Lurker films have released their fifth DVD
collection of films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft: Strange
Aeons. All of the movies on this disc are low budget independent
affairs, but they are all interesting in the way they approach Lovecraft's
work. While some work better than others, they are all worth watching
and the best of the lot are great. A disc that fans of the writer should
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
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 5: Strange Aeons:
Strange Aeons (77 minutes): This is an adaptation of the Lovecraft
story "The Thing of the Doorstep." A college professor, Richard Upton
(Grayson F. Kellmer), is surprised when his star pupil, Edward Derby (Erick
Robertson), starts dating the daughter of his old mentor, Asenath Waite (Angela
M. Grillo), and pretty much drops out of the program. It seems that
the woman has a strange hold on Edward, and when they are married only months
after they met, Upton really starts to get worried. He has good reason
to be worried too. Unbeknownst to him, Asenath can switch bodies with
people, and using Richard as her pawn she intends to open a dimensional rift
and let one of the Dark Lords though into our dimension.
This film is a good attempt to bring a Lovecraft work to the screen, and
it nearly works, but not quite. The film starts off rather slowly,
where the original story has a great opening line that really grabs a reader's
attention: "It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head
of my best friend, and yet I hope to show by this statement that I am not
his murderer." The movie starts with a man being locked away in a padded
cell, then after a long credit sequence it moves to a class room lecture.
Not exactly gripping.
The movie also drags in parts and feels padded. One of the problems
is that the audience knows what's going on with Asenath taking over Edwards
body, but the main character doesn't. So viewers get to see Upton bumble
around for a while never quite realizing what's going on. This can
be rather frustrating to watch.
The acting was generally mediocre. Kellmer and Robinson gave it a good
shot and did a good job in the few scenes with a lot of emotion, but when
they were called to stand around and give dialog it felt as if that's what
they were doing, just reciting lines rather than living what was happening.
The one exception was Angela Grillo who was menacing, sexy, and bitchy all
at the same time. The movie was always interesting when she was on
On the plus side, this movie did remain pretty faithful to the story and
updated it to the present without changing it very much. It also has a nice
atmosphere most of the time, where it feels like something is going to jump
out at any moment, but never does.
A/V: This movie was shot with a digital video camera and it
shows. The anamorphic 1.78:1 image has a lot of tell tail signs including
a good amount of aliasing and jagged lines. The field of focus for
the lens was a bit to narrow too, because the backgrounds are always too
soft. Even with these problems the movie is watchable.
The stereo soundtrack was about what one would expect. There was a
little use made of the front soundstage, but not a lot.
From Beyond (9 minutes): This stop-motion animated film was
my favorite on this disc. A man is invited to an old friend's house,
and when he arrives finds an odd machine and a prerecorded message on a TV
that tells him to sit down. As he does, the machine starts up and opens
up a different and totally monstrous world.
Claymation is the perfect technique to bring some of Lovecraft's indescribably
horrors to life, and this film does a wonderful job of that. It makes
the creatures seem more 'real' than traditional animation and not as slick
and artificial as CGI. This film is very creative with the way it portrays
the alternate dimension, and the twist at the end works wonderfully.
A brilliant piece.
A/V: 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, and the colors could have been a bit more vibrant.
Overall it looked fine.
Maria's Hubris (13 minutes): Made in 2002, this short is also based
on "The Thing on the Doorstep" and works better than the feature film.
Though it cuts out more of the story, it gets to the heart of the piece and
quickly tells the story it sets out to. The background music adds a
lot to the eerie atmosphere of the piece.
A/V: The anamorphic (1.78:1) image is fine if a little soft
and with some digital noise. Nothing major. The 5.1 audio is
in German with burned in English subtitles, but the rears are hardly used.
Let Sleeping Gods Lie (16 seconds): A CGI animated trailer for
an upcoming (?) movie. Very slick looking, but blink and you miss it.
Lovecraft (Trailer) (1 ½ minutes): a coming soon trailer
for a documentary on Lovecraft. This clip features interviews with
Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, and director Guillermo del Toro among others.
Looks like it will be a very interesting docu.
Don't Feed the Book (1 ½ minutes): An amusing cartoon
about a man who walks into the wrong bookstore. Cute, but it doesn't
really have a punch line.
This disc also has an interview with director John Carpenter who's a big
fan of Lovecraft. He talks about why a lot of people don't 'get' his
work and how hard it is to get a big-budget Lovecraft project off the ground.
It only last 5 minutes, but it's pretty interesting. In addition there
are a series of short spots that were shown at the H. P. Lovecraft Film
Festival to open various programs. It was nice that they included
these with the disc.
There's also a 9-minute behind the scenes look at the shooting of Strange
Aeons. This is basically just footage of the cast and crew going
about their business without any narration. Ehh. It didn't do
too much for me.
The bonus material is wrapped up with a commentary to Strange Aeons
by writer Kelly Young and director Eric Morgret. This is pretty
good commentary. They talk about the casting, where the movie was shot,
production problems, etc. It would be especially interesting
for people who want to learn more about making a small budget film.
This disc is like having a film festival in your own living room. With
shorts, interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes and a full-length movie,
it's a lot of fun working your way through it all. While the feature
didn't work as well as I was hoping, it's still an interesting take on "The
Thing on the Doorstep" and it definitely has its moments. The short
"From Beyond" was brilliant, and the German short "Maria's Hubris" was also
very good. This disc is well worth the price of admission, especially
for fans of H. P. Lovecraft's writing.