The recent New Yorker article (read it here) on film director Guillermo del Toro mentioned that he was working on a film version of H.P. Lovecraft's 1936 short novel At the Mountains of Madness. The story is a pretty frightening and downbeat one and probably wouldn't be a crowd pleaser on the level of James Cameron's Avatar. (Cameron, in fact, is attached to the movie as its producer.)
But based on the merits of the story itself, the proposed movie, in whatever shape it takes, won't be dull.
Frightening on so many levels, Mountains is presented as the account, by one who was there, of an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in the early 30s. Professor Dyer, who led the expedition, tries to dissuade future explorers by recounting how his party had unwittingly discovered the remains of fourteen bizarre-looking creatures whose existance was previously unknown to scientists. When half of these creatures, along with most of the expedition members (and their slegh dogs!) disappear, the rest of the party tries to fathom what had happened. Dyer and another member, Danforth, take an airplane to fly above and around the mountains where the creatures had been found and discover what appears to have been a city inhabited by beings from outer space called the Elder Things .
From a series of murials found in the lost city, Dyer and Danforth piece together the history of the beings that had founded this civilization millions of years ago. The Elder Things (ETs?), after coming to Earth, had been at war with other races including the followers of Cthulhu (a familar name to readers of Lovecraft's previous works) and the Mi-go (AKA the Abominable Snowmen), and had taken to using artificially-created creatures called the Shoggoths. But then, just as the Shoggoths had gained independent thought and started giving the Elder Things some hassle, another horrible evil further up the mountains reared it's head, forcing the Elder Things to flee.
As Dyer and Danforth put everything together, they discover that they're not the only living creatures currently in the city...
At the Mountains of Madness is a great claustrophobic, paranoid thriller. Between some chilling moments, like the realization of what had actually happened to the missing men and dogs, and the discovery that we may all be descended from another race from "out there", to the grim and oppressive tone (the story is related as a first person account, with no dialogue), this is a straghtforward horror thriller with science fictional overtones. It's also downbeat in it's conclusion. The Human Race, it's implied, can't defend itself against these superior (if ugly-looking) creatures from outer space. The results of encounters with the Elder Things are either horrible grisly deaths or insanity. (Dyer's recounting of events hints that he's trying very hard to keep it together...) If you want a good night's sleep, don't read this story. But if you love classic horror, check out At the Mountains of Madness!