Tuesday, September 02, 2008

When Cthulhu Calls

I'd been seeing the trailer for a silent film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's story The Call of Cthulhu for some time, but I wasn't aware the completed film was actually available. The trailer was pretty nifty, managing to almost look like a real silent film from the 1920s. The other night, Jared mentioned that he'd seen the film at GenCon and that he thought I'd enjoy it. The ever helpful Cliff leaped to the computer and brought up the film on Amazon and I ordered it on the spot. Watched it Sunday night and did indeed enjoy it tremendously.
The folks at HPLHS (the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) have done a lot on a very small budget. What we have here is a very faithful adaptation of Call of Cthulhu, much more faithful than we're ever likely to get out of Hollywood and for the most part it's amazing what the filmmakers did on such a limited budget. It helps that the film is silent and in black and white. It allowed the filmmakers to integrate miniatures, full size sets, and real backdrops pretty seamlessly. When you watch the extras and see just how cheaply the various sets were made (many literally out of painted cardboard) I think you'll be impressed. The swamp set in particular manages to look like something from one of the later Universal horror films in stark black and white, when in color it just looks goofy. There are also some very cool forced perspective effects right out of the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The weakest effects are probably the (thankfully) limited stop-motion sequences. Those occur near the end of the film and while a couple of them almost work, a couple of others just look silly. But that's a small complaint. For the most part, this amateur production works surprisingly well. It's got a lot of heart, and that goes a long way. Were a Hollywood production to use the structure of this movie with some good special effects we could get a really nice movie, I think. But in the meantime, this is probably the best Lovecraft film yet.

2 comments:

John Corey said...

howse about a link?

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Sure thing, John. here's the officla site:

http://www.cthulhulives.org/cocmovie/index.html

and here's the trailer at youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHuY2wXTd0o