The Summer of Lovecraft: The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

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“The celebrated story by H.P. Lovecraft brought at last to the silver screen.”

Directed by Andrew Leman
Starring Matt Foyer, Ralph Lucas and Chad Fifer

The Story

The Call of Cthulhu” is one of Lovecraft’s best-known stories. Our narrator inherits a collection of his late uncle’s notes and through them reconstructs the story of the barely-averted rising of Cthulhu, a monstrous being trapped beneath the sea. The whole story occurs in fragments — only the narrator, and by extension the reader, actually perceives the world-threatening scope of the monstrous secret. Its opening paragraph is one of the most famous things Lovecraft ever wrote.

The Film

Well, this fella inherits his uncle’s notes, see …

Seriously, this is probably the most story-faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft film we’ve seen yet. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society have always been exacting about their period detail — clue’s in the name — and they’ve even gone to the length of making the film as a black-and-white silent movie, as if it were made in the mid-late 1920s when the story was published. It’s an extreme stance in the period vs contemporary debate, all right, and it’s certainly something we haven’t seen before.

What’s wrong with it?

Not a lot. In some scenes, there’s a bit of a gap between concept and execution — you’re never going to get the exact appearance of an old silent film without shooting on older cameras, and that’s obviously impractical for a small independent production. Not all of the performances are perfect; turns out acting in a silent film is a whole ‘nother ball game. And obviously some of the big set-piece effects sequences are either beyond the budget or not quite right period-film-wise. But these are very small quibbles.

What’s right with it?

It’s a highly faithful adaptation that also succeeds as a piece of filmmaking in its own right; a bold, original idea executed well beyond what you’d think the means of the makers would indicate.

How bad is it really?

It’s good, and if you haven’t watched it you should.

Best bit (if such there is)?

I think I want to mention the score, which is original to the piece. It’s better than half the scores in the movies we review here, which is good news because you need good music for a silent film. Also the title cards are charming.

What’s up with…? 

The moustaches? I do think they could have let some of the unconvincingly moustached characters just go clean-shaven. (This is where someone’s gonna come along and tell me they’re all real.)

Ratings

Production values Exceptional for a little indie shop like the HPLHS. 4
Dialogue and performances Well, there’s no actual dialogue, but the performances are competent. 5
Plot and execution If anything doesn’t work, it’s because it doesn’t work in the original. 2
Randomness Again, it’s all rock-solid. 2
Waste of potential Frankly, I don’t think anyone thought they were gonna pull this off the way they did. 0

Overall 13%

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