Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Call of Cthulhu

A lot of love went into this film. You can tell that The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, who produced the film, really cared about their subject matter. The Call of Cthulhu is an interesting and well-made film, and that is something of a surprise considering the very fanboy nature of the project.

The producers have managed to overcome the obvious shortcomings of the budget in creative ways, especially with a story that bounces from Rhode Island, to St. Louis to New Orleans, and Greenland, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the South Pacific and back again.

As the director states, this isn't a dialogue driven story, it is largely a tale of mood, of the very idea of horror. The decision to shoot this as a silent film, in black and white, as it would have been done at the time the original story was published certainly serves the director well.

When a young man working to settle his uncle's estate discovers a mysterious lockbox among his belongings, what starts out as mere curiosity becomes a full blown obsession. The notebooks inside detail the uncle’s dream studies with a deranged young man, and a detective's investigation of a devilish cult. Our storyteller reads through them all, including hundreds of newspaper clippings of bizarre occurrences around the globe.

The film flashes back and shows us, first, the meetings between the uncle and his client, including his dreams of the nightmarish city of R'lyeh. We also see Detective Legrasse's raid on a murderous cult deep in the Louisiana bayou. Both Vignettes are put together quite effectively.

The highlight of the film comes with the final vignette, a recount of the crew of the Alert and her investigation of an uncharted island in the South Pacific. Their visit to R'lyeh is disastrous, as the sailors unwittingly stumble into Cthulhu’s home and wake him. Only one survives the encounter with the great beast.

The movie suffers greatest from being a bit too short. Just when things start to really get moving, the story comes to an abrupt end. And while the decision to shoot on digital video may have made sense economically, it falls a bit short in faithfully reproducing the look of a 20s-era production.

But otherwise, this film is worth seeing. The score is excellent, the acting top notch, and, so I am told, this is one the most faithful Lovecraft adaptations out there.

Directed by Andrew Leman • Unrated • 2005 • 47 minutes

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