The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

Director: Sean Branney

So, if The Call of Cthulhu was an attempt to do a faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft story, this is more like an attempt of a faithful adaptation of this particular Lovecraft story if August Derleth or Brian Lumley had written it. Yeah… that violence that Branney & Leman managed to avoid doing to Cthulhu, it kind of gets done here instead. And to be honest, I actually can kind of understand why they did what they did here, i.e. add a whole “third act” past the point where Lovecraft’s story ends, I can see their point about it not exactly being cinematic. The first two-thirds of the film, or near enough that, is actually, broadly faithful to the original (the introduction of Charles Fort as a minor character actually makes for quite an amusing innovation); as with Cthulhu, I don’t think anyone is likely to actually mistake it for an actual early 30s horror film (were there many of those in widescreen with 5.1 sound? Don’t think so), but rendering it in black and white nonetheless adds something interesting, it highlights the classic mystery/noir aspect of the thing. I think what the film does well tends to be really good (the CGI Mi-Go are, it must be said, a marked advance on the stop-motion Cthulhu), and of the introduced material I think the scene where Wilmarth converses with the real Akeley is actually one of the best scenes in the film. It’s just, well, the last third of the film I’m not sure about; it turns from a pseudo-30s story into a more conventionally modern horror in ways that I don’t know really work. Like I said, I understand why they did it, but at the same time it does kind of miss the point of Lovecraft’s stories, which rarely end with this sort of direct confrontation and big action climax; it’s more like the sort of thing Derleth or Lumley would’ve written, and even on its own terms I’m not sure how well it really works. Bit of a shame cos the first hour of the film is, like I said, pretty good; I don’t know that a fully professional production with big Hollywood money behind it would necessarily result in a better film overall. As I said of Cthulhu, it is the sort of thing it is, its homemade charms are not inconsiderable, and as with that film, the making-of doco accompanying the film is quite a delight by itself.

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