Tentacle Ratings

From [YSDC] The Veiled Society
Jump to: navigation, search

"The Tentacle Rating", invented by Y.Whateley, is intended as a rough, subjective scale from zero to five "Tentacles" (represented by the letter S), measuring how "Lovecraftian" a film is.

On this scale, the majority of commercial films "based on" Lovecraft generally rate 2 to 3 Tentacles, while amateur/art films created by Lovecraft fans for Lovecraft fans often rate 3 to 4 Tentacles.

The rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely a measure of how "Lovecraftian" a film is.

Though originally intended for film ratings, the scale could be used for more than just films: for example, if the scale were applied to Lovecraft's own stories, few would get a full five Tentacles. (This rating's creator considers that normal and fairly accurate.)


The Tentacle Rating

Basic Scale

Basic Tentacle scale, for quick ratings - a rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)
  • SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; could be a very loose adaptation)
  • SSS__ (Three Tentacles: Lovecraftian; perhaps a pastiche created by a fan)
  • SSSS_ (Four Tentacles: Unusually Lovecraftian; a remarkably faithful adaptation)
  • SSSSS (Five Tentacles: definitively Lovecraftian; everything you'd expect from a Lovecraft adaptation and more)

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Optional Half-Tentacle Scale

Optional half-Tentacle scale (offers more granularity in rating a work):

  • s____ (Half a Tentacle: Not very Lovecraftian; has almost no connection to Lovecraft's work)
  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)
  • Ss___ (One and a Half Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian)
  • SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; could be a very loose adaptation)
  • SSs__ (Two and a Half Tentacles: Somewhat Lovecraftian; probably an unfaithful adaptation)
  • SSS__ (Three Tentacles: Lovecraftian; perhaps a pastiche created by a fan)
  • SSSs_ (Three and a Half Tentacles: Lovecraftian; a fairly faithful adaptation)
  • SSSS_ (Four Tentacles: Unusually Lovecraftian; you'll probably start gaining percentages in your Cthulhu Mythos skill from this!)
  • SSSSs (Four and a Half Tentacles: very Lovecraftian; an almost perfect adaptation of an especially Lovecraftian work)
  • SSSSS (Five Tentacles: definitively Lovecraftian; everything you'd expect from a Lovecraft adaptation and more; you might go mad from the work's revelations)

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Quick-Ratings

Just want to rate a film for "Lovecraftian" content, without all the flibber-flabber? Quick-Rate it!

  • S____ Lovecraftian in name only, or not very Lovecraftian at all.
  • SS___ Barely Lovecraftian. Either a non-Lovecraft work that is close in spirit, or a sloppy Lovecraft adaptation.
  • SSS__ Lovecraft-Light. A broad-strokes adaptation, or decent pastiche.
  • SSSS_ Very Lovecraftian. An unusually accurate adaptation or excellent pastiche.
  • SSSSS Lovecraft might have made this on his best day: it's the next best thing to a real-life Mythos Tome!



Generating a Tentacle Rating

How To Use the Basic Scale

The shortest version of the current draft:

  • Source Material - pick one:
    • Direct adaptation of a Lovecraft story? Two Tentacles. +2S
    • Obvious Pastiche/Imitation? One Tentacle. +1S
    • Original, non-"Lovecraftian" Plot? Zero Tentacles.
  • "Yog-Sothothry"? One Tentacle. +1S
  • Tentacles? One Tentacle. +1S
  • Cosmic Philosophy/Atmosphere? One Tentacle. +1S

How to Use the Half-Tentacle Scale

A more complicated but compatible scale:

  • Source Material - pick one:
    • Direct adaptation of a Lovecraft story? Two Tentacles. +2S
    • Obvious Pastiche/Imitation? One (or one half) Tentacle. +1S
    • Original, non-"Lovecraftian" Plot? Zero Tentacles.
  • "Yog-Sothothry"? One (or one half) Tentacle. +1S
  • Tentacles? One (or one half) Tentacle. +1S
  • Cosmic Philosophy/Atmosphere? One (or one half) Tentacle. +1S
  • OPTIONAL - Adjustment for Personal Taste:
    • Do you feel the work deserves a higher rating? Add a half-Tentacle +1s (Note that 5 full Tentacles is the highest rating.)
    • Do you feel the rating is more generous than the work deserves? Turn one "Tentacle" (upper-case S) into a "half-Tentacle" (lower-case s). (Note that Zero-Tentacle films aren't worth mentioning in a list of "Lovecraftian" movies.)


