Cthulhu

Cthulhu – 7/10

Cthulhu Title

Another Lovecraft adaption/inspired piece, this one plays with the same tropes as Die, Monster, Die! but does a slightly better job of the alienation and paranoia factors. That said, it falls down in other ways.

The thing is, it’s not actually that memorable a film. It’s not bad. I wasn’t bored by it while I was watching, but it doesn’t linger in the mind. Probably the two most memorable scenes are the sex scene and the ending. The sex scene because it’s beautifully shot, the ending because it’s stark and a bit nasty.

There is one other element I have to mention because it stood out so much. There was only one cast member I recognised in this film. That’s not a bad thing by any means, I’m all for little or unknown cast members. But this lady was terrible. The unknowns around her were giving better performances. And every time she cropped up, I’d be thinking two things – God she looks familiar, and bloody hell she’s awful. Fortunately she’s not actually in it very much at all.

Finally I got to the end credits and there was her name… Tori Spelling.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.
Advertisements

Die, Monster, Die!

Die, Monster, Die! – 7/10

Die-Poster

It starts off making use of a bunch of ever-popular tropes – the village that won’t talk to strangers about stuff, the menacing old house that doesn’t welcome visitors, an odd past, secrets, people disappearing or going mad… and the film handles all these things well. It’s weird, creepy, forced, and over-the-top in all the right ways.

On top of that, most of the performances are good, the sets are lovely, the direction fair, and while slow, it keeps one interested. There are also some lovely effects in the greenhouse scene later in the film. Most of the film’s chills and scares come from its over all creepiness.

I say most because it all comes tumbling down in the last third. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a “cursed family” movie, a “science gone wrong,” one, or what. And just when it decides it wants to rationalise everything is right when the things that happen within the film cease to make much sense.

The movie also makes the decision that building a creepy atmosphere is no longer good enough, time to break out the cheap jump-scares that are there for no other purpose. It does know that it has “monster” right there in the title, so it better give us one, no matter how nonsensical the reasons why.

It’s a variable adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space, and definitely worth a look, just keep expectations low so when the ending comes along you’re prepared for the drop in story-telling.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Dagon

Dagon – 8/10

peliculas.677.IMAGEN1

The first third of Dagon is a little… unengaging. The protagonist isn’t very likeable, and neither is his girlfriend, though she is better than him. So I watched as it meandered along, waiting for it to pick up.

And pick up it did. Things quickly take on a surreal, creepy and dangerous bent, and to some degree, even with his irritating character, the protagonist starts to come into his own. He’s still not that likeable, but at least what is after him is even less likeable.

The film suffers in a few ways. I don’t think Ezra Godden, who plays Paul, is that good. The scripting of his character is variable, but even when it’s good it often feels like he plays it wrong. The best performance comes from Francisco Rabal, and it’s a testament to him as an actor that he’s so good even though he’s hard to understand as he struggles with the English dialogue.

Macarena Gómez is quite good. She has a nicely unusual face, and plays her part quite well. The film also uses computer graphics to achieve some moments, but sensibly uses them sparingly, and to good effect.

While it gets some things wrong, once it gets up to speed it does a fair job of carrying the audience along with it, even when it gets slightly silly. Bad things happen, and no-one comes out of it too well. There’s some gore, but it is nowhere near as horrible as the situation. Not to everyone’s taste, but certainly it captures the tone of hopelessness and and unknowable horror well.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

The Call of Cthulhu

The Call of Cthulhu – 7/10

cocdvdfront

Made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society like The Whisperer in Darkness. This one is done as a late 1920’s silent movie. Not quite as polished as their other production (this was made first) it’s still a good and interesting adaptation of the work. I have read the original story this was based upon, and it certainly hit all the major notes I remembered.

It didn’t draw me in quite as much, I didn’t find this quite as creepy, but that may well be the story itself. Certainly it’s worth a look and is a noble experiment. Again, it uses a mixture of techniques to tell its story, even including a some stop motion animation amongst the computer graphics.

Both films are well worth tracking down from the store and checking out. They don’t cost much, and they are interesting, especially because they show a certain level of craft and originality of approach.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

The Whisperer In Darkness

The Whisperer In Darkness – 8/10

whisperer-poster

One of two films made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I like the approach of both, in that they looked to when the original short stories were written, then tried to film them in a way that echoed film-making from that time.

So this one is an early 1930’s film noir piece. My only complaint about the filming technique is that they don’t know quite how to work with black and white. There’s too many muted tones that show a lack of knowledge about what colours work with a black and white process, and there are small issues of contrast as well. But hell, major Hollywood film The Artist got the same stuff wrong.

I wanted to get my main complaint out of the way first, because I really liked this. I genuinely felt creeped out at times, and there was a growing sense of dread as the story progressed. It really is a very well done piece of film-making. It shows great restraint at times, and has a good feel for when to hint at things and when to finally show them.

Having not read the original story, I can’t say how faithful the adaptation is, but I suspect they’ve done a reasonable job. The effects work is well done too, using a wide range of techniques including computer graphics to mostly solid effect.

Overall, while not a perfect production, it is very, very good.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

In the Mouth of Madness (minor spoilers)

In The Mouth of Madness – 3/10

c-108382-9

I like John Carpenter, but he just can’t manage subtle. And to me, the script here really needed it. Rather than a feeling of creeping dread, what we’re constantly told is “there’s something weird and wrong here…” and then we’re shown something weird and wrong.

There’s an old rule of story-telling – show don’t tell. In The Mouth Of Madness keeps doing both. Sometimes hinting at something is vastly more effective. This likes to telegraph its punches. So when the main character tells us that the sweet little old lady at the hotel wouldn’t hurt a fly, then mentions that the fictional version of her was a killer, we already know she’s going to be found doing something odd.

Later we get the scene with her at the desk. At one point she obviously kicks someone below the desk and we hear a groan. And if it had been left at that, it might have worked. But no, we get given a shot of the naked man cuffed to her leg. The whole film is like that. Clumsily setting up things, then saying “Oh look! Look at how strange and weird everything is!”

I know some people like it, but for me, it failed.  And I really think a good portion of the problem comes from Carpenter’s choices.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.