Posts Tagged ‘H. P. Lovecraft’

As I’ve said here, here, and here, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society‘s film adaptation of HPL’s “The Whisperer in Darkness,” one of his most famous stories. The movie arrived last week and, a couple days ago, I sat down to watch both it and the accompanying “extras” DVD.

Executive Summary: If you like Lovecraft’s horror tales and aren’t a “no deviations from the text” purist; if you enjoy horror movies from the 1930s in the “Universal style;” or if you’re a fan of well-done independent film-making, I think you’ll greatly like “Whisperer.” Grab a hot dog, popcorn, and coke, sit back, and enjoy.

Full Review: In brief, “Whisperer” tells the story of Dr. Albert Wilmarth, Professor of Folklore at Miskatonic University and a deep skeptic of the idea that there is anything real behind the legends of strange beings haunting the hill of northern Vermont. When Wilmarth receives an invitation from a regular correspondent in the area, Henry Akeley, to come for a visit to discuss the legends and strange happenings more deeply, he accepts.

And then Very Bad Things happen.

One thing to bear in mind is that, conforming to the styles and standards of the period, there is little blood and gore in Whisperer. “Halloween” this isn’t, and I say that’s a good thing. Rather than trying to make you throw up by overwhelming you with buckets of guts and severed limbs, and without resorting to yet another nubile 20-something ingenue pretending to be a nubile teen who’s investigating a strange noise while dressed only in her lingerie (1), we’re presented with a patient (but never slow) build up of tension and mood that brings us into the movie’s world and lets us get to know Wilmarth before the action really gets going.

The use of black and white film, albeit required for the genre, fit the filmmaker’s needs perfectly; I don’t think this story could be done right in color. And special praise goes to whoever was in charge of the lighting (there’s no lighting credit on the site); at times I was reminded of the wonderful use of light and shadow from German Expressionist films of the 1920s and 30s.

Other technical matters were equally well-handled: costuming, makeup effects (God save me if I ever have to wear a life-mask as Barry Lynch did.), modelling and miniatures, the works. Special note has to be taken of the Mi-Go, the hyper-intelligent brain-stealing jumbo shrimp from space who are the monsters behind the legends. Originally planned to be done with models, the creators finally had to resort to CGI, but I didn’t feel them out of place with the rest of the movie’s look.

(It’s a this point, also that I commend to you the DVD extras disc. Not only does it have deleted scenes and the trailers, but a series of neat documentaries on the making of Whisperer, one general, the others being short treatments of specific topics. They were as interesting as the movie itself.)

As for the cast, everyone was good to excellent, but two stand out: Matt Foyer as “Albert Wilmarth” and Barry Lynch as “Henry Akeley.” It’s safe to say that their performances “make” the movie: Foyer portrays Wilmarth as a good-natured rational man of the 20th century brought face-to-face with The Horrifying Truth(tm), while Akeley wins the award for the creepiest old man in movie history. His rasping giggle could make Dracula’s servant Renfield cringe.

The secondary cast all play their parts well, and I was impressed by 11-year old Autumn Wendell, who played Hannah Masterson: a very disciplined and good actress.

One thing I alluded to above is deviations from Lovecraft’s original story. They’re considerable and of necessity in order to make a good movie. Some are little, such as giving Wilmarth some background that comes into play later in the story and adding minor characters in a few scenes. Others are more substantial: “Hannah” is an addition, used to hook Wilmarth through his family’s past and to give him something to care about and fight for.

The other is a continuation of the story past the ending Lovecraft gave it, which, as I’ve described before, is typical of the style of the weird fiction of the time: ending on a weird, horrific revelation with no definite conclusion.

This would be, for most people, unsatisfying in a movie, so the filmmakers decided this moment was the end of Act II and added an entirely new “Act III.” Purists might object to this and other changes made, but I think they all came together in a way that improves the story and works better for an audience. I’d like to think old HPL would approve.

Of any complaints I have, they’re all minor: I would like to have seen the deleted scenes left in. (The setting of Wilmarth’s discovery of an old manuscript wasn’t clear to me until after I saw the deleted scene.) I thought Daniel Kaemon, who plays cult leader P.F. Noyes, played his part a bit over the top, but not out of line for the period and genre. And the disc menus and “subtitle” text in the making-of featurettes were way too small: the text was very hard to read at a normal viewing distance.

