Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu; the (silent) movie

I finally bought and watched 2005's The Call of Cthulhu silent movie.

H. P. Lovecraft's stories' phantasmagoric aspects have always made them hard to capture on film.  After years of producers trying with modern filmmaking, Sean Branney and Andrew Leman decided to go retro.  Why not make the movie as it would have been adapted when it was written - in the 1920s?  Silent movie, stop motion effects, models, etc.

It's a fun idea.  So, does it work?

Yes & no.

It is an extremely faithful adaptation of the short story.  It adheres to it tightly.  But, what you get then is a montage of stories, threaded through mostly by recollection, lacking immediacy (other than the narrator.)  If you keep track, after all, by the time you get to the swamp raid in Louisiana, you are four flashbacks deep (Narrator - Uncle's papers - Legrasse, who is recounting an earlier incident.)

A real movie adaptation would need a more direct thru-line.  I would center it on Legrasse and tie him to the ship in the Pacific.  Your adaptation ideas may vary. ;)

They did cheat a little by using greenscreen, but I can't fault them for that.  They had a low budget and the greenscreen greatly helped there.  The Cthulhu stop motion model is great.  One or two shots of the Old One moving swiftly, hand grabbing at the camera, were effective.  But, it felt far more like a King Kong moment than anything cosmic or cross-dimensional.

All that said, I do think they managed to capture a truly "Lovecraftian" moment when one of the sailors disappears into a corner while they are fleeing R'lyeh.  It was unexpected and a good take on the whole "wrong geometry with wrong angles" sort of thing.  They go over it in the making-of documentary - they greenscreened a shaft where the actor made a stunt fall.

It's fun take on the story, a faithful take on the story, and interesting to watch and very interesting to watch the making-of documentary.  But, it is by no means horrifying, or terrifying or scary.

It was an enjoyable romp, and I will most certainly be buying The Whisperer in Darkness (a talkie!) sometime soon.


  1. Very cool, I had heard about it, but think I must have heard falsely that it was only 10 minutes or so long. I'll have to track it down.

  2. David, the movie itself is about 47 minutes long.

    I haven't gone through all the bonus material, other than the making-of doc.

  3. I hadn't even heard of this, or somehow didn't process it if I did. Might be good when one has the time to spend.

  4. I'd seen the trailers for this and thought they looked pretty good. Being somewhat of a silent movie buff, I felt they did a decent job of making it look a period piece. I'll have to check out the movie.