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What’s it About?

In the story, a dying professor leaves his great-nephew a collection of documents pertaining to the Cthulhu Cult. The nephew begins to learn why the study of the cult so fascinated his Uncle.

The Call of Cthulhu

Directed by Andrew Leman

8 out of 10

It it just incredible what Directer Andrew Leman  and writer Sean Branney achieve in 45 minutes where other, longer films about the H P Lovecraft classic story of horror and dread, could not. This short silent film (Intentionally so) from 2005 is wildy imaginitive, spooky and just oozes atmosphere in every frame. It is a thoughtful and a well paced adaptation of the insanely popular H P Lovecraft story about “The Old Ones” and the very elusive “Cthulhu” cult.

Leman incredibly layers the story just the way it was written and he successfully weaves locales, dates, characters and flashbacks with some mighty deft skill and a shitload of mood. It is minimalist film-making that actually defies the term. Without a gazillion dollars to produce, less is so much more here. It works fantastically and Leman and Brannery take us for a trippy and expressionist ride into chaos. I loved re-visiting this movie today and I really wanted it to go on much longer than it’s 46 minute running time.

I am reminded right away of 2 films here – John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Caligari, which is a brilliant expressionist foray into horror, obviously serves as a template for Leman and crew. From start to finish (I love the poster that states the film is in “Mythoscope”) Leman’s universe of Lovecraftian horror is unpredictable, crooked and stark. Shot digitally and very engagingly, Leman pulls us into a black and white nightmare. Actors clearly wearing dark make up around the eyes and looking pasty faced in some shots is disorienting and real.

Matt Foyer plays The Man, the nephew of Prof. Angell (Ralph Lucas) who is locked away at an insane asylum (Caligari, anyone?) telling the story to The Listener about how his Uncle stumbled across a dark and terrifying secret that involves a religious sect that worship “The Old Ones” The story continues in flashbacks of a young artist named Wilcox who suffers terrible nightmares that co-incide with strange events that take place all over the world. He goes slowly mad while retelling Prof. Angell about his dreams until the point that he suffers a breakdown then eventually forgets all the dreams. Since he is no further of any use to Angell. We believe the story to wrap up there.

The Man discovers, among his late Uncle’s possessions, newpaper clippings of odd things that are happening. Cults, sacrifices, earthquakes, floods and derelict ships. All of this is revealed in real time by Leman and we get pulled in very deeply with The Man. We get to feel what he feels (dread and fear) and we see what he sees – “The Narrative of Inspector Legrasse” a chilling account of a New Orleans inspector dealing with a deadly cult in the bayous.

Eventually his men obtain a statue of “Cthulhu” one of The Old Ones that will reawaken from the sea and wreak terrible havoc to men the world over. Legrasse seeks the help of Prof. Angell many years before to no avail. It does not end here, though. The Man is now completely immersed now and he suffers a conviction that leads him into madness.

Leman’s short follows each flashback, each testimony and the timeline of The Man’s search for the truth. In a glaring and respectful nod to Caligari we get to hear The Man out as he spills all about Norweigan derelict ships and a dangerous island found by the ship “Alert” This is another written log account and testimony that is shown in flashback and the island sequence is flat out brilliant. The huge, stark sets, deep shadows and the lightning are incredible to watch.

The clouds (that look like puffy cotton balls), forced perspective and great in – camera effects totally blew me away and so did the fantastic lighting and editing. Props to the DP, David Robertson (Ancient Aliens) who also cut the film together. The film just swallows us and it kept me glued and caring for the sailors and when the big reveal happens during the island sequence we are witness to a Ray Harryhausen type monster that is a bit silly looking but still chilling to behold.

The Man finds his way to the end of his ghastly recollections and his travels to Norway, New Zealand and such. He passes on the horrifying possessions that belonged to his Uncle and asks The Listener to “Burn it. Burn it all.” But will The Listener do such? Or will the madness keep going? Passing from the teller to the one who listens. Will it always be passed on and on? Perhaps. Cthulhu will wait and rise again when the world teeters on horrifying oblivion.

Kudos to Leman and crew for taking us on a brief, powerful and silent adventure with the music by Chad Fifer and company drawing us in deeper and deeper in. A very well done horror movie that is not only a sort of homage to Caligari but a very accurate adaptation of the Lovecraft story. Enjoy!

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