H.P. Lovecraft fans have always lamented at the absence of any faithful, good adaptations of Lovecraft’s work. Sure, there have been notable films that were inspired by Lovecraft’s writings, but there has yet to be a film that accurately and faithfully took an H.P. Lovecraft story from the page to the screen. That is until now. With The Call of Cthulhu, The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society have created a film that any other H.P. Lovecraft films should be judged. What is even more amazing is that the film was painstakingly created to look as if it had been made in the 1920s. It is black and white and silent (complete with title cards). It is also the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptation to date.
The story of The Call of Cthulhu centers around a man who has just inherited the estate of his recently deceased great uncle. Among the great uncle’s possessions is a locked box that contains a plethora of stories, newspaper clippings and other documents detailing strange and bizarre news from around the globe; news of nightmares, a strange artifact, and a cult of Cthulhu. The story that seems to lie within all these seemingly random clippings becomes an obsession for the man and he is determined to find out what it is. Part of his investigating leads him across the globe to try and interview people surrounding the unbelievable events of a cargo ship found adrift in the South Pacific. In doing so, he is introduced to a living nightmare, and like his great uncle, driven to the brink of madness by the secrets he uncovers.
Written and directed by the founders of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, Andrew Leman and Sean Branney decided to take a Lovecraft tale, put it to film and try not to lose the the effectiveness of the story. A task thought not possible by many filmmakers because of the simple fact that the monsters that dwell in H.P. Lovecraft tales are almost un-explainable. These are not vampires, madmen or werewolves – these are Gods from other worlds and dimensions – to lay eyes on one could quite possibly drive some men insane. H.P. Lovecraft’s creations work off the readers imagination and face it, your imagination conjures up more horrifying images than any special effects artist could ever dream of. Since a big budget CGI Cthulhu was not within their means, Andrew Leman and team approached this problem in a very unique, or some would say gimmicky, way. By making the film look as if it was shot in the ’20s, they are able to skirt around this issue and create a film using all the visual effects from that era such as stop-motion, a sea made of fabric, and forced perspective tricks combining real actors with miniatures that are close to the camera. Dan Novy employs these tricks, and in doing so, the film maintains a surreal feel while still accurately displaying a faithful adaptation of Lovecraft’s story.
Every one of the actors in Call of Cthulhu, all wearing pancake makeup, do an exceptional job with the material and most of their acting coming from facial expressions and body language. There is an obvious feeling that the actors involved in this film knew what they were creating and loved the source material as much as the fans. Using masterful scene transitions to mark the narration-within-narration style of the story, Andrew Leman keeps the viewer engrossed throughout the entire film and with the help of cinematographer David Robertson, succeeds in bringing scenes that are beautiful, frightening and hard to forget. From the Cthulhu cult found deep in the bayous to an unfortunate crew of a cargo ship exploring an uncharted island, every scene is a joy to watch, regardless of what is being shown.
With a silent film such as The Call of Cthulhu, one of the most important factors is the score. It is the only sound heard while watching the film and is responsible for setting moods, building tension and dread or just plain scare you. The music in The Call of Cthulhu is an achievement in itself. Created by Chad Fifer, Ben Holbrook, Troy Sterling Nies and Nicholas Pavkovic, these guys did an exceptional job. The score of The Call of Cthulhu is amazing as it sounds like a score for an older film, it also accomplishes every job it was in charge of doing. From simple conversations, to action sequences, the score to this film ranges from calming, epic, to frightening. Throughout the film it manifests a sense of dread; that the story was leading somewhere quite unpleasant.
For anyone who has heard of Lovecraft, but has yet to read any of the stories for whatever reason, definitely try and watch this film. It is pretty much a page for page adaptation of the story itself and pretty effective. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft should seek this out as well as anyone who wants to see bona-fide proof that you do not need a massive budget, gore, elaborate effects, and ‘stars’ to make a genuinely good film. Pick up this DVD as these guys deserve it. Besides it would be nice to see them get enough profit from this film to try and tackle other H.P. Lovecraft stories. The Call of Cthulhu proves that they are quite capable. Check out the Official Site for moreinformation as well as a slection of music samples.