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Sunday, 6 May 2012


Different people like H.P. Lovecraft for different  reasons. And, for one reason or another, his stories continue to inspire and interest people. Some more than others - such as Brian Yuzna (and his occasional partner-in-crime, Stuart Gordon). They are perhaps the only filmmakers who regularly (re)visit Lovecraft's work (in much the same way Mick Garris and Frank Darabont repeatedly use Stephen King's work as raw material) and it's clear they have a deep respect and love for Lovecraft. However, they don't let that get in the way of some good old fashioned GORE. Which is probably the last thing that springs to mind when you hear Lovecraft's name mentioned....right after 'neon special effects'.

God bless the Cats Protection charity shop in Derby for  having a  regular stockpile of 90s horror videos
I think NECRONOMICON (1993) is underrated. Why? Because it's a fair representation of Lovecraft's work, delivered by a master of the horror genre who has an affinity for the author? NO. Don't be silly! Despite the subject matter, NECRONOMICON is as Lovecraftian as toothpaste. Squid-flavoured toothpaste, maybe, but still toothpaste.

It takes the form of an anthology film. I love those. I don't know why they've fallen out of favour in recent years, but anyway...Jeffery Combs, no stranger to Lovecraft films, actually plays Lovecraft in the wraparound segment. He's copying stories from the Necronomicon itself, to use as "research". We're then treated to a mini film of each story, the first of which is 'The Drowned'.

At its core, this is about a desperate man messing with forces he doesn't understand in order to resurrect his dead wife. Except, he does understand the forces he's messing with because he reads a letter (that takes the form of a mini film within a mini film) clearly explaining how terrible those forces are. And even when a fish man delivers the Necronomicon to him, to use to raise his wife, he ignores all the signs of danger with a lack of common sense that borders on superhuman. We're then treated to an Errol Flynn-level of chandelier-swinging as the man battles a tentacled monster. Yep.

Next is the best executed, and most faithful, segment 'The Cold' (based on the 'Cool Air' story: read it HERE). A young lady moves into a house, finds out the doctor upstairs has a peculiar "affliction" in which he has to remain cold, and gets caught up in a tale of murder and doomed love. Even though this also stars the ever-dependable David Warner it's, ironically, my least favourite part.

Which brings us to the last segment, and the one I still find disturbing: 'Whispers'. After crashing her car, a female cop sees her partner being dragged away by a killer known as 'The Butcher'. She gives chase, and ends up stumbling upon a hidden temple beneath the city's streets. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what's so horrible about this part - sure, it's excessively gory (at one point the cop falls in a charnel pit), there's little to no chance of escape for our 'heroine', and the whole thing is soaked in a lurid neon red glare...but it's more than these things combined. It maybe the underlying sentiment of how The Butcher likely decided there is no God, so has thrown in his chips with another deity, something at once alien and terrible but - and this might be it - one that offers a release from the pain of being human. But at what cost?

And then we come back to 'The Library', just in time to see Lovecraft stab a monster (and cause an explosive geyser of blood) and peel a monk's face off.

So why do I love this film, and think it's so underrated if it plays fast and loose with the work of Lovecraft (and the author himself)? Because it's an interpretation of his work. Derelict buildings, subterranean temples, alien gods, meddling with unknown forces, a relentless sense of impending doom...all mixed up and turned into a pulp genre film with gloopy effects and women with tentacles for eyes. It's certainly a product of its time - show it to a generation raised on remakes and CGI and they'll probably laugh at the stop motion, cheap morphing effects, and practical monster costumes. But, that's because those kids are idiots.

And purely because this is what I'm listening to as I type this, let's end with:

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