Spent this beautiful Indian summer evening watching an amazing film, The Call of Cthulhu. Distributed the Howard Philips Lovecraft Historical Society, directed by Andrew Leman, and written by Sean Branney, The Call of Cthulhu is a triumph of art, literature, and film.
The Call of Cthulhu (Found Among the Papers of the Late Francis Wayland Thurston, of Boston) was written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1928. Lovecraft, a horror writer, amateur astronomer, and blogger (well, actually “amateur journalist”), was first and foremost a poet. The story, which threads the shorter tales The Horror in the Clay, The Tale of Inspector Legrasse, and The Madness from the Sea, was inspired by Lord Tennyson’s The Kraken:
There hath he lain for ages and will lie,
Battening on huge seaworms in his sleep;
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die
And indeed, the entire tale is poetry amidst poetry, as in the narrator’s second-hand description of a third author’s couplet:
Of the cult, he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless desert of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched. It was not allied to the European witch-cult, and was virtually unknown beyond its members. No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathless Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as they chose, especially the much-discussed couplet:
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
Ironically for a tale by a poet, the movie The Call of Cthulhu is silent. Completely. It is made in the style of a silent movie from 1928. Some music videos over the past few years have tried this style — Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Otherside, for example, and Smashing Pumpkin’s Tonight, Tonight — but none have done it this well. The movie is not knowingly ironic, it is not a comedy, it is not take itself lightly. The Call of Cthulhu is a serious attempt to recreate a horror tale from the 1920s in the style of 1920s Hollywood. It succeeds brilliantly.
That’s why it was a Seattle International Film Festival Selection.
The Call of Cthulhu is the best Lovecraft adaptation I have ever seen, it is the best silent film I have ever seen. The Call of Cthulhu is a masterful executed labor of love. Watch it.
Of course, there are humorous adaptations, too.