Details

Source Material Test

Direct Adaptation: was it an accurate, direct, explicit adaptation of a specific story? Lovecraft's name will probably appear in the credits; the work might even share the same name as the story it was adapted from. Perhaps something was added to the mix (a love interest, an action scene or two, and a castle burning down at the end are common), but, in general, it was a fairly faithful adaption. If yes: Award two Tentacles ( SS )

Pastiche/Imitation: if not a direct adaption, was it a pastiche, an "in name only" adaptation with little or nothing to do with the original story, or was it a work loosely based on or perhaps written in the style of one or more stories by Lovecraft, but with little or nothing in common with any specific story? Alternatively, was it based on a story by a member of the Lovecraft circle (Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, August Derleth, etc.) or one of his imitators? Typically, a pastiche will also pass the shared universe test, liberally seasoned with references to at least imitations of Lovecraft's monsters, tomes, etc., but will go one step further by implementing Lovecraftian plots and plot devices, atmosphere, etc., but it won't be an adaptation of any particular Lovecraft story. If yes: Award one Tentacle ( S ) NOTE: A half-Tentacle ( s ) might be awarded instead, if the imitation is not remarkably similar to Lovecraft's Unique style.

Totally original, non-Lovecraftian story: perhaps the original story was a more generic horror, science fiction, or fantasy tale, with only incidental Lovecraft elements appearing as occasional in-jokes, or by accident. Zero Tentacles.


"Yog-Sothothry" Test

Yog-Sothothry or Cthulhu Mythos: references to the shared Weird Universe ("Name Dropping"): does the work contain specific (possibly thinly-disguised) references to "Mythos" elements, like the Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth, Deep Ones, Arkham, or Miskatonic University?

Name-dropping Lovecraft's monsters, fictional books, etc. counts, as does a character wearing a "Miskatonic University" T-Shirt; "expies" (generic versions) of Mythos content count as well. Direct adaptations will almost always pass this test; many pastiches/copies will, too; sometimes, this is the only test a work will pass: "It mentioned Cthulhu once, but that's about it...."

If yes: Award one tentacle ( S ) NOTE: A half-Tentacle ( s ) might be awarded instead, if this connection is particularly weak: for example, if the work mentioned Cthulhu or the Necronomicon in the title, but neither appears in the film, then a half-tentacle would usually be more appropriate than a full one.

"Tentacles?" Test

Were there Tentacles? For many casual viewers, Lovecraft is most famous for his unique (and often tentacled) monsters, and often a similar monster is enough to register as "Lovecraftian" to all but the most purist reviewer. If nothing else, did the monster(s) at least have tentacles? (i.e., was the monster possibly copied from or inspired by Lovecraft?)

If yes: Award one tentacle ( S ) NOTE: A half-tentacle ( s ) might be awarded instead, if this connection is particularly weak; for example, if the work includes a glimpse of a vaguely Lovecraftian monster, but the work doesn't really do much with it that feels Lovecraftian, a half-Tentacle would usually be more appropriate than a full one.

Philosophy/Atmosphere Test

Cosmic Philosophy: does the work support a cosmic ("Lovecraftian") atmosphere and philosophy? ("Now all my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and interests and emotions have no validity or significance in the vast cosmos-at-large...", "One of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis..." - HPL)

The work may mix a sense of wide-eyed wonder at the universe with a feeling of cosmic dread, with the humanity of the characters and the laws and rules and morals of their universe being dwarfed against the greater horror of a cosmos that doesn't play by human rules. This mood and atmosphere tends to be very subjective and will almost certainly be the hardest part to nail down on film and for viewers to identify or agree on, but in the end at least some reviewers will sense some kinship with the mood and atmosphere of Lovecraft's stories, even if there's not an obvious Cthulhu or Necronomicon reference to be found anywhere in the work.

If yes: Award one tentacle ( S ) NOTE: This is largely a matter of taste; a half-Tentacle ( s ) might be awarded instead if the film "feels" slightly "Lovecraftian" in tone, but this undercurrent isn't particularly strong.

Personal Taste Adjustment

At the reviewer's discretion, a "half-Tentacle" can be added or substituted for a full Tentacle, depending on whether the rating generated by the scale seems a little too generous, or not quite high enough.


Example: Harvey Walters Rates The Whatsis

Harvey Walters tries his hand at submitting a film review to the Arkham Gazette for the exciting new saucer-invasion film, Jack Sawyer's The Whatsis! For some mad reason, Harvey decides to use the "Tentacles Rating" as part of his review.

The "Source Material" Test: The film is not based on any particular Lovecraft story, but Harvey feels that the film does have some similarities to Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, with polar explorers digging frozen aliens out of the ice, and being threatened by a horrific menace from the distant past. Harvey feels the similarity merits at least a Half-Tentacle as a Lovecraft pastiche (a work written/created in imitation of another artist's style).

