Short Film Saturday- The Music of Erich Zann and The Earth Rejects Him

The Music of Erich Zann

I am a huge admirer of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I have read nearly all of his works, some on multiple occasions, and the few I haven’t yet read I’ll soon get to. Lovecraft typically has been seen as someone who is for the most part un-filmable. This is usually due to the descriptive nature of his work, how ensconced in prose, inner monologue and an atmospheric sense of foreboding that the psychological play of the written word can achieve far easier than a moving image. Those are just some of the reasons.

One recent excellent adaptation of similar length is The Call of Cthulhu by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, they have a feature due out at the end of the month.

The Music of Erich Zann is a notable tale not only because of Lovecraft’s designating it as one of his favorites, but also because of the description of the eponymous music. This film is ambitious for tackling this story on that fact alone, and much of the time the music works it has a borderline-grating yet conversely captivating quality that Lovecraft alludes to in the text. The sound design of the film also works well in conjunction with it. There are great oblique angles thrown into the mix that build that sense of unease and hint of something outré.

The locations are really great and the film does well to play rather timelessly throughout. There are few hints of when this film was made, which allow it to be rather close to the Lovecraft’s text without being strictly period. The makeup work is rather good for the most part, but most of what makes this film click is that this film insists on the myopic world view of the mythos and that is most of why it works. The world beyond the walls of this decrepit apartment building is illusory and the reality of reality is being uncovered behind these walls.

This film is very true to the text based on what I recall of the story and builds atmosphere and dread and slowly builds to a huge wallop, that may impact the protagonist more than the spectator. I know from experience that an undertaking of a tale of this kind and size in a university production is quite an undertaking and the results are pretty impressive.

The Earth Rejects Him

Jared Skolnick has since made a new short film. This one is an original tale. What’s most intriguing is that most of it unfolds without the aid of discernible dialogue and it’s an elementary horrific tale insomuch as we see results and understand patterns, in short we witness results, and don’t necessarily discern the cause in a precise fashion, but understand it. This, of course, is by design. In a Lovecraftian way a curtain is pulled back here revealing a maniacal, terrifying underworld that we only understand enough to know we want no part of it, and in many ways that makes it more frightening.

You can view The Earth Rejects Him below.

http://t.co/roou4klSLn

If you’re interested in this film it can be purchased here.

Welcome to 61 Days of Halloween 2012 and The Call of Cthulhu

Alas, the time of year I long for most has come. There will be a heavy focus on horror from here through October 31st, but rest assured that pieces discussing current/recent theatrical releases are still being worked on, Short Film Saturday will continue to be full of variety and the Mini-Review Round-Ups will also offer films outside the genre if it happens not to be your cup of tea. Enjoy the standard intro and this piece!

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Every once in a while there is a film that just stands out so far it not only deserves to be noticed it practically demands it, it screams to be noticed. Such is the case with The Call of Cthulhu.

This is a film that screamed from the shelves of a Best Buy at me. It is produced by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, also known as the HPLHS. The cover art was so convincing – once I had discovered it was actually “a new silent film” I nearly gave up on it. However, I decided to give it a chance, first for their dedication to the idea and second, because how often do you get to watch a new silent film?

The film is short, under an hour, and highly decorated but having seen it this is the absolutely perfect treatment of the Lovecraftian mythos and a true delight for any fan of the author or the genre to behold. It takes his most difficult and ‘unshootable’ film and aside from one shot which I imagined when reading the tale handles it deftly, in fact, far better than I thought possible. All the conventions of the silent film are present and amplified. The end with close on text in journal could not be more perfect.

Throughout the use of forced perspective, miniatures and compositing is accurate to style and also rather effective. The film is also framed perfectly going through several locales with ease and not dependent on titles, in fact, not once is a title unnecessary or left wanting. It is truly a well-crafted film.

It is likely Lovecraft’s most globetrotting tale and it is certainly aired out well. The execution of the narrative is so accurate you are sure to forget about its being silent after a time if it does bother you.

The HPLHS is working on a new project Whisperer in Darkness. Their site features many links to their and other companies’ wonderful adaptations of the master’s work, available radio broadcasts and even a musical adaptation called Shoggoth on the Roof, both as a play and documentary about the play. One can only hope this group continues to bring HP Lovecraft the kind of appreciation and representation he deserves.

