RogerBW's Blog

The Call of Cthulhu (2005) 19 August 2023

2005 horror, Sean Branney and Andrew Leman, Matt Foyer: IMDb / allmovie. Great-uncle left some very disturbing papers…

The story was regarded as unfilmable, consisting as it does of three or four distinct narratives and reaching no particular conclusion. And yet this adaptation works for me – a short film, done roughly in the way it could have been in 1928 when the original was published.

All right, sometimes they try too hard - as with the heavy use of the Film Noise filter to add hair and scratches. And perhaps the hollow-eyed stage makeup for madness would have looked quite old-fashioned by 1928, when you were getting more naturalistic acting and even early talkies.

But there's some gorgeous visual design. I'm particularly a fan of the "Swamp Idol" used by the Louisiana cult, an oddly art deco thing verging into modernism, and the set for R'lyeh, with blocks tilted at odd angles and some perspective tricks to let a sailor fall through a hole in reality. (The stop-motion Cthulhu doesn't work as well for me, and I'm not quite sure why; I'm no stranger to clunky special effects.)

This is a very faithful adaptation of the story, so it inherits its problems – no significant female roles, for example. But it's a film that gets its job done and then ends, after a scant 46 minutes, and I very much like it.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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