Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"The Call of Cthulhu" (DVD): some silent-movie goodness ...err ...evilness

During my recent indecision in buying the board game Arkham Horror or the RPG Call of Cthulhu, I spent an evening home alone watching this flick, The Call of Cthulhu:

I've had this DVD for at least a year and a half, and very likely since it's release date. I recall buying it from a local Barnes & Noble, taking it home, opening it, and then placing it in a pile (not the pile, but a pile, of many piles) of DVDs to watch...soon.

Ahem. Well, obviously soon came much later than expected.

At any rate, seeing how I was in a bit of a Lovecraft mode last week, I recalled that I had this DVD somewhere in a box, somewhere in the basement. So I started digging. The activity was well worth it, as I unearthed many more gems in the forms of DVDs, magazines, rulebooks, paperbacks, etc. - not all from the horror genre, but still horror/sci-fi/fantasy/roleplaying in all cases. I'll save some of that for a later post.

I had the one night home alone before I headed out of town to meet up with my wife and kids at a retreat/vacation for the remainder of the weekend, so I figured if I couldn't yet play AH or CoC, I would at least immerse myself in some Lovecraftian coolness one way or another.

The film strays some from the original story, from what I recall, but all in all it did not disappoint. It was not a full fledged edge-of-the-seat nailbiter, but it was still fun, and still a bit creepy at times. This may have been assisted by the fact that I was home, alone. So, although this was nothing on the level of of The Omen ("Look at me, Damien! It's all for you."), The Shining, The Exorcist, or even Salem's Lot (I don't care what you say, that levitating dead kid scratching at the bedroom window still freaks me out!), it was fun to turn down the lights, and fire up this bad boy anyway.

A little humor is thrown in at the start with this copyright warning:
"Violators of HPLHS copyrights may have their eyes plucked out by byakhee as they sleep."

The text speech frames were very nice and worked perfectly following the silent mouthing of dialogue performed by the actors. The lighting and makeup really made this all come together.

A few weak spots, IMO, were the dream sequences, but I say that only due to the cheap-looking set designs. I understand it must be difficult to imagine and to try describe on film using props something that is non-Euclidean, so I wasn't too bothered by it. But honestly, I've seen better sets on some Twilight Zone episodes. Ah well. Still, very very cool stuff regardless.

I did like the swamp scenes, which although when seen in the extras portion of the DVD were shown to be fairly basic and simple in design too, came across much better and much more creepy (read: believable) during the final cut of the film.

I really dug many of the props used, including statues, newspaper clippings, notes, etc. I'd love to get my hands on some of that gear.

The stop-motion techniques used for ol' Squidward, himself were a little silly in this sort of a film. But I guess it did provide the throw-back that the film as a whole was going for, and again I understand that with certain budget concerns and various technical limitations that any other method of creating the great Cthulhu on-screen, would most likely have beeen very difficult to pull off. I'm a huge Ray Harryhausen fan, so I probably took it a little too tough on this film in those regards.

I'm not sure if I've seen a silent movie since The Phantom of the Opera, so this was a real treat for me. In a pinch, as a substitute for some solitaire Lovecraftian gaming, this film The Call of Cthulhu filled in very nicely. I truly enjoyed it. Check it out if you get the chance. Just hurry up before those darn stars align again!


Atom Kid said...

I need to see this movie! I saw the trailer a while back, but haven't seen it in the video stores. I'll probably get it from Amazon.

Christopher B said...

Another reason for the rather basic sets and visual effects is that the creators' intent was to film the movie in as close adherence as possible to the technical capabilities available in Lovecraft's time. (And to call the HPLHS "indy" filmmakers is overstating their status... IIRC, this was their first - and so far, only - film. They seem like they're really just a bunch of CoC gamers/LARPers who reeeaaalllly love, erm, Lovecraft.)

I agree, though: this movie is a must-see for any Lovecraft fan. (I also agree: that floating vampire kid in the original Salem's Lot is creepy as Hell. That movie rocks on toast, IMHO - especially when viewed late at night, in a darkened house.)

(Word verification: Gembi; she's Gumbi's little sister, dammit!)

ATOM said...

Cool old movie! Have to check that out.I'm full of Cthulu lately myself, as I have to do a colour illo of a deep one for a cover commission.Thank's for the inspiration.

rainswept said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yoyorobbo said...

Sounds very cool. I'd love to check out the illo, once it's finished.

yoyorobbo said...

Good work! Keep those shelves stocked with the Lovecraft goodies. Sometimes these things are tough to find, and other times they jump off the shelves at ya. Weird.

kelvingreen said...

I've always been a bit of a Lovecraft fan, but even so I really liked this film. Not only is it strong in its own right, and a great achievement, it also serves as a good proof-of-concept for a full-length adaptation.

yoyorobbo said...


I think that being a fan of Lovecraft certainly helps take in this flick, but I could see some friends of mine who are not (yet) fans still enjoying it.

The extras on the DVD are very interesting to get the feel of those working on it. Some funny insights from some of the crew. Was it the makeup artist who said she hadn't even heard of it before she started working on it? I could have that wrong...either way, funny insights.

yoyorobbo said...

@Atom Kid:

(sorry folks, I got out of sequence in responses here...not sure why)

Yes, must see it. Good stuff.

yoyorobbo said...

@Christopher B:

(sorry folks, I got out of sequence in responses here...not sure why)

I agree that they (HPLHS) did a great job of using the tech that would be available then, in making the film. It certainly makes it all seem more valid.

And yeah, they seem like some good ol' geeks (well most of them)...hehe. They are obvious fans and that counts double.

Floating vampire kid...ha! See? I'm not alone. That sh!+ was whack!