The Call Of Cthulhu (2005)
I’ve been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing ever since I was introduced to Stuart Gordon’s interpretation of Herbert West: Re-Animator (at too young of an age). After being visually assaulted with the over the top gore and dark humor, I immediately wanted to know more about the stories the film was based on. The Herbert West stories were, at the time, hard to track down, so I began reading Lovecraft’s other works that were available. The difference between the style of the film and the style of writing was like night and day.
Lovecraft isn’t remembered, today, for describing his horrors in detail. More often, he would near the end of a tale and the character telling the story would basically say “It was too terrifying to describe and I almost went crazy.” But the man’s use of words to evoke a building sense of dread that culminates with something so shocking as to be indescribable would leave me with a racing pulse and nervous jitters. Lovecraft was a master at making the reader create his own personal vision of evil.
Obviously, to take a work that relies heavily on the use of language and imagination and translate it into a visual medium would seem to be an impossible task. Indeed, as much as I love Gordon and his Lovecraft films (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon) they are less literal translations of the original work and more works inspired by the ideas of the original stories. That’s not a bad thing, it just makes you appreciate the creativity of both artists in different ways.
The Call Of Cthulhu, however, might be the closest we ever get to an “authentic” Lovecraft adaptation. (Carpenter’s “In The Mouth Of Madness” was closest in tone and story, but it was not based on any actual work of Lovecraft.)
The decision to make the film as if it were created in the silent era definitely helped the filmmakers to evoke that bizarre other-worldliness that Lovecraft was so adept at writing. The black and white photography combined with some expressionistic sets and wonderful music really help to create a feeling of dread and unease. The decision also makes sure that the mistake of showing too much or being too extravagant isn’t an issue.
Oh, sorry. I got so carried away that I forgot to tell you the plot. A man in an asylum tells a doctor the story that led to his being locked up. As his great-uncle lay dying, he was to wrap up the affairs of his relative and came across papers describing his uncle’s attempt to learn more of the Cthulhu Cult. Soon, he is also trying to discover what, exactly, the cult is about.
I’m not doing the story justice, here. I
apologize. The film, however, does a near perfect job of faithfully adapting the source material. Told in flashbacks in a non-linear fashion, the movie jumps around but still stays coherent. I understand that many may not appreciate the film’s faithfulness to re-creating the look and feel of a silent film from the 20’s, but for those with patience and an open mind it’s a very rewarding experience. And ,at 46 minutes, it definitely does not wear out its’ welcome. (Somebody put the whole thing on the Toobs, btw. But it’s better to obtain a crisp copy to appreciate the lighting, camera-work and attention to detail.)
If you didn’t see this coming, there’s something wrong with you, but….
Rating: The first BMV 5 out of 5!!!
Nix says: Unless Guillermo Del Toro makes a perfect film out of At The Mountains Of Madness, this will likely be the best Lovecraft film ever made.