  • Total so far: .5 Tentacles

The "Name Dropping" Test: Harvey looks hard, but doesn't see any of the usual references to the Lovecraft Circle's shared "Cthulhu Mythos", such as references to the Necronomicon, Yog-Sothoth, Deep Ones, Arkham, and so on. No Tentacles here!

  • Total so far: .5 Tentacles

The "Tentacles?" Test: Harvey decides the gruesomely gloopy monster that the explorers haplessly thaw out of the ice barely passes the "Tentacles Test": it doesn't really resemble anything from Lovecraft's fiction exactly, but it's surely close enough to count for a Half-Tentacle!

  • Total so far: 1 Tentacles

The "Philosophy/Atmosphere" Test: Harvey decides that the film's bleak outlook, downer ending, hostile cosmos, bizarre and freakish alien, and claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere are all suitably Lovecraftian in spirit to give The Whatsis at least a half-Tentacle for passing the "Philosophy/Atmosphere" Test.

  • Total so far: 1.5 Tentacles

"Personal Taste" Adjustment: Harvey really enjoyed the film, and feels it reminded him just enough of Lovecraft's best stories that it should deserve to be bumped up by a half-Tentacle for personal taste; he wishes he could bump it up higher, but the accursed "Tentacles Rating" really isn't very perfect. Nevertheless...

  • Total so far: 2 Tentacles

The final generated rating:

  • SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; could be a very loose adaptation)

That 2/5 Tentacles rating might be fair enough: that rating suggests that The Whatsis could be considered "barely Lovecraftian", perhaps that it could be thought of as a very loose, "Mythos-light" adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, which sounds just about right. A more generous rating might have pushed it up into the sort of three-Tentacle rating that a more explicitly Lovecraftian film (such as Steven Gordon's Fish God or Herbert West: Reviver) might have earned, and maybe the film didn't seem quite THAT Lovecraftian.

So, Harvey finishes his review, calling the film "barely Lovecraftian" (2/5 Tentacles), but gives the film a rave review for its quality and entertainment value: "The Whatsis is a MUST-SEE film, a perfect and terrifying blend of science fiction and horror!" (5/5 Stars)


Notes

On this scale, most obvious "Lovecraftian" films that appear on standard lists of "Lovecraft films" will rate two or three Tentacles, most larger lists will contain more than a couple one-Tentacle suggestions that fans will debate about, and there probably aren't more than a handful of (typically fan-made art/hobby labor-of-love) films that would rate higher than three Tentacles. Most lists of "Lovecraftian" films will probably also contain a handful of one-Tentacle films, as well as some (usually infamous) half-Tentacle "in name only" films.

Note again that this is not (necessarily) a rating of quality or watchability - a four- or five-Sign film is not necessarily a good film, and an otherwise excellent and entertaining film might rate one Tentacle or less!


Some notes:

  • The scale should rate from 0 to 5 Tentacles, but Zero-Tentacle films are generally not worth mentioning in lists of "Lovecraftian" films.
  • The reviewer may, if desired, add or drop a "half Tentacle" (lower-case s) if the reviewer feels that the connection is a little stronger or weaker than the rating suggests.
  • The scale was designed for films, but can be applied to literature, etc. Many of Lovecraft's own stories would fail to get a full five Tentacles; this is normal.
  • About the ratings:
    • There are lots of 0-Tentacle films (including many horror, science fiction, and fantasy works); however it's probably not worth documenting a 0-tentacle (i.e., non-Lovecraftian) film in a list of Lovecraftian movies.
    • A half-Tentacle film can be considered "not Lovecraftian": probably a film for completists or curiosity-seekers only, and the work is probably already infamous for having "Lovecraft", "Cthulhu" or "Necronomicon" in its title, and absolutely nothing else to do with Lovecraft or his creations.
    • A one-Tentacle film can be considered "debateably Lovecraftian": almost any list of "Lovecraftian" films will include at least a couple of one-tentacle films - some viewers might swear "it's Lovecraftian", others won't see the connection, arguments might ensue. These films will likely still be of interest to completists, or to viewers who find "perhaps only vaguely Lovecraftian" to be worth taking a chance on.
    • In general, most commonly-listed commercial "Lovecraftian" films will rate two or three Tentacles.
    • Many films supposedly based on Lovecraft stories fail to get more than two Tentacles; the more faithful adaptations would rarely get more than three.
    • A few rare films will rate four or even five Tentacles; these will generally be made by fans, for fans, rather than for a mass market audience.



Wiki Template: Film Pages

See: Films