The Call of Cthulhu (film)

The Call of Cthulhu (film)

Today’s post is a little out of the ordinary, but very much within our purview. When I took an emergency trip to the library last weekend, needing something for my research and more Cam Jansen mysteries for the kids, I came across a DVD on the racks that grabbed my attention. “The Call of Cthulhu is a movie?” I thought. Then I looked closer and found that it was produced by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society in the style of a 1920s silent movie, complete with a be-tentacled, stop-motion Cthulhu. Clearly this was not to be missed.

I have to admit that not only am I an uneducated film watcher, but I am surprisingly ignorant of Cthulhu. It’s part of the nerd background noise, so I know it like I know Star Trek or The Forgotten Realms, but I haven’t actually read Lovecraft since early high school. In fact, I suspect that I never actually read this particular story, just some follow ups. Still, I know who The Old Ones are, I know who lies sleeping in his sunken city, and I’m familiar with the misty New England horrors. I also know that some debate rages around Lovecraft to this day, both over the lasting quality of his writing and his rather deplorable social attitudes. I’m not really qualified to go into all of this though, so rather than offer deep analysis, I will keep this review to a more advisory role.

The movie is an undemanding 47 minutes, a length that is both perfect for someone with my attention span and sufficient to tell the story. It also leaves plenty of time to watch the must see Making Of special feature, which is a gold mine of valuable information for discount film makers. Most interesting is how they combined older film techniques with green screen and digital effects, things that go completely unnoticed when watching all the Lovecraftian hijinks. Particular shout outs go to the swamp scenes (and the enthusiastic cultists), the period details, and the otherworldly city, as each in its way evokes the best parts of the the Cthulhu mood. Some parts are understandably cheesy, but I don’t think it detracts from the overall effect. Cthulhu is somewhat florid and overwrought anyway, so nothing in the movie is out of place.

Cthulhu is readily available on Netflix and other streaming options. It has a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, though I suspect that anyone who seeks it out and takes the time to write a review is probably going to be a huge fan anyway. I found the film to be a good introduction to the Cthulhu mythos and a fun diversion for the well-versed veteran. Clearly a labor of love, it is definitely worth checking out.

4 thoughts on “The Call of Cthulhu (film)

  1. That sounds fun, I will have to check it out. I admit that I knew little about Lovecraft until about 5 years ago when I picked up his work and got hooked. I haven’t read it all but I’ve read much of it and it is the kind of old world horror that I really enjoy.

  2. “nerd background noise”

    I like that. It covers so much stuff for me that’s, well, exactly like this. I’ve never read any Lovecraft, except for that odious little poem, and there are any number of other authors and books I’ve not read that I really should have. Yet I’m usually fairly comfortable with the references.

    Dunno what I’m saying here. Do you think the originals are really necessary in order to ‘get it’, or is there enough out there in the ether for knowledge of The Old Ones to be absorbed just through cultural osmosis? Probably the latter, in answer to my own question.

    • Do you ever listen to the Coode Street Podcast? They talk about something similar – books you don’t have to read because everyone just knows what they’re about anyway. I waffle on stuff like that, rather like wondering if I should read, say, Tolstoy, or just catch the movie. Fortunately for us, we’re not PhD students, so it probably doesn’t matter.

    • I think the best book to read for understanding the mythos and Lovecraft’s odd worldview is “The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath.” As gentle as any of his works can be, this is the best. And you’ll find out that Lovecraft and his alter ego (Randolph Carter, I believe is his name) absolutely love cats, for whatever it’s worth.

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