The Call Of Cthulhu (2005)

DVD Cover (Microcinema DVD)
Andrew Leman Andrew Leman
Matt Foyer Matt Foyer
John Bolen John Bolen
Ralph Lucas Ralph Lucas
Chad Fifer Chad Fifer
Susan Zucker Susan Zucker

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Creature Film, Horror, Supernatural Horror
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Review by Chad
Added: January 21, 2012
I went through a bit of a Lovecraft phase a few months ago, and naturally, one of the stories that I read was The Call of Cthulhu. Reading this reminded me that the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society had put together a film adaptation of this short story, so I queued it up on Netflix and planned to watch it at some point. It did take me a while, as seems to always be the case, but here we are with their take on what is arguably Lovecraft's finest and most well-known story. How did it fare? Well, let's see...

The film itself is almost a page by page adaptation of Lovecraft's story, so if you've already read it, you will know everything that happens here. If you haven't, it begins with a man (Matt Foyer) talking about his great-uncle's research into the Cthulhu cult. Cthulhu is an ancient being who came from beyond the stars hundreds of thousands of years before mankind, and he now sleeps beneath the ocean waiting for the stars to align so that he may awake and once again rule the world. There are cultists around the world who know of and worship him, and the man in question spent his life researching these cults. Throw in some trips to the New Orleans bayou to investigate one cult, an unplanned trip to an uncharted island to face off with Cthulhu himself, and you have yourself a movie.

One thing you're not going to get from that synopsis is the fact that this film was shot in the style of an old twenties film, an homage to the time when the original story was written. It is shot in black and white with a few grain filters added, and it is also completely silent (save for the musical score, obviously). I thought that this aspect of the film was really well done, and it truly did look like something that had been sitting in a vault for almost a century. The actors themselves tell the story through their expressions and such and they never rely too much on the occasional wall of text that is used for the important dialogue, so again, big thumbs up for the way that this was handled.

The story itself is also handled rather well, and this is as faithful an adaptation as one could ask for. Everything from the original short story is here, nothing is left out, and nothing is altered for this telling of the story. Lovecraft purists will certainly appreciate that, and given that this was one of his greatest stories, a faithful adaptation is just a recipe for success. So, I also have to give the filmmakers credit for this aspect of the film as well.

Now, my only complaint about the film as a whole is the blending together of those last two paragraphs. I appreciate what they were going for with their nod to the silent films of Lovecraft's time, and I also love the fact that they wanted to put his defining story on the screen, but in my opinion, those two things just didn't work very well in conjunction with one another. The story was a trip into pure terror, and it is arguably one of the best exercises in pure horror ever written. Watching it unfold through a silent film experiment took away some of that horror, and seeing Cthulhu himself as a stop-motion puppet just erased any scares that could possibly exist. This is not to say that it looked bad - hell, the original King Kong isn't cutting-edge by today's standards - but it certainly detracts from what could have been a great horror movie. As it stands, The Call of Cthulhu is just a good movie.

Overall, I'm giving the film a recommendation for Lovecraft fans, but nobody else. It is a very faithful adaptation of his story, but in my opinion, the "twenties treatment" element takes away from what could have been a great horror film. I'm not saying that we needed a CGI Cthulhu or loads of special effects, but something that didn't look intentionally goofy would have worked wonders. 7/10.
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Bill Wolford #1: Bill Wolford - added 01/21/2012, 12:40 AM
I always think that the HUGE monster near the end of Stephen Kings' The Mist film would have worked well as a Cthulhu type monster. Something that strikes terror into you from the sheer size of it. I know these people didn't have the budget for that, but I can wish.
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