Yes, those are quibbles. As I said at the start, I was greatly looking forward to this movie and I wasn’t let down. I had a blast watching it, and I think you will, too.

Just stay away from Vermont. Trust me.

(1) It’s not that I object to nubile 20-somethings running around in lingerie, but it’s such a cliche…

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The first trailer for The Hobbit is out!

I may not have agreed with every decision Peter Jackson and crew made in The Lord of the Rings, but, overall, I thought it was a fabulous series and a great overall adaptation of the trilogy. (Or should it be “The Trilogy,” as there is no other in it’s league?) And I have great faith that Jackson and Del Toro will do a fine job here, too.

Originally, the movie was to be in two parts, with part two showing those things that happened “off camera” in the book, such as Gandalf’s investigation of the Tower of the Necromancer in southern Mirkwood and the White Council’s attack on it, but del Toro’s comments in the Wikipedia entry make it look like that’s changed. Still in two parts, the movie would stick to facts in the book. And yet, the trailer sure makes it look like Gandalf is wandering around a spooky tower…

(Come on. We all know evil demigods like Sauron just have to have a spooky tower. It’s in the union rules.)

Ah well. Something to chew over until next year. I can’t wait. 🙂

Meanwhile, my copy of The Whisperer in Darkness came yesterday, just in time for the holiday weekend! Huzzah!  You can’t get much more “Christmas-y” than hyper-intelligent brain-stealing crustaceans stalking the mountains for Vermont.


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The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has (finally!) finished their movie version of Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness,” and the DVDs are almost ready to ship. In fact, you can pre-order and have it arrive in time for Christmas? And what better way to celebrate the holidays than by watching a movie about brain-stealing jumbo shrimp from outer space?

I knew you’d agree.

In the meantime, you can enjoy the trailers.

RELATED: Earlier posts on TWiD.

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Here’s another trailer for the forthcoming The Whisperer in Darkness movie from the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society:

I’m really looking forward to this. Their silent-movie rendering of Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” was brilliant, and I fully expect this to be just as good.

Popcorn, Dr. Pepper, and Cthulhu. It just doesn’t get better than this. 😀

RELATED: The previous trailer.

(via Moe Lane)


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I love the horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft, loosely set in a 1920s America in which the nihilist mood induced by the horrors of the First World War is applied to the universe as a whole. Uncaring gods, aliens to whom Man is less than an insect, ancient histories stretching back millions of years, secret cults and their sanity-blasting secrets, a hopeless, meaningless, doomed world… Good times! 🙂  And, as you can see in the sidebar, one of my favorite roleplaying games is one based on Lovecratft’s works, Call of Cthulhu*. So you can bet your sweet shoggoth that I’m looking forward to this:

This is from the same group that did the wonderful Call of Cthulhu silent movie, so I have great hope that The Whisperer in Darkness will be just as good or better.

(via Moe Lane)

*(Seriously. You wouldn’t think a game in such a world would be fun, but it is!)

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If you’re into roleplaying games, that is. Following a review at James Maliszewski’s Grognardia blog, I took a chance on the latest issue of Knockspell, a print and PDF quarterly journal from Black Blade Publishing for the “old school revival” or “retro-Dungeons and Dragons” segment of the hobby. From what I gather, BBP specifically focuses on supporting clones of first edition AD&D and the original three booklet D&D, such as OSRIC and Swords and Wizardry, respectively.

Anyway, I’ve so far read only the adventures in the issue, but I’m very impressed. I was particularly taken with Jeffrey Talanian’s Rats in the Walls, an homage to one of my favorite H.P. Lovecraft stories. Dark fantasy at its best, it succeeded in capturing the feel of Lovecrafts’ Dreamlands or Clark Ashton Smith’s Zul-Bha-Sair, or the more modern works of Tanith Lee and Michael Moorcock. In fact, the setting screams out to be part of Moorcock’s Million Spheres setting. If I were to run this, I’d most likely use Stormbringer or WFRP 1E rules, rather than a D&D retro-clone. That’s not a knock on those systems, just a reflection of my own tastes.

Knockspell is available as a $5 PDF or a $10 perfect-bound magazine. If you’re into retro-D&D games or looking for ideas for almost any fantasy system, give it a try. I bet you’ll like it.

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