Directed by Henry Saine
Starring Kyle Davis, Devin McGinn, Gregg Lawrence and Barak Hardley
This isn’t based on a specific Lovecraft story, although its main source of inspiration is obviously “The Call of Cthulhu,” written in 1926 and published in 1928.
When cultists of Cthulhu discover one part of a two-part relic that will release their god from his undersea prison, the mysterious Council — a bunch of bearded goodies — decide that the only person who can keep their half of the relic safe until danger passes is the last living descendant of H.P. Lovecraft himself. Unfortunately for them, that descendant is aimless slacker Jeff Phillips. With the relic in hand, Jeff and his best friend Charlie go on the lam, picking up nerdy Cthulhu expert Paul along the way and aiming to meet up with grizzled old sea captain Olaf, who apparently knows something about fighting Cthulhu. Hot in pursuit are Cthulhu’s number-one guy, Starspawn, and his army of Deep Ones. Well, there are like two or three of them. His squad of Deep Ones. Yadda yadda final battle, yadda yadda dynamite, yadda yadda new life as professional adventurers, the end.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, it’s a low-budget horror comedy with cheap monster effects and cheap laughs. The jokes are really the main problem: good effects cost money, good sets cost money, good performances cost money (because rehearsals and retakes cost money), but good jokes and bad jokes cost the same amount. Here the comedy is a bit hit and miss; there are a few good gags, but a lot of things that feel like there was a plan somewhere reading FUNNY JOKE HERE.
What’s right with it?
It is surprisingly good-looking and well-made. The fight scenes are a little half-assed, but other than that the film looks pretty good. It also has a nice variety of locations, with a few really impressive shots. There are only one or two really terrible, boring backdrops. The film moves around a lot, running from place to place with lots of incident and variety.
How bad is it really?
Actually, it was unfair to call it half-assed; it’s half-baked. There are a lot of ideas and gags rattling around in it, but a lot of them feel by-the-numbers, like someone told the filmmakers you’re supposed to make fun of nerds or complain about dead-end jobs so they put those gags in despite not having any great ones in mind.
Best bit (if such there is)?
The animated sequences. The titles and one of the bits of mid-film narration are accompanied by cute little animations that are quirky and fun.
What’s up with…?
- Paul’s fake relic? He has a replica of the artefact which he later uses to fool Starspawn, but only half of it — why only half? And why that half? That was lucky! He could have had a replica of the half Starspawn wasn’t looking for and then they’d have been SOL.
- In fact, knowledge of the story in general? The Council is a secret society, but everyone seems to know the whole story except for Jeff.
- Random murder vignettes? There are two scenes of random sailors and beachgoers getting murdered (in one case, “60 miles off the coast” with the coast clearly visible in the background), which I guess are meant to remind you the Deep Ones are getting closer? Never do two things like that. One thing or three.
- Olaf’s gill-man? He has to be in water to breathe, but he doesn’t breathe water; his gills are in the open air.
- Starspawn’s army? All-conquering alien horde defeated by three slackers and a drunk sea captain armed with two pistols, a harpoon and a box of antique dynamite. And Jeff’s magic immunity, I guess.
- Pretty coworker at the beginning? She forthrightly comes on to Jeff despite his total lack of interest and awful haircut; then she never appears again. Did someone just remind them that a movie is supposed to have at least one girl in it? She is the only female character other than Paul’s grandma. I sort of assumed they were going to run into her again, but nope.
Production values Good locations, reasonable lighting, cheapo costumes and props — 14
Dialogue and performances Not too many are actually bad — 12
Plot and execution Tight, straightforward core with lots of pointless digression — 14
Randomness Very high; what isn’t contrivance is coincidence — 16
Waste of potential On the one hand, it’s pretty good considering its low budget, but on the other hand it’s easy to see a few ways it could have been improved (in armchair hindsight, anyway) — 12