The first volume of The Lovecraft Collection contained several
good adaptations of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft (read the full reivew
The second volume of the series takes a different tact, presenting a group
of stories that are inspired by the writings of Lovecraft. The feature
film is Rough Magik, a pilot episode from a series pitched to the BBC that
was never picked up. It's an interesting concept and would have made
a very good series. In addition there are four short movies and some
nice bonus material making this second volume, Dreams of Cthulhu,
a fitting sequel to the original.
It would be easy to write off H. P. Lovecraft as an over-rated hack.
After all, his plots are very simple more often than not, there's frequently
little in the way of character development, and his prose is turgid and
opaque. Indeed critics have raised all those points and more (especially
the way he labels a creature as indescribably horrific only to describe
it two pages later) but these people miss the point. Lovecraft's
strength, and the reason he's remembered today when so many of his contemporaries
are forgotten, is in his unique ability to create a horrific atmosphere
and a pervading sense of unease. No other writer has been able to
consistently generate a feeling of foreboding and discomfort the way Lovecraft
can. He's the father of modern horror fiction, and has influenced
such diverse writers as Stephen King and Batman scribe Denny O'Neil (who
named Gotham's Arkham Asylum after the fictions city of Arkham Massachusetts
which appears in Lovecraft's fiction.
Because of his prose style and the way he leaves much of the horror
to the readers imagination, Lovecraft's stories are innately difficult,
some would say impossible, to accurately adapt to other mediums, especially
a visual one like film. This hasn't stopped many people from trying,
and the results have been more often than not unsatisfactory, at least
as far as the feature films are concerned.
Lurker Films has now released a series of discs containing adaptations
of Lovecraft-inspired movies that do capture the horror master's style
and atmosphere on film. Known as The Lovecraft Collection,
each of these discs offers some interesting takes on Lovecraft's stories.
Volume 2 - Dreams of Cthulhu:
Rough Magik (41 minutes):
This pilot for an unmade BBC TV series is quite good. After a mother
builds an altar to a strange and unearthly creature "The Sleeping God"
and sacrifices her two children to it, a secret arm of the government is
Led by the enigmatic Mr. Moon (Paul Darrow) this isn't the first time
"The Sleeping God" has controlled people and made them perform horrific
acts. The events are starting to occur with startling frequency,
which causes Moon to seek out Kenneth Reese Warren (Gerrard McArthur),
one of the last members of the "Night Scholars."
Told mostly through flashbacks, Moon drugs Warren and makes him relate
the first time he encountered the effects of an ancient evil god, back
when he was serving in the military during the Falkland Islands War.
There he saw soldiers who were driven mad, as well as a man who isn't afraid
of the invaders, or his British rescuers. They only have guns, which
aren't really a threat to him.
This could have been a great series, and it's a shame the BBC didn't
pick it up. Paul Darrow (from Blake's 7 fame) does a magnificent
job and makes his character both a protagonist and strangely sinister.
Justine Glenton steals the show as well as wonderfully setting up the horrific
tone of the program as the mother who slaughters her children. Attractive
and energetic, she has a marvelously creepy smile as she lovingly tells
her children that the statue she's created is of the Sleeping God.
"He sleeps. He Dreams. And he calls."
One of the aspects of the show that set it apart from other SF/Horror
shows is that it's fairly clear from the beginning that the humans are
fighting a loosing battle. This isn't a war that they can win; their
goal is just to postpone the inevitable. This constant underdog feeling
would have worked well in a horror show and it's a shame the show wasn't
A/V: The anamorphic 1.78:1 image looked good. The
beginning and some of the British scenes were shot on film and the location
shots were recorded on digital tape. The latter looks a little flat
but nothing major. The colors were adequate but not exceptional and
the detail was fine. The stereo soundtrack was about what one would
expect. There was a little use made of the front soundstage, but
not a lot.
Terrible Old Man (33 minutes):
A modern-day telling of the Lovecraft tale. A trio of small time
crooks are on the run after a botched robbery where an old lady was killed.
