From the Vaults: Call of Cthulhu

I’ll admit, I’m not a patient film goer. Most of the time, I struggle to finish silent movies. But, something about this one is different!

Greetings, faithful followers! This time it’s a return to dark cosmic mythos with the HPLHS film project, “The Call of Cthulhu.” This film is an intentional homage to both the original story and the silent cinema of the era. So, how good does this film do at adapting one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous tales? Let’s find out!

For a while, I’ve followed the H.P. Lovecraft historical society, whether to see if I can finally attend an event, listen to one of their musical parodies, or now hope one of the members would be interested in a documentary. But, until recently, I wasn’t aware that they made an adaption of one of the famous stories in HPL’s mythos. Indeed, while this picture takes a few creative liberties, it remains quite true to this cosmic horror classic.

Like the story, our protagonist sets out to discover his uncle’s investigations into mad cults by the bayou who claim to worship this devil figure they call “Cthulhu.” His research takes him deeper and deeper; from frigid regions of Northern Europe to the empty vessel of crew ship, “Alert” to even the lost city of R’lyeh, tomb of the great Cthulhu!

Unlike the original story, there were quite a few alternations in this adaptation. For one, the Alert was originally to be seized by cultists, not an ruined derelict. Plus, the original story made the uncle’s death a mystery, likely the actions of the cultists once more. Not to mention, the main character was perfectly stable in the original tale and did not end up suffering in an asylum. However, these changes do not break the atmosphere in the story so much as help add to the ambiance of cosmic dread, in its own special way.

In terms of visuals, it certainly captures the era in which the story was written. Even though this was shot digitally, it still manages to resemble a black and white film based production. The faux-surreal visuals inspired by German Expressionism truly bring the dreamy sequences and the sunken city of R’lyeh to life! Not to mention this film does a great job at ambient lighting and the exaggerated use of expression through acting and facial makeup common in silent cinema. However, some of the sets as well as effects (like the fire) do seem a little off and end up feeling very jarring in relation to the film. This can easily be forgiven by the fact that this film was emulating a low budget black and white silent film style.

While many critics of cinema and H.P. Lovecraft alike both said that this story was impossible to be filmed, likely due to the structuring of the story as well as the madness experienced by the various characters. Fortunately, it could be argued that they were wrong. Indeed, it could be said that this is the most appropriate adaptation of any of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. And since this film is indeed quite short, it’s easy to view in one sitting. Plus, as a stand alone horror film, it provides for a more than chilling and suspenseful experience.

The Call of Cthulhu gets 8 Elder Signs of out 10.

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