RogerBW's Blog

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) 24 August 2023

2011 horror, dir. Sean Branney, Matt Foyer, Autumn Wendel: IMDb / allmovie. Albert Wilmarth is about to go deeper into folklore than he ever intended.

The story was published in 1931, and like The Call of Cthulhu this was made in something like the style of the time (now with voices!). It's also a rather less faithful adaptation; rather than end with Lovecraft's awkward double-flashback structure so that the key revelation can be held back to the last sentence, it's a minor incident on the way to the new action-filled climax.

What throws me slightly, strangely for the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, is the prop design. The brain cylinders look great… but they're very obviously 1950s-style mad science, not 1930s. The glowing mobile "eye" devices are clearly built from early-2010s LED torches. Neither of these looks the way mad science did in the 1930s, with its great big sparking high-energy machinery emitting Mysterious Rays.

Meanwhile the climactic moments feel lifted from a Call of Cthulhu game: no despair here in the face of an immeasurably superior power, I'll just punch that Mi-Go in the face(?), then foil their plan with a good Throw roll. (And what I think is probably a Curtiss "Jenny" – that would certainly be a plausible plane to find in a barn, given how many of them were built for the war and sold off cheaply later.) But it sometimes feels as though the filmmakers had got access to a plane, and decided to use it, rather than making it an organic part of the story.

I think the trickiest new material, though, is that the expanded argument scene makes the Mi-Go and their human hangers-on very obviously evil in a way that the original story avoids, since it's trying to retain some mystery to the end. When you're being less subtle than H. P. Lovecraft, I think it's time to reconsider the direction of your script.

It's a shame, but it just doesn't feel anything like a contemporary film of the story, and so even though the makers are definitely Lovecraft fans I end up filing this more as "didn't quite get the point".

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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See also:
The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

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