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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24%
Average: 4%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Call of Cthulhu, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Unadaptable? Ha!"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2006 BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL: I can't say I'm a big fan of the Lovecraft mythos, and in some ways it's the sort of thing I've made some pains to avoid the past few years: A big, sprawling mythology that comprises multiple volumes and is so complicated as to spin off reference works. But there's obviously something there, for it to still have a following eighty years later, and one rabid enough to put together something like this.

Part of what's extraordinary is that this film is a labor of love, made by members of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society on digital video to resemble a three- or four-reel silent from 1926, the original novel's year of publication. Some modern digital effects and stop-motion is used, but the polish is deliberately held back a little, although in some cases shots of a bizarre, alien landscape which are obviously cheap CGI also look like abstract silent film sets. I don't know if you go this route with a book that isn't from and set in the silent era, but here the conceit works.

As was more common at the time, we get a sort of nested narrative - a man in some sort of hospital setting tells a story of how his inheritance from his great-uncle included a diary detailing his own investigations of the Cult of Cthulhu, and his own tale includes stories related by others. As fans know, Cthulhu and his brethren are Old Ones, alien beings of incredible power who came to Earth in the distant past who can drive men mad with a glance. Cthulhu has been hibernating and must not be wakened, but the very knowledge of his existence brings forth a powerful curiosity...

Lovecraft is known as much for how he wrote as what he wrote, and while screenwriter Sean Brannery and director Andrew Leman can only capture so much of the dense prose via intertitles and pointing the camera at words written in diaries, but they still do a good job in building a growing sense of wrongness, and when the good ship Alert reaches a deserted isle near New Zealand, it's grand pulp adventure. It's here that the film breaks out its special effects, and they look pretty good for a low-budget production. The monster is kept in the shadows, but, of course, that's for our protection - no good driving the audience mad.

The cast does all right mimicking the way silent movie actors performed without camping it up. To be honest, with a few exceptions, I sort of gave up on keeping track of them; there's a lot of characters in forty-five minutes of movie. The silent style can cover up much roughness from the budget cast, so it works out. The music is period-accurate and does a great job of setting the mood.

I'm sure fans of Lovecraft's original work can find things to nitpick with "The Call of Cthulhu", and that's their prerogative - though I gather it gets more praise than derision. Fans of silent horror would find it to be a highly effective pastiche, maybe not good enough to be passed off as a film lost for eighty years, but good enough to be considered the real thing.

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originally posted: 04/01/06 10:34:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Slamdance Film Festival For more in the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival series, click here.
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Hole in the Head Film Festival For more in the 2006 Hole in the Head Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantasia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/24/20 Mike If you love LoveCraft, you will love this film. 5 stars
3/25/18 morris campbell have not seen it the short story is good though 3 stars
2/15/15 john retarded film for retarded people 1 stars
11/07/11 G Herman One of my all-time-favorite movies. But I still use a 60 year old Retina camera with Tri-X. 5 stars
4/24/07 David Pollastrini The Metallica song is better! 5 stars
7/04/06 Ia! Ia! Cthulhu F'tagn!! (or Karen from NC) Silent expressionist cinema was the PERFECT choice! I'm ordering the DVD right now!! 5 stars
1/29/06 CthulhuFhtagn I would have to agree, along with "Cool Air" and "Dream-Quest" (animated), it's brilliant. 5 stars
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  29-May-2007 (NR)
  DVD: 29-May-2007



Directed by
  Andrew Leman

Written by
  Sean Branney

  Ramón Allen Jr.
  Leslie Baldwin
  Daryl Ball
  John Bolen
  Andra Carlson
  Aidan Branney

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