5 days ago
Friday, July 23, 2010
Calling Out The Old God
I can't say that I am a fan of H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read any of his stuff, even though I keep meaning to do so. Years ago a friend of mine, who happens to be a big Lovecraft fan, talked to me about going to Rhode Island in order to go to a Lovecraft convention. The author Brian Lumley was going to be there, who I have read some books by, so I agreed to tag along. I got a book signed by Lumley, first book I have had signed by the author, and took a tour of Providence. Why take a tour? I was bored for one thing, but some of the places Lovecraft wrote about are actual places. These were pointed out, along with a few places Edgar Allan Poe was known for. Even though I was lonely, I went on the tour while my friend did something else, I did find it interesting. It was also my first time in Rhode Island and Boston, so that was very cool as well. Anyway, on with the review.
If you have read the short story The Call Of Cthulhu, then you can skip past this. Writer Sean Branney and director Andrew Leman have done their best to present the short story as faithfully as possible. Not that I would know, but many others describe this movie as the most faithful of all movies made based on a Lovecraft story. A man (Matt Foyer) is asked by his dying uncle (Ralph Lucas) to take care of his estate once he passes on. The man agrees and as he is going through his uncle's things, he comes across some newspaper clippings and research that his uncle had been doing about a series of events that took place years before. The story is told in a series of flashbacks that show us what the uncle and the man uncover about the old God Cthulhu.
Besides being faithful to the way that Lovecraft himself wrote the story, they also decided to film the movie in a way that would have been done around the time the story was originally written. The Call Of Cthulhu was first published in 1926, so Leman decided to go with a 1920's style of film. The Call Of Cthulhu is a film that was shot in black and white, and is also a silent film. You should also know this was all done with a very low budget, but they manage to pull it off all the same. While the look of the film still comes across as a new film trying to look old, it was still interesting to see a movie done in this way. It is a lost art so to speak. They do a good job with getting the feel of a silent movie though. All we hear is music, and maybe one sound effect if I remember right. Place cards are used to tell us what is being said. I haven't watched very many silent movies so I don't know if some things are never shown on place cards. There were times the actors was saying something, but we are never told what. Some of these it was easy to lip read what was being said, and other times it was explained in actions. This wasn't always the case though. Either way though, I still felt left out. It reminded me of when I was a movie that is sub titled or dubbed because if they don't tell me what a newspaper clipping someone is reading says, I don't know if I might be missing something important.
The way that The Call Of Cthulhu was shot is also an interesting story. The house that Lovecraft wrote this story in was used in the film. The house was filmed, and then they took old footage they found of that street and digitized it around the house. This wasn't the only scene done this way. The swamp scenes, which was my favorite part of the movie, are a few shots done separately and then put together. Sometimes it worked well, like the swamp scene, but at other times I didn't like how it turned out. They also wanted to use a special effect for Cthulhu that might have been used back in the day. They went with stop motion for Cthulhu. While I agree this was being used at the time, I have never really been a big fan of it. Even though Cthulhu appears in the story, although some disagree with that statement, and I know the movie is faithful to it, it doesn't mean they had to show him in the movie. In this case I do feel that less would have been more.
The acting wasn't too bad, but most times they lacked the exaggerated movements that you would often see in these types of films. My main problem was all the flashbacks. Reading the story in this way probably wouldn't be as bad, since my attention is usually completely on the book I am reading. I always try to give a movie my full attention, but it is much easier to be distracted. Not that I was in this case, but I can easily see someone who isn't fully focused on the movie easily getting confused by it. There are a lot of flashbacks, and even flashbacks within flashbacks.
For what it is, and it being a low budget film, The Call of Cthulhu isn't a bad film at all. Some feel they should have just told the story instead of trying to make it look like a 1920's film. In a way I agree, but at the same time it does set this movie apart because of that. If you enjoy the silent films, you might want to give this one a try to see how it compares. If you are a big Lovecraft fan, many feel this is the film to beat. As for me, I did enjoy it but I thought it could have been better than it turned out. Too many scenes didn't look all that great to me. Some might say that I have been spoiled by today's special effects, but I don't need a lot of them to enjoy a movie. I still loved the swamp scene, so I will always have that at least.
3 out of 5 Wouldn't ramming a big monster also hurt your ship?