June 11, 2013
Every few months, I get on this Lovecraft kick that often lasts weeks. To satiate this urge, Mary and I watched The Whisper in Darkness, a full-length movie by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the same people who brought us the short film adaptation of “The Call of Cthulhu.” This was a different film since it was a “talkie” in the style of 1930’s horror films.
So, what’s the verdict? A little background…
Albert Wilmarth is a professor of folklore at Miskatonic University. He has doubts concerning the stories coming out of Vermont regarding strange creatures from other worlds washing down the river after a massive flood. After public humiliation following a debate with an anti-science advocate who believes in the stories, Wilmarth is approached by George Akeley, son of Henry Akeley, a man who’s been writing to him for months regarding strange creatures in the hills. George presents Wilmarth with evidence that the creatures are real and forces the academic to doubt his own sanity.
After months of frantic letters, Wilmarth receives one final letter from Henry Akeley asking him to come to Vermont with the evidence. Akeley furthermore claims that his panic over the creatures was unfounded and he now has a deeper understanding of their goals.
Upon arriving at the isolated farm, Wilmarth faces the shocking truth about the creatures and their plans for humanity.
Much like “The Call of Cthulhu,” this film was shot in “old-school” style, making it look like a 1930’s horror film. The special effects do incorporate some CGI this time around. While the effects do look somewhat cheap, it doesn’t make them less creepy. In fact, it adds to the charm of the overall film. They’re really only showcased in a few shots towards the end, anyway.
The acting is appropriately theatrical given the genre. Perhaps one of the most intense, and nerve-wrecking, moments in the film involved Wilmarth, played by Matt Foyer, simply looking at a door while strange, and possibly alien, voices, moved about outside his room.Having read the story, i knew what would happen, but I still found myself clutching Mary’s hand as tightly as she held mine.
Lovecraft is often celebrated for his imagination, but the original story did end quite abruptly, albeit it with a twist. It was also mostly a series of letters between two characters and some conversation, an exposition of things that had already happened. The filmmakers decided that this was fine, but it also served as a first act to a larger story. Normally, I would be very disappointed in someone thinking he or she should “improve” on the original story, but in this case, it worked.
The second half of the movie starts with what is the original story’s twist, then takes it in a direction closer to a thriller and a race against time. And yes, it does end with the usual dark, forbidding Lovecraftian ending that really seals the deal and creates a feeling of dread.
The aforementioned changes in the story, while pleasant and entertaining, can be a turn-off for die-hard Lovecraft fans. After “The Call of Cthulhu,” a wonderfully faithful adaptation, some might feel this one takes too many liberties with the source material.
There are also times in the movie where things just sort of… stop. It can get a little slow in several sections towards the middle, but it eventually picks up again. The beginning also takes a bit too long in getting to the main story.
The IA! IA! CTHULHU FTHAGN!
This was an enjoyable movie, creepier than I would have thought, and it was nice to see the Mi-go on screen. I would love to see the HPLHS do more of these films, maybe with bigger budgets. They’ve certainly showed they have a knack for bringing the dread and eeriness of Lovecraft’s world to the screen.
Like I said before, though, the change in story at the end might not be for die-hard fans. For casual fans, it’s still a good film. For people new to Lovecraft, I think it serves as a good introduction to the mythos.
If you’re curious, here’s the full trailer. Sweet dreams…