Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Call of Cthulhu

I had been looking forward to seeing this a little too much, perhaps, as not only is this my favorite Lovecraft story (and, by extension, one of my favorite horror stories ever), but I had been hearing some pretty rave reviews about this, some going so far as to call it the best possible version there could be for Lovecraft’s “unfilmable” story. Not exactly faint praise here.

I guess it’s to the film’s credit that I went in with retardedly high expectations and came away still thinking it was good, if not great. The filmmakers, in a brilliant bit of reasoning, decided that since the novella was first published back in the days of silent films, then a proper film adaptation should also be done as a silent movie, complete with black and white photography that’s had hairs, lines, and spots added to it to make it appear properly aged. Coming hot off the heels of The Cat and the Canary, I can add that the film really doesn’t have the visual flair of the best silent movies from back in the day, but it’s still done competently.

The dread land R’lyeh, home of Cthulhu, is done in an interesting style, in a clear homage to the art design of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. If it’s not quite what I had personally imagined the place to look like, Lovecraft’s descriptions of it as “crazily elusive angles of carven rock where a second glance shewed concavity after the first shewed convexity” isn’t incredibly helpful to any set designer out there. Cthulhu himself, in a bit of inspiration, is done in claymation, as the filmmakers correctly realized that no amount of CGI could properly convey him. Even more wisely, we mostly only see him in shadows and quick glimpses; if the mere gave of him can turn a man mad, then it would have just been highly irresponsible of them to show him to us in all his glory, don’t you think?

All told, it’s not the best Lovecraft adaptation I’ve ever seen (the Re-Animator series still has a lock on that), and it rips through the story so fast that it clocks in at only 46 minutes, but for what it is, it's done well. Of course, now that we have a perfectly satisfactory version of his “unfilmable” story, what say Peter Jackson or some other enterprising horror junkie that can command a big budget try to make a film out of At the Mountains of Mandess? Plz k thnx.

Rating: ***

UPDATE: Apparently I should really read more articles, as apparently a good three weeks before I wrote this, Guillermo Del Toro announced that he had been greenlit to make At the Mountains of Madness his next film, before the impending strikes grind everything to a halt. So yay for that.

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