Starring Matt Foyer and Barry Lynch, Directed by Sean Branney
Running time 104 minutes. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society. www.cthulhulives.org
Reviewed by Mike Chinn
Itâ€™s been a long time coming, but the anticipated HPLHS follow-up to their wonderful silent movie version of The Call of Cthulhu is finally here. The producers continue with the same conceit as the previous DVD: since Whisperer was published in 1931, it follows that a movie adaptation would be a â€˜talkieâ€™. Contemporaneous with Universalâ€™s Frankenstein and Dracula.
Albert Wilmarth (Foyer) of Miskatonic University has been aware for years of New England stories concerning strange flying creatures, but dismisses them as nothing more than folklore – similar to myths found all over the world, with the same motifs and symbolism. A long correspondence with Henry Akeley (Lynch) ofTownshend,Vermont, warning him about the creatures and their motives, does nothing to persuade him otherwise. On the night of a university debate with none other than Charles Fort – which Wilmarth loses – Akeleyâ€™s nephew arrives with photographs – one of which apparently shows a dead thing when viewed through a special lens – and a wax recording of both a human voice and non-human sounds. Wilmarth is intrigued but still sceptical. Only when Akeley writes one last time – the tone of his letter so different to before – asking Wilmarth to visit, bringing the Kodak prints and wax cylinder, is he persuaded to travel toVermont.
This is a thoughtful opening-out of the original short story, even if the climax – the third act which Lovecraft didnâ€™t supply – may not appeal to purists. Personally I loved it, though I admit itâ€™s more suited to a wider Pulp tradition that Lovecraft himself. The creatures themselves – the Mi-Go – are tentacle-headed lobsters with a â€˜futuristicâ€™ alien technology which looks appropriately quaint and dated. Inevitably digitally created – stop-motion had been planned from the start, but would have taken too long – great pains have been taken to make the final images look more stop-motion that CGI.
Indeed the whole production is a labour of love, filmed on a budget that wouldnâ€™t cover the coffee bill for a Hollywood movie. (A three-quarters full size biplane replica which plays a major part in the film was bought off eBayâ€¦). The standards of acting and production values are incredibly high with admirable attention to detail (although one shot of Wilmarth waiting for his train clearly shows a modern diesel locomotive approaching from the background). This is a two-disc set: the extras containing a variety of original trailers, interviews and documentaries for anyone interested in the process of film-making (interesting fact: the teaser trailer was shot months before they had a script – or, obviously, the 1927 hairstyle Foyer wore for filming).
Itâ€™s gratifying to watch an adaption of Lovecraft done with love and respect for the original; and itâ€™s a pity it didnâ€™t get a decent theatre release. The producers arenâ€™t saying what theyâ€™ll do next (letâ€™s face it, they probably donâ€™t know yet) but Shadow over Innsmouth and The Dunwich Horror were banded about. I would love to see these guys tackle either of those stories. Or both.