Monday, September 22, 2014

"The Call of Cthulhu" DVD Review

"The Call of Cthulhu" DVD Review

Title card from the film set in the 1920's aesthetics.


"The Call of Cthulhu" is a short story written by horror/fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft in 1926. This story is the main element in his "Cthulhu Mythos" arc of writing during his lifetime.

Film makers since that time, have deemed that the story is 'unfilmable' because of the way that Lovecraft wrote his stories. No one had ever even tried to adapt it to the big screen because of this reason.

Then along came Sean Branney & Andrew Leman, founders of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. They believed that it could be adapted, but the approach would be non-conventional in nature. They overcame many of the technical issues of adapting the work by filming their screenplay in the style of films during the period in which Lovecraft himself would have been alive & written the story. Thus the movie is in black & white, silent and employs stop-motion animation (a la "King Kong"). In this manner they were able to stay true to the core material and present a movie made by Lovecraft fans for Lovecraft fans.

So, this film isn't for everyone. Being a member of the HPLHS myself and being very familiar with the written work, I can say that it is by far, the most accurate adaptation of any of Lovecraft's work.

Now, I will say that it is by far not the best or most successful (Re-Animator, From Beyond, etc).


The movie was adapted for filming by Sean Branney and is quite faithful to Lovecraft's source material. The movie comes in at 47 minutes, so the narrative is very compact and moves swiftly. This is accomplished by the use of montages, flashbacks & the odd "dialogue card or inter-title card" a la 1920's silent era films. The music is very well done and captures the mood of the film in a very unique way. The film was shot in glorious "Mythoscope" to boot!

This isn't a big budget picture, but the way it's presented is nothing short of a Lovecraft lovers dream.

I'm not going to go into great detail regarding the plot here as there is already voluminous information regarding readily available across the web. It will be  suffice to say that one mans journey into piecing together a maddening cosmic truth leads to an incredible conclusion.

The movie itself was an official selection of the Slamdance Film Festival, the Grand Prize Winner of the Avignon Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Film at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

The 2005 DVD cover (Front & Rear).


The animated menus are pretty cool with in-jokes galore in certain areas. Some features include the official movie trailer, a "Behind the Scenes" segment chocked full of some of the funniest anecdotes I've seen in quite a while. (The HPLHS motto is "Ludo Fore Putavimus" which means "We thought it would be fun"). A replica prop newspaper can be printed out through Adobe Acrobat, some deleted material and inter-titles in 24 languages!

Lovecraft reading will rejoice in seeing this story on screen and done with such passion and accuracy.

If you are interested Lovecraft, then get this film! If you've never watched a silent-era film, then it takes a few minutes to get used to actually "watching" a movie!!

                   Cthulhu rises from the sea.

Next, I'll review HPLHS Motion Pictures second Lovecraft adaptation (and far superior film) of the monster laden "The Whisperer in Darkness"!

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