H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

One from the rewatch pile…

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

Film: I have a lot to thank Stuart Gordon for. If I had never seen Re-Animator in the 80s, I may never have become the fan of H. P. Lovecraft that I did, which means I may never have become the voracious consumer of horror literature that I am, and the book hoarder that’s associated with that.

Yeah. Thanks, Stuart,

What it does mean though, is that any mention of a film being ‘Lovecraftian’ gets my attention, as even though I have consumed much of his output, I am always interested in what others definition of it is. Just like steampunk isn’t just a gear stuck to a stovepipe hat, Lovecraft isn’t just tentacles and old gods. There is SO much more: an aesthetic that just can’t be described that lightly, so I am not going to attempt it here.

This film, Dagon, is a mixture of Lovecraft’s story of the same name, written in 1917 and published in the journal The Vagrant two years later, and another tale, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, written in 1931, but not published until 1936 as Lovecraft himself didn’t like it. The script for the film was written by Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli, who also wrote the scripts for Gordon’s films Re-animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak and The Pit and The Pendulum.

Entrepreneur Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) keeps having a dream of a mysterious underwater city and a beautiful mermaid who dwells there, even whilst on a sailing holiday of the coast of Spain with his beautiful girlfriend, Bárbara (Rena Moreño) and their investors, Howard (Brenda Price) and Vicki (Birgit Bofarull).

One afternoon they all hear some mysterious chanting coming from the shore, and very soon a storm swiftly moves in. Howard goes to move the boat away from a reef they were anchored near, but the storm is too fast, and the yacht is smashed against some rocks, painfully trapping Vicki’s leg in the rent in the wooden hull.

With all their communications conveniently down, Paul and Bárbara go to shore in a dingy to find help but what they quickly find is a town full of strange misshapen people who pray to an old god and whom Paul seems to have a history… or a destiny with. This becomes even more apparent when he meets the wheelchair-bound Uxia (Marcarena Gómez) who is the spitting image of his dream mermaid…

Now this story doesn’t resemble Lovecraft’s text greatly, mainly due to the modern setting, but thematically it does its best to delivery the ideas in it. In general though, one can’t be too critical of that as every Lovecraft film Gordon has done resembles Lovecraft’s text only on a surface level, and I don’t mind that as Re-animator and From Beyond are pretty awesome… especially Re-animator, which is my favourite film of all time, without fail.

The story of this film is pretty interesting and the mixture of the Lovecraft tales works well together. Gordon’s direction is typically wonderful, but if I must criticise the film for anything, it’s use of CGI effects is far too early, and considering what Gordon is able to do with practical effects, these stick out awfully… even moreso in this Bluray presentation.

For a film that was made almost twenty years after Gordon’s Re-animator, there is an aesthetic cast revelation in Godden that Gordon likes his heroes to be very much like Jeffrey Coombs portrayal as Herbert West. The rest of the cast is good as well (is it just me or does Moreño have an uncanny resemblance to a young Elle MacPherson) though the Spanish film legend Francisco Rabal, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to someone who has worked since 1943, has a monologue that is barely comprehensible, and when you consider this monologue tells the history of how the town came to worship Dagon, it’s pretty bloody important!

This is nowhere near Gordon’s greatest work, but it is a nice addition to his output of Lovecraft tales.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment, region B Bluray which runs for 98 minutes and has a nice 1.77:1 image with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, none of which are really that special:

B-roll/ Making Of is NOT what the title would suggest and is instead some shot-on-video of the cast and crew at work.

Interviews with Macarena Gómez, Stuart Gordon, Raquel Meroño and Ezra Godden reveal their experiences on the set, sometimes their first times, and it’s a pleasant, casual series of interviews.

Interviews from the Set is more with Stuart Gordon and Ezra Godden, on the set of the film and they talk about what the film is about.

There is also a teaser, trailer and TV spots for the film. Weirdly, the trailer doesn’t default to the screen edge of you Tv and instead, hovers in the middle with black bars all round.

The presentation of the film, the third in Umbrella’s Beyond Genres series, is immaculate. The slipcase and slick art by Simon Sherry is spectacular (seriously Umbrella, get this art on T-shirts ASAP!!!), and the inner sleeve has the original tale by Lovecraft, which, if you are ancient like me, may take a magnifying glass to fully appreciate.

Score: ***

WISIA: I love Gordon’s body of work and this, being another loose Lovecraft adaptation, is well worth watching over and over again.

The Endless (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

The Endless (2017)

Film: Occasionally, a film comes along that surprises you. I like to think I know what’s going on within the world of genre films, I read several horror news blogs and magazines, I listen to a few horror/ genre podcasts but I guess in a world where SO many films can be made SO quickly it can be hard to keep abreast of the releases.

