REVIEW: HPLHS’s The Call of Cthulhu

“The Call of Cthulhu,” a new film by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, has been one of the most anticipated releases of the last year, and the Shoggoth Network is proud to bring you this complete review…

This reviewer has been looking forward to watching this film ever since its release was announced all those months ago. I am pleased to announce it was worth the long wait. This review covers all the bases, from the film itself to the included special features and the packaging.

It must be stated: “The Call of Cthulhu” is the dominant film adaptation of a Lovecraft tale. This movie will soon become the high-bar to which future Lovecraftian movies are measured.

First and foremost is the excellent acting. Most viewers will not likely recognize any of the actors but do not let that fool you: they are able to convey each scene as well as any could imagine and they are experienced at their craft. Even without dialog these actors put on amazingly convincing performances. Their facial expressions and body language make each scene a true pleasure to watch and the described absence of spoken dialog is not a drawback.

Without dialog you say? Yes, viewers should be prepared, for this is a silent movie. Well, it is not entirely silent. The symphonic score is simply awesome. Obviously influenced by silent films of the past the score heightens the tension and accentuates the action; essentially, it completes the film. For more information on the score, see this. (Includes a link to purchase the score on CD.)

The HPLHS has amazing attention to detail, and no detail was spared here. The sets and wardrobe all appear period and the props are excellent. Included among the sets of course is the fabled R’lyeh. Additionally, the filmmakers have captured the various statues of Cthulhu; these are the most notable of the props. They capture the horror of Cthulhu just as though Lovecraft himself had overseen their development. Other impressive details include the use of a real Providence location and the use of an actual police paddy wagon. Both lend additional visual authenticity to the film.

The special effects, especially during the R’lyeh scenes are great. The Cyclopean and Non-Euclidean nature of R’lyeh is represented well, with high cliffs and pit traps. The stop motion Cthulhu driving sailors mad and causing them to flee in terror is probably the highlight of the film, and is a sequence that this reviewer watched again immediately following his first viewing. The scenes in the Louisiana swamp are another highlight; how could one-hundred silent but screaming cultists be wrong? Of course there are no CGI effects in the movie, as the filmmakers have tried their best to shoot it as things may have been shot in the 1920’s. This lends an air of legitimacy which would have been lost had the Cthulhu/R’lyeh scenes been done with computer graphics.

Our favorite Great Old One graces the cover of the DVD case along with a complete description of the contents; despite being the last thing mentioned in this review the cover is the first thing that impresses. It is of the professional quality collectors of DVD movies have come to appreciate. The printed DVD insert is done in the style of an old newspaper and is injected with satire typical of the HPLHS.

In addition to offering the “intertitles” in 24 languages the DVD also includes several special features. The behind the scenes feature is chief among them. It was filmed by Aaron Vanek and David Robertson and reveals an impressive amount of information regarding the making of the film through detailed interviews with cast and crew. The special features also include production stills, behind the scenes stills, and a sample of the raw footage taken while filming. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a printable replica of the Sydney Bulletin, which has a small part in the film. This is up to the usual standard of other PDF style props available from the HPLHS. (This of course requires a DVD-ROM enabled computer with Adobe Acrobat installed.)

“The Call of Cthulhu” by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, is a 100% faithful, creative and complete adaptation of Lovecraft’s most famous tale. Few films are able to capture Lovecraft’s words as well as this. I highly recommend it to all our readers!

Relevant links:

The HPLHS is on the World Wide Web at http://www.cthulhulives.org

The official page for the movie is here. This page has a screenings schedule.

Where can you get the movie? The HPLHS website store is one place.

And for those in the UK: Yog-Sothoth.com is another.

The plot of the film is no secret to fans of Lovecraft. Still, this is a highly unique and innovative presentation of an influential tale. The filmmakers even developed a new technique as the movie has been filmed in “Mythoscope.”

Quoted from the Movie FAQ:

Mythoscope is the term we coined for our technique of using modern technology and vintage filmmaking techniques to create a film that has the look of old movie film. The glow, flicker and noise you see in the footage are part of the Mythoscope process and they are added to the film after editing is complete.

And…

Mythophone is the audio companion to Mythoscope. We take the beautiful high-fidelity audio created by our composers and we make it sound like it was recorded and played back on 1920s era equipment.

The Shoggoth Network applauds the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society for a project well-done and hopes they enjoy colossal success with this film, so that they will make another in the same vein. “The Dunwich Horror” anyone?

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