aspect is created by the descriptions and motives behind them. The use of more obscure and abstract horrors adds to the viewer’s experience. An example would be this description from H.P Lovecraft’s The Unnamable: “It was everywhere — a gelatin — a slime; a vapour; — yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes — and a blemish. It was the pit — the maelstrom — the ultimate abomination.” In this description of the Unnamable, it starts as tangible, then it becomes more obscure and abstract, lacking a focal point. This is how the creatures of the cosmic horror genre bend the rules of reality in appearance. 

Another interesting part of Cosmic horror is its human characters. Though most of H.P Lovecraft’s protagonists are human, they are never the main characters. Just pawns played by two opposing forces. Cosmic horror uses this technique to make the reader feel small and isolated. This adds to the horror movie experience by making the person feel a lingering sense of dread and uneasiness. It plays into our own sense of importance. 

Here are some great books, movies, and other media that use cosmic horror:

  1. The SCP Foundation. The SCP Foundation is a wiki page for writers to create stories or creatures for the SCP universe. Most articles are about strange creatures or objects that alter our perception of reality and don’t make sense. Most writers use a professional format to write files about these monsters from the point of view of scientists and researchers.
  2. H.P Lovecraft’s books and short stories. The best way to learn about cosmic horror is from its creator. Some favourites are The Call of Cthulhu, The Mountains of Madness, and The Unnamable.
  3. Some good movies are Annihilation, Bird Box, and The Thing.

Enjoy diving into some cosmic horror this Halloween!