Each issue this month, I’m reviewing a different scary flick, focusing on ones that have somehow remained below my radar up to this point and about which I knew virtually nothing until viewing them… titles that I’ve been “in the dark” about.
I’ll write a brief reaction to each, as well as rate it based on the five criteria that I deem most essential for a good scary movie, using a “zero-worst to 10-best” scale.
Call of the Cthulhu (2005, directed by Andrew Leman)
One of my favorite eerie stories is H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Outsider.” Although it’s apparently derivative of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing, it’s quite unsettling with its power-punch ending. My love of that tale prompted me to get Call of the Cthulhu, the 2005 silent film based on the Lovecraft story of the same name.
The movie links three independent tales together through a narrator discovering notes left by a deceased uncle. That narrator pieces together the background and disquieting significance of the information he has acquired, dramatizing the story’s opening: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity; and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
Without revealing too much, I can tell you that Call of the Cthulhu concerns: a cult in the swamps outside New Orleans (a marvelous scene); a small, mysterious bas-relief sculpture; and a gigantic sea creature.
This 47-minute, black-and-white film was made to resemble a motion picture of the 1920s, complete with celluloid scratches. In determining how to bring the Lovecraft story to the screen, the filmmakers (operating on a limited budget) opted for this old-Hollywood approach, and the result is one that critics and film-festival audiences have largely applauded, despite the story’s having previously been considered unfilmable.
It’s not likely to induce much terror in those seeking a good fright, but cinemaphiles will appreciate its sheer craftsmanship and inventiveness.
To read “The Outsider” online, go here: dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/theoutsider.htm
Sophistication/intellect of story 9
Overall creepiness/fright factor 7.5
Effectiveness of art direction to establish mood 9
Revelation of supernatural presence 8.5
Casting and actors’ performances 8.5
Overall score– 8.5 out of a possible 10