Mar. 23rd, 2009

Lovecraft.

Mar. 23rd, 2009 04:09 pm
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For years I've been wanting to go see the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival down in Portland, but I never had the money or the time. But this year, it actually came to me! A special "best-of" compilation of their short films is now running at the The Grand Illusion Cinema, a lovely little theater in the U-District.

It's playing every night until this Thursday, the 26th. If you have any appreciation for Lovecraft's unique brand of science-horror, you owe it to yourself to go to this.

Here's what I thought of each short:

Casting Call of Cthulhu was a nice cute little bit of fluff to start off with, and does exactly what it says on the tin.

Late Bloomer was the tale of a 7th-grader discovering the true horrors of reality in Ms. Lovecraft's sex-ed class, and it was -- pretty amusing, but I think ultimately wore on for too long.

The Book Dealers was a nifty little piece of animated steampunk unpleasantness with interesting characters. Felt like something I would have seen on Liquid Television back in the '90s. Check out the link -- you can watch the whole thing on-line.

Eel Girl was the first piece that really made me sit up and take notice. It looked great -- the makeup effects were by Weta, if that tells you anything. The acting was a little bit stiff, but otherwise, a nice short sharp shock -- unearthly, beautiful, sexy, disgusting, disturbing, all at once.

Legend of the Seven Bloody Torturers reminded me of Monty Python, and I mean that in the best possible way.

The Canal is the one I felt the most lukewarm about. It's a dramatic reading of a Lovecraft poem with some interesting and kind of experimental animation. There's nothing wrong with it, really, it was just not nearly as interesting as the other shorts on offer. (You can watch that one online, too, at the link provided, if you feel the need.)

Maxwell's Mind was pretty decent. It was slightly let down by some mediocre acting, but that kind of enhanced the 1940s feel they were going for here. Great sound design here -- the distorted electronic voice from the dead brain being kept "alive" scared the hell out of me.

Experiment 18 -- "As the Third Reich crumbled, a Nazi Occultist performed one last, desperate, ritual. This is his story. These are his words." This had a great documentary feel to it, which was helped by having the narration in German. (It's subtitled, natch.) The combination of black magic, the undead, and Nazis put me in mind of Hellboy, I have to admit, but that didn't really hurt this film at all.

Between the Stars is based really loosely on an unfinished Lovecraft story, and really, it doesn't tell a story -- it sets a mood. But what a mood -- stark, obsessive black-and-white, it put me in mind of Pi and Eraserhead.

Call of Cthulhu was the one I really wanted to see, and it didn't disappoint. Made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, it's a note-for-note perfect attempt to create an adaptation of his most famous story that looks and sounds like an authentic 1920's silent film. Really, really great.

~ intermission ~

The Outsider was another dramatic-reading-plus-some-animation piece, but the crucial difference is that this one featured the distinctive voice talents of Doug Bradley, best known to horror fans as Hellraiser's Pinhead. Getting to hear that great rich voice read my absolute favorite Lovecraft story was a real pleasure.

Cool Air I have mixed feelings about. In the end, I have to say it was an incredibly well-acted adaptation of a story in which not much really happens. I was simultaneously riveted and wondering how much longer it was going to be, which was a weird combination.

AM1200 was great, and my only complaint about it is that I wish it had been longer. There's enough set-up here just begging to be further explored at feature-length. This was easily the slickest, most professional production of the whole evening, and a hell of a strength to go out on.

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