Somehow, this film of UFO cultish, time-bending supernaturality completely passed me by!

This film was written by Justin Benson, and directed by him and his regular directing partner, Aaron Moorhead who previous made Resolution (which contains a theme used as a small part of this film) and Spring. These two also star as the lead actors.

This film is about Brothers Aaron (Moorhead) and Justin (Benson) who left a UFO cult ten years ago as he believed that they were on the cusp of committing an act of mass suicide which they declared to be ‘the Ascension’ and hoped to find their way in the big old world. Through this time, Justin has convinced the younger Aaron that the cult was a horrible place that was not at all full of any normalcy.

They mysteriously receive a video tape from the cult, and in the ten years that have passed, none of the cultists in the video seem to have aged, and Aaron wants to go back to visit, even though Justin repeated warns him that it is a bad idea.

They return but find that nothing has changed… nothing… and that the entire cult seems to be stuck in some kind of bubble of time that keeps them safe. The problem is, the bubble seems to be a trap set by some being who sends them messages by delivering the photographs and video tapes, or is it a trap… and are others caught in it if it is and is there a ‘something’ out there, or is the cult suffering from a mass delusion?

So many questions, and the answers are innovative and interesting and this film, even though its low budget and low-fi is a fascinating sci-fi/ horror that turns regular tropes of both types of films on their heads, with some decent acting, ok direction and a surprise cameo by Lew Temple!

This film was a surprising first watch, and one that fans of thoughtful sci-fi, not your mass-market Star Wars-y stuff, will probably enjoy, considering elements of it even seem to harken back to ideals proposed by Lovecraft of something bigger being our there and controlling us.

One warning though, this isn’t a gore-fest, special effects laden feature. If you are looking for that go somewhere else, but if you want Story and texture, you might just dig this.

Score: ****

Format: This review was done with the Umbrella region 4 DVD release of the film which runs for approximately 111 minutes and is presented in an average 2.40:1 image with a 5.1 audio track. When I say average though, it is more to do with it low budget rather than it being a damaged print. The print is fine, but it obviously wasn’t filmed with the latest in cinema technology.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None to speak of at all.

Score: 0

WISIA: I actually think this film NEEDS to be watched more than once for a full absorption of its ideas.

Beyond Re-animator (2003)

One from the re-watch pile…

BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR (2003)

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Film: I have probably mentioned it before on this very site, but my very favourite movie of all time… not just horror… but my very favourite, number one favourite film of all time is the 1985 film, directed by Stuart Gordon and based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, Re-animator.

I loved it from the first moment I saw it and it turned me on to the work of Lovecraft, and the gorgeous Barbara Crampton, and I really enjoyed the combination of zombie flick, mad scientist movie and actual drama about people’s lives.

At this time in my life I loved sequels too, but always prayed that they would never make more Re-animator films as it really felt like a cool complete movie, but Yuzna knew he was on a good thing so we have been treated to two sequels: Bride of Re-animator and this, Beyond Re-animator.

Beyond Re-animator find Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) interred in a cruel prison when a young doctor, Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) takes up residency in the infirmary.

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Dr Phillips didn’t accidently end up there though, he deliberately sought out the place where West was imprisoned so he could have some questions answered about the death of his sister, at the hands of one of West’s reanimated subjects.

Of course, answers of this kind are easily found, and Phillips finds himself under the oppressive hand of an unpleasant prison warden (Simon Andreu) and an increasing amount of re-animated bodies, and that jail is not the best place to be trapped with them.

This was one of Yuzna’s Spanish created Fantastic Factory jobs, a company he was attempting to build into the new ‘Hammer’ in the late eighties and early 90s. A couple of good films came out of that, including the adaptation of the David Quinn/ Tim Vigil comic Faust and I don’t mind this so much either, even though it is pretty dumb at times.

Of course the highlight of this is Jeffrey Combs’ performance of Herbert West. He is the look down the nose, superiority complex king of mad scientists, for certain. The writing of his character lacks some of the charm of the first two outings, particularly the first, but it’s there, simmering under some below average scripting.

Unfortunately the co-stars suffer from a language barrio which makes their performances not bad, but certainly not quite ‘on point’. Don’t get me wrong, the prison characters are perfectly nuts, the warden deliciously evil and the love interest a feast for the eyes, but occasionally what they say just sits wrong.

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The effects in the film are provided in part by Screaming Mad George so you know you are in for somewhat of  a treat with some of the effects.

All in all is a fun watch, but its just not great, and honestly waters down the character of Herbert West. Having said that, would I watch another one if one were made? Of course I would.

Score: **1/2

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Disc: The reviewed copy of this film is the U.K.  Arrow Films DVD release, which runs for approximately 92 minutes and is present in a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic image with a matching 2.0 audio.

