August 20th, 2014: The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

The Call of Cthulhu

What It’s About:  The death of his uncle leads a man (Matt Foyer) to discover the secrets of an ancient, alien god who lies dormant under the sea-and draws the attention of the cult that serves it.

Why Watch it Today?: H.P. Lovecraft, Providence’s own master of horror and weird fiction (and notoriously racist and borderline mad), was born on this date in 1890.  Few of the films based on Lovecraft’s short stories come even close to greatness, but his influence on the genres he wrote in is still felt and his fans continue to create their own art in the same vein.  Today’s film is a unique attempt to capture the spirit of Lovecraft’s work by imagining what an adaptation of it might have looked had it been snapped up immediately for production (considering The Jazz Singer, which spelled the doom of silent films, came out just one year later).  The result is a fun short film (at 47 minutes in length it’s a bit too long for a short and a bit too short for even the shortest of feature films) which doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

Other Choices:  For years I considered The Resurrected my favorite Lovecraft adaptation.  I am not quite as willing to forgive the film’s uneven acting (the Colonial flashback is particularly painful) as I once was, and, to be completely honest, it’s a better adaptation of a Call of Cthulhu role-playing game (not that I played extensively) than it is of Lovecraft proper.  Still, if you can handle direct-to-video 90s fare with C-List actors, some pacing problems and a clear sense that the production was troubled it’s a lot of fun.  Re-Animator is a beloved cult favorite, a blackly comic splatterfest that is one of the best of its time and type; my problem with naming it as a great Lovecraft adaptation is that it’s not really in the spirit of Lovecraft’s (usually deadly serious) works.  The Haunted Palace and The Dunwich Horror, meanwhile, are highly entertaining examples of everything wrong with Lovecraft adaptations before the 1980s; usually they either attempt to smash Lovecraft’s work into the Poe mold or they used the name and parts of the plot to fill out rip-offs of other horror movies.  There are also some interesting adaptations of Lovecraft’s work for radio…I’m particularly fond of Suspense’s adaptation of The Dunwich Horror featuring Ronald Coleman, which puts it in the mold of Orson Welles’ adaptation of The War of the Worlds.

3 comments on “August 20th, 2014: The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

  1. geelw says:

    For me, one of the best Lovecraft works was Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, an old Xbox and PC game that’s a bit tough to find and a little rough around the edges, but it sure captures the spirit and intent of the man’s stories. I keep meaning to track down that little film above, so thanks for the reminder!

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