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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Countdown to the HP Lovecraft Film Festival (2011) #2

(From Plan D: The Official Website of Derek M. Koch)

When I think about the Lovecraft Film Festival, the thoughts that come to mind aren't necessarily of films. I think about the friends I've made at the festival over the years, the camaraderie, the shared community of Lovecraft lovers. It's sometimes easy to overlook the films, so I thought I'd look back at some of the features I've seen at the festival over the years.

The Attic Expedition (dir. Jeremy Kasten) - Jeffrey Combs just belongs on the big screen at the Lovecraft Film Festival, and while this movie certainly has some low budget issues, watching it on the big screen with a crowd probably made seeing the movie a better film-watching experience than it had the right to be. The direction and acting - save Combs - is a little rough, and the screenplay does suffer a bit in spots, but there's something about this production and the production design that still grabs me. I don't think this is something I would have tracked down to watch on my own if not for the festival, and now I've got it on DVD at home because of the festival.

The Fog (dir. John Carpenter) - I hope it's obvious to most that I had already seen this movie by the time I saw it at the festival, but I had never seen it on the big screen. To see this Carpenter classic at the Hollywood Theatre was an amazing experience, especially since back then, the theater ran pretty cold (it's an old building, and has been in a perpetual state of remodel/refurbishing for at least as long as I've been a Lurker, and the heating/cooling had been out of whack for years) which gave the movie experience an uncomfortable edge that played right into the visuals of the film itself.

Beyond the Dunwich Horror (dir. Richard Griffin) - Honestly, I almost didn't catch this at the festival. I wanted to see it, but sometimes scheduling all the movies I want to see into my own schedule was tough, but I ran into Chris from The Shadow Over Portland and he encouraged me to check it out. I juggled my schedule around, and found myself sitting in on the last screening of Beyond the Dunwich Horror, and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed the film. Jeff Dylan Graham is almost always fun to watch in lower-budget horror movies, and he didn't disappoint. The movie itself has a fun 70s drive-in vibe (Griffin's proving himself to be the guerilla master of genre throwback movies with movies like The Disco Exorcist, Atomic Brain Invasion and Nun of That), which lends itself well to a movie that does play a little fast and loose with the Lovecraft material. (And I love the music in the film!)

Curse of the Crimson Altar (dir. Vernon Sewell) - I've always been a Lugosi fan. I like Karloff - don't get me wrong - but I've always been a bigger fan of the Hungarian over the British actor. Because of this, I've not been as well-versed in some of Karloff's non-Universal genre work as I should have been, and I knew nothing about this film before walking into one of the screening rooms on the second floor of the Hollywood. Karloff? He was in another Lovecraft adaptation apart from Die, Monster, Die!? And Christopher Lee is in it? Sign me up! Karloff's looking a little rough around the edges health-wise, but he still delivers a magnetic performance from his wheelchair. Lee's solid. Barbara Steele is solid. This was one of the sleepers for me the year it was played at the festival.

Dagon (dir. Stuart Gordon) - Re-Animator's a great film, but let's be honest - it's not very "Lovecraftian." It has the trappings, and, yes, the original story "Herbert West - Reanimator" was written as a parody of the Frankenstein novel, but Re-Animator film is so over the top, it's hard to think of it in the same light of Gordon's Dagon. (No disrespect to Re-Animator; it's easily one of the Top 100 Zombie Movies... !) Dagon's got a great score, teams actor Ezra Godden (who's doing his best Combs-meets-Bruce-Campbell impression) with director Gordon a few years before his excellent turn as Walter Gilman in the "Masters of Horror" episode "Dreams in the Witch-House, and gives us a touching and heart-breaking performance by Francisco Rabal as Ezequiel.

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu (dir. Henry Saine) - Gregg Lawrence as Captain Olaf. That could be enough to sum up why I remember this movie. Lawrence is GOLDEN in this film. Fortunately, that's not all this movie has to offer. We've got the last descendant of Lovecraft and his buddy, both frustrated wanna-be comic book creators - out trying to save the world. Okay, Lawrence isn't the only this golden in this movie; the entire movie is!

Cthulhu (dir. Dan Gildark) - Yes, the one with Tori Spelling. I didn't know what to think about this one going into it. Lovecraftian scholar S. T. Joshi supported it, and it was generating a lot of attention in the Pacific Northwest, but I still had reservations, mostly because of Spelling. It turns out, I had no reason to be hesitant about the movie; it's a solid film, and successfully and seamlessly blends a modern day story with a Lovecraftian theme. This also introduced me to the film music of Willy Greer (his music also turned up in an adaptation of "Pickman's Model"), whose haunting music disappears behind the cool, bleak imagery on screen.

Alien Raiders (dir. Ben Rock) - Scott Glancy introduced this movie when it played at the festival, and summed it up as the last session of a Delta Green role-playing game gone HORRIBLY wrong. While this movie might have been telling the story of a group's last hurrah as they track down and try to stop an alien threat, the chemistry of the characters and performers made us feel like they'd been doing their job for a long time, and Carlos Bernard and company wore this "we've-got-to-save-the-world-because-that's-what-we've-always-done-no-matter-what" on their sleeves, their faces and their entire bodies, which sold the threat to the audience, and made me wish I could spend more time in this world . . . even if, in this world, things don't go as well as they could for most folks.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (dir. Edward Martin III) - If memory serves, this played at the festival the one year there was a fourth night added, and while I was at the IMDB confirming that Toren Atkinson was the performer providing the voice of the lead character, I stumbled across a review I apparently wrote about the movie at that site back in 2006: "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is an ambitious movie, striving to adapt one of H. P. Lovecraft's most fantastical fictions and succeeding in nearly every aspect. Using a unique style of animation, director Edward Martin III has created a movie that should be examined by more than the typical "Lovecraft-Crowd" - the movie is that good. The voice actors did an excellent job wrapping their mouths around the more complex "Lovecraft-isms" (Nyarlathotep anyone?) while still conveying the sense of wonder that a story like ...Kadath evokes. The soundtrack was inspired as well. If you have an opportunity to see this movie, SEE IT." Well, I'm not going to argue with myself . . .

There are other movies that come to mind when I think about the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival (including a number of non-feature-length films like The Yellow Sign, AM1200 and The Call of Cthulhu), and I'm sure that as I lay down tonight to go to sleep, a few more titles will come to mind.

What I'm most looking forward to, though, is this year's film offerings (feature and otherwise)!

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