10/10

Mini-Review Round-Up – August 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Whisperer in the Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness was a film I just had to see. After having seen The Call of Cthulhu, which was a short, silent version of a Lovecraft classic, I knew I’d want to see anything this company (known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) did.

In their newest film, and first feature, they tackle The Whisperer in Darkness and shifted from a silent film representation to a monster film of the 1930s approach. In both cases, the style of film that is emulated perfectly suits the work being interpreted.

I firmly believe this to be the case, regardless of your familiarity with either of these very distinct niches. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft this is a great introduction as it very faithfully, but also intriguingly in cinematic terms, renders the narrative. Any admirer of film, regardless of what era(s) they prefer, will recognize some of the conventions on display in this film, and as details of the narrative unfold it’ll become clear the choice is an inspired one.

Much of this is a roundabout way of saying that odds are you’ll like this if you go in with the knowledge of what the film is attempting, and you could be a fan of either or neither end of the narrative equation and walk away liking it. However, if you like both it’s rather heavenly, or should I say hellacious? Either way, it’s great stuff.

10/10

Intruders

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I can’t put it right at the top, but when all is said and done, Intruders will likely end up being one of my favorite horror films of the year. It starts almost immediately with a scene that you think will just be a great teaser but instead ends up being the first building block in a parallel storyline (in terms of both time and place). Aside from being a bi-lingual film, the film does a great job mirroring certain themes and elements in the storylines, giving elements different spins in each. The film is very tense but also cloistered in its drama and fear-inducing, which it makes it very effective indeed. To say too much more would be to start giving things away. I think that fans of the horror genre, Spanish horror in particular should see this film.

10/10

Detention

To accentuate the positive first, I cannot, nor can anyone in all likelihood, accuse Detention of being unoriginal or predictable. One of its few perks is that it does not ever make it obvious where it’s going next, and in its own insane way does manage to link everything together in the end. However, the film seems to think it’s a lot more clever and funny than I find it to be. It’s part (sub)genre-hopping horror/sci-fi and mostly comedy but the comedy portion is very forced, nearly all of it. Few and far between are the jokes that work for me and rarely did jokes strike me as genuine reflections of character. Instead the characters always seem to be in a state of limbo between being a stand-in for a horror archetype and a human vessel for a punchline.

I can see how the film has produced divisive reactions, and I always prefer a film that strives for divisiveness. When all is said and done, attempting to please everyone creates tepid cinema. Truly universal stories, at their core, come from a very personal place- so, I can easily see how this might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine.

2/10

Lovely Molly

I tend to take my time to even send out a tweet reaction to a film most of the time. In very vague terms I’ll know walking out of a film, if I liked it or not. However, to what extent I did and what I thought of it usually takes a little time to decide. It’s the rare film that plays on my mind for a while.

Lovely Molly is one of those films. My initial tweet about it, when I did finally mention it, was slightly mis-worded: it’s not that the film is difficult to follow, it’s not; the denseness and nebulousness comes in the ‘answers’ the film gives to questions it poses. They’re not entirely clear, they invite debate, they invite you to re-view the film; but they are all chilling and surprising.

The film also features a fabulous performance by Gretchen Lodge, which makes you stand up and take notice.

This film made me realize that there are two kinds of re-viewable films ones that could get massively better and one with a definite ceiling. This film is the latter kind, but worth giving your own shot.

6/10

The Moth Diaries

It’s a bit of a shame when a film that offers a different perspective on a subgenre fails to catch lightning in a bottle. The Moth Diaries is not only subtle vampire tale set at an all girls school, but is also directed by a woman. It’s a slow-burn, which never quite catches fire all the way and it doesn’t really bend convention too much save for the casting and setting. Some of the better parts of the film are the overt allusions to the Gothic literature, from which all vampire tales draw at least some inspiration, which doesn’t bode too well for the piece at hand. The film doesn’t seem to detach itself too much from the source material, and there is an excessive amount of voice over for the story being told. Perhaps the novel is a better vehicle for this tale than the film as constructed.

5/10