Stopping at a diner in a small town, they see a strange old man pay for
his coffee with a gold coin. Sensing an easy theft with a huge payoff,
the group discovers where he lives and comes back that night. The
resulting robbery is anything but easy.
This was another good adaptation. Director Bob Fugger did a good
job building the suspense. During the whole film it feels like the
crooks are rushing towards disaster which makes the movie engrossing.
It's like a train wreck in slow motion, you just can't look away.
The three criminals (Rene Defazio, Todd Sanderson, and Rock Moran) do a
fairly good job of being worthless miscreants. They're unpleasant
and argumentative and viewers won't feel sorry for them at the end.
The makeup for the Terrible Old Man left something to be desired, but the
sets used for his house was pretty eerie. This was a no-budget film
(it's not even listed in the IMDB) that is quite well made. Something
of a rarity.
A/V: The stereo audio track was fine, though the dialog
was a bit muddled in places. It was hard to make out a few lines,
but nothing major. There wasn't a lot of dynamic range and minimal
use of the soundstage, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of the film.
The 1.78:1 image was anamorphically enhanced and looked pretty good.
There was some minor aliasing throughout the movie but it was never distracting.
From Beyond (21 minutes):
Bob Fugger returns with another ultra-low budget short that doesn't work
as well as Terrible Old Man, but is still an interesting piece. A man visits
a friend he wasn't seen in a long time after getting a mysterious message
and discovers that the friend has created a "cursed electrical machine"
that opens a pathway to another universe.
While this didn't grab me the way the previous short did, it was a faithful
adaptation of the Lovecraft story. Fugger was able to once again
create an eerie piece with almost no money. This could have easily
been embarrassingly bad, but though there's some overacting the piece is
A/V: This was the only film that I thought looked below
average. The widescreen anamorphic image was very soft and had a
lot of grain. The colors were very muted too, which may be what the
director had in mind. Instead of making the film look dark and mysterious
though it made it look cheap. The stereo soundtrack fit the dialog-based
Experiment 17 (5 minutes) and Experiment 18
(9 minutes): These two shorts hypothesize what might
have happened if Adolph Hitler was able to obtain a copy of the Necronomicon
by the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, a fictions book that appears in several
of Lovecraft's stories. These films illustrate the last two experiments
that were tired to unlock the power of the book.
This is a nice idea and the films are simple but work well, especially
the second one. The first is a little too predictable, but the set
up is interesting and a bit eerie. Experiment 18 is a nice work that
is mysterious and creepy.
A/V: These two black and white films were purposefully
scratchy with a lot of grain to make them appear like the sole surviving
prints of a Nazi experiment. They succeeded in that, and the full
frame image, though it was very soft at times, was fine. The stereo
audio (or possibly two channel mono) was fine, though also artificially
aged as well.
This is a re-issue of this collection. The first pressings, which
were released in 2004, had poor sound which has been corrected. There
were also a pair of heavy metal rock videos from songs inspired by Lovecraft
that are missing on this disc. They were replaced with the two "Experiment"
This disc also has an interview with Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi that
lasts a bit less than 10 minutes. This time around Joshi talks
about Lovecraft's life, the things that influenced his writing, and his
personal philosophy. It's interesting to note that he doesn't mention
Lovecraft's strong racist views.
There's also a 17-minute interview with the cast and crew of Terrible
Old Man. They talk about the genesis of the project as well as
the shoot itself.
The bonus material is wrapped up with a commentary to Rough Magik
by writer/producer Steven W. Parsons. Parsons is a little dry in
his delivery, it often sounds like he's reading from a script, but he does
have some interesting things to say. He not only talks about the
production and difficulties with the shoot (he and the director clashed
and the director eventually walked off the project) but also how the show
was going to evolve and the various story ideas that they had. This
is a commentary that's worth listening to.
This was another intriguing volume this some excellent offerings.
The main feature, Rough Magik would have made a great show (though I hate
the title and the way they spelled "Magik") and could have possibly been
another X-files if given the chance. The shorts were all good too,
and Terrible Old Man was very entertaining. It just goes to show
what you can do with even on a shoe-string budget. While I did enjoy
the first volume just a bit more, this one is still highly recommended,
expecially for Lovecraft fans.