Friday, October 5, 2012

Countdown to Halloween Day 5 -- Silent Call: A Review of "The Call of Cthulhu" (2005)

Andrew Leman's 2005 short film The Call of Cthulhu is a fairly faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's 1928 short story about a man who is driven to the brink of madness while investigating the depraved Cult of Cthulhu and the Old Ones they worship.  The most interesting thing about the movie is Leman's decision to film it as if it were made contemporaneously with the story, so that Call is actually a silent film -- a fact that the Netflix blurb neglected to mention. 

While initially put off by the discovery when I first tried to watch the film -- it's much harder to multitask when you have to pay so much attention to the screen -- once I settled in and gave it my full attention, I realized just how well suited the format was for the story.  Some of Lovecraft's more purple prose might have sounded strained if spoken aloud, but felt perfectly in place being flashed on screen as intertitles. Similarly, the stylized minimalist sets (reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) used for the dream sequences and the city of R'lyeh perfectly captured the surreal and inhuman quality of each.  My only quibble would be with the stop-motion animation of Cthulhu itself, which felt less like a product of the silent film era, and more a reject from a Gumby short; the film would have been much better off keeping the creature in shadow, since the end result only diluted the atmosphere the rest of the film managed to conjure.

I would recommend this movie to fans of Lovecraft or silent films; most anyone else could probably skip it an not worry about having missed much.

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