Score: ***

Extras: There are three extras on this DVD:

The Director’s Commentary with Brian Yuzna sees Yuzna himself talk about the film and its creation and is a fairly complete document of the film.

 All in the Head: Brian Yuzna and the Re-animator Chronicles  is an interview with Brian Yuzna about his career both with and without Herbert West. It goes for about an hour and is pretty complete.

There is also a trailer for the film.

The packaging is pretty cool though: there is an awesome The Dude Designs reversible cover (with the original poster on the other side) and a poster of the TDD cover as well. Calum Waddell has also leant his journalistic skills to a booklet which discusses the world of Lovecraft.

Score: ****

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The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) Review

One from the to watch pile…
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

Monster Pictures’ The Whisperer in Darkness DVD cover


Film: A discussion circulating the idea of ‘horror’ cannot be maintained without the mentioning of one particular name: Howard Phillips Lovecraft, better known as H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is one of my favourite horror authors, though some may say he is actually a science fiction writer! I first discovered Lovecraft after watching the film ‘Re-animator’ and fell in love with the stories and style, mainly due to how different it was from the Richard Laymon’s and Shaun Hutson’s and James Herbert’s that I had been devouring.

As much as I love director Stuart Gordon’s film (as a matter of fact, it’s my favourite horror film – I think it’s the perfect horror film) and his other adaptations, I always felt the modernisation of them did the original stories a slight disservice… though perhaps I was wrong in that thinking.

The Whisperer in Darkness: Matt Foyer as Wilmarth


This film comes as a revelation as far as keeping to the time period is concerned. It’s kept very low key, so the anachronisms are kept to a minimum. First, the filmmakers had the idea to set the film in the year in was written with the cinematic style of the era (black and white with a grand soundtrack) and it’s a great one, the entire structure of the film feels like it was made in the early years of the talkies, though the clarity of the film reveals the truth. There is some great tributes to other horror films through the ages, and to the author as well.

The story tells of Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) a skeptical literature teacher at Miskatonic University in Arkham who engages, from a negative standpoint, in a debate about creatures supposedly seen in Vermont after some flooding. He is eventually convinced to personally investigate after he receives letters from Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch) via his son George (Joe Sofranko) but what he finds in Vermont may actually prove his disbelief to be inaccurate, and maybe there are creatures… and their human supporters… engaging in dark rituals…

Even though this is a supposed accurate portrayal of the film, it does actually extend the short story to flesh it out, and theres nothing wrong with that. It is shot well, and I’m sure whatever Lovecraft societies exist would appreciate what the filmmakers have done, and there are some real clever usage of light and sound.

The Whisperer in Darkness: what’s in the cave?


There is some pretty good effects in the films, but the CGI creatures are jarring as they just aren’t very well realised. This is possibly unfair as it is a lower budgeted film, but still, they stick out as being fake and ineffective.

This film is one of those slow burn films, and that’s not necessarily bad as slower, deliberate horror films, like say, The Wicker Man, can be effective. The acting is excellent and as melodramatic as it should be to replicate the time, but perhaps Gordon was right in modernising the stories and adding boobs and blood ‘n’ guts to the unfolding events as this has not lopped Re-animator off the top of my list, nor does it rival From Beyond, another of Gordon’s efforts. It is a decent film and an enjoyable watch.

Score: ***1/2

The Whisperer in Darkness DVD menu screen


Format: The reviewing disc of the film is the Monster Picture’s Australian multi-region DVD which runs for approximately 103 minutes is presented in a good 16×9 letterboxed visual with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The image is clear and sharp all the way through.

Score: ****

Extras: A cool collection of extraterrestrial extras turn up on this disc. The first is an interesting making of The Whisperer in Darkness which is amusing, and makes movie-making sound like an awful thing that anyone could ever want to do. There is also a trailer for the film.

Next is the short film, The Call of Cthulhu which, like the feature is done in the style of when it was written, so we have a black and white silent film, complete with title cards and almost German Expressionistic styled make-up and environments. The music is also melodramatic as one would expect. Even, the the recent way of doing things, to ‘age’ the film they have added grit, hairs and an occasional touch of telecine wobble. Sure this has been over done since the ‘grindhouse’ revival several years ago, but it adds to the atmosphere much more in a film that’s replicating the age… though all of the camera work may NOT do the same thing. There is also a trailer for this film.

In addition, there is a commentary performed by director Sean Branney, writer Andrew Leman and cinematographer David Robertson and is a pretty complete, informative and entertaining one.

All in all an epic bunch of extras with a pretty cool short film make for an excellent package.

The cover claims that their are more extras at the Monster Picture website (unreviewed).

Score: *****

WISIA: This was a grand attempt at doing ‘proper’ Lovecraft, but I can’t wholly see me watching it again.

The Whisperer in Darkness: disembodied head projection!!