The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
H.P. Lovecraft is considered by many to be the father of 20th century horror. His writing has influenced many horror fiction authors and his books and collections continue to sell to new generations of horror fans looking for the thrill of terror. However, by Hollywood’s standards most of Lovecraft’s works are considered un-filmable; partly because of the grandiose descriptions of ancient cities and cultures, partly because most of his stories are told with multiple flashbacks, and partly because much of his stories are the contemplation of ideas and concepts thought about by the main characters. Most Lovecraft stories adapted for film are re-written, quite often completely, leaving only the title, character names and most basic concepts in their wake.
Back in 2005, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society decided to focus on the most faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft story attempted to date. Sean Branney and Andrew Leman set their course unto a world unknown (much like Lovecraft’s characters themselves) and produced an extremely interesting project in “The Call Of Cthulhu”. With Branney adapting the screenplay and Leman directing, what was birthed is a very ambitious project by a devoted and determined crew.
The Call Of Cthulhu is a period piece set in the time in which Lovecraft wrote the story, 1926. For an interesting decision, Branney and Leman set out to shoot the film mirroring a motion picture that would be filmed in the 1920’s – that being a black & white, silent movie. To stay within their limited budget they employed a multitude of ingenious and creative techniques to tell the story of Cthulhu and the ancient city of R’lyeh and in my opinion they did so with stunning success.
If you have an appreciation for black & white image, Cthulhu is a silver screen gem of chromatic artistry and beauty. The grainy, old style film seems to add a convincing realism to the story. They follow the account of a man entrusted to care for his uncle’s possessions which include a case file on the Cult of Cthulhu, for which the nephew is advised to destroy. Intrigued, the nephew delves into the file which takes him around the world exploring strange and ghastly phenomenon that coincide with the alignment of a chain of heavenly bodies. The alignment of these stars will signal the rebirth of an ancient culture and the return of The Old Ones lead by the monstrous god, Cthulhu. The final investigative file recounts the fatal voyage of the crew and sea vessel, Alert. This segment of the film reminds me of my favorite black & white adventure epic, King Kong. Cthulhu likewise is an epic adventure and feels big as it ventures to the four corners of the world to discover the hidden secrets of the ancients.
It is quite interesting to watch the special features because you gain a real appreciation for the ingenuity and resourcefulness put forth to complete this epic adventure. The composite scenes are wonderfully crafted and the swamp set is impressive. Bringing the sea vessel, Alert, to life was a vast undertaking and it is quite interesting to see the techniques engaged to achieve the task successfully. The whole crew was phenomenal, from the set designs to the wardrobe and make-up. The music was crafted perfectly for a silent movie, a symphonic masterpiece in of itself. The cast fully delved into the 1920’s silent era of acting which employ quite different techniques than today. Matt Foyer is exceptional as ‘The Man’ discovering his uncle’s obsession and slowly getting absorbed by the case file his uncle had warned him about. Noah Wagner is also notable as Captain Collins, as he leads his crew to inevitable doom at the hands of the monster. And of course Cthulhu is represented by stop-motion animation similar to perhaps the early silent work of Willis O’Brien.
The Call Of Cthulhu may not be a film for the casual horror fan. You may have to have an appreciation for black & white film and nostalgia to enjoy it. If you are a H.P. Lovecraft enthusiast you would definitely want to check this film out. I enjoyed it very much because of both of these aspects.
review of The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) HPLHS Films
reviews of Lovecraft movies: Lovecraft in Film
(review was originally posted on Mantaray Pictures.com)