Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron’s At the Mountains of Madness, the big-budget adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella of the same name, has been in some stage of pre-production for years now. In fact, it was only after Cameron joined the team in the wake of Avatar (bringing his vaunted 3D cameras with him) that there seemed to be any real progress on the film.

Now, unfortunately, it appears that it was all for naught. According to Deadline, after months of stalling on Madness, Universal still isn’t ready to give the go-ahead on the $150 million R-rated horror picture. Understandably, del Toro doesn’t want to wait around in perpetuity, which is why – if he doesn’t get an immediate green light – he’ll be moving onto his next film: Pacific Rim.

Apparently, the likelihood of there being an immediate green light is slim to none, as Universal just isn’t prepared to risk so much money on a hardcore horror movie about – amongst other things – nine-foot-tall monster penguins from Antarctica. I can’t say I completely blame them, even if I am incredibly disappointed. The movie would need to make at least $500 million worldwide to be worth it for the studio.

In addition to James Cameron, Don Murphy and Susan Montford were set to produce, and Tom Cruise was even on deck to star. (Not that that means as much these days, in terms of box-office returns.)

News of At the Mountains of Madness’ imminent demise comes mere hours after Murphy sent io9 an email saying:

“Mountains is very close to the Lovecraft supposed to shoot in June yes with [Tom Cruise].”

Which, if I may be so bold, implies that the filmmakers were at least hoping for a June start date.

Later in the day, Murphy walked the above statement back a bit in a correspondence with Drew McWeeny of HitFix, saying:

“We are all trying to get Mountains up and running with Tom [Cruise] and Jim [Cameron] and everybody but no start date has been set AT ALL.”

It seems that either something happened between Don Murphy talking up the forthcoming film production and the later reports of its doom, or he was just doing what every producer does – pretending everything was a-okay until the ship was officially sunk. Pardon my terrible metaphor.

The death of At the Mountains of Madness is extremely disappointing news for H.P. Lovecraft aficionados. Though the work of Lovecraft has been translated to the big screen more times than I can count – sometimes explicitly, but most times by way of that thing called “homage” (Evil Dead, In the Mouth of Madness, Hellboy) – never has there been a truly accurate nor faithful adaptation. Even Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond, easily the best and most popular of the cinematic Lovecraft adaptations, are known far more for their satirical slant than they are for their place in the canon of Lovecraft.

What do you think? Are you disappointed that del Toro is likely leaving At the Mountains of Madness at least for the time being – or are you excited to see Pacific Rim in its place? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Deadline, io9, & HitFix