“My money is on you being brutally killed within two days, but what choice do we have?”
The works of H.P. Lovecraft have a reputation for being imaginative and utterly horrifying. The same can be said for the many attempts to bring this work to the screen. Most of these have been horrifying, but for the wrong reason. With the very notable exception of the Re-Animator films, which owe a great deal to the portrayal of West by Jeffrey Combs, the Lovecraft films usually miss their mark by a mile. It’s not that the filmmakers themselves were necessarily bad. It’s just that the material is difficult to nail down visually. Lovecraft invited us to use our imaginations. He guided them with quite vivid accounts of what many believe are drug-induced hallucinations by the author himself. There are those who believe that Lovecraft wasn’t writing fiction at all, but describing experiences he believed he had actually had. How do you depict psychedelic nightmares that only the terrified mind can conjure? The answer is: you don’t even try.
Perhaps the best way to approach the material is to go down a path that is decidedly different than one would expect. It’s kind of like the logic of turning into a spin when you lose control of your car on a turn. It sounds like really bad advice, but it might just get you out of a heap of trouble. Taking the Lovecraft mythos down a comedic route appears to be just as bad advice, but I’ll tell you what. It kind of works.
“You boys ever been fish-raped? It’s not the kind of thing you’re likely to forget.”
The story follows the logic that Lovecraft did indeed disguise his experiences in fiction. It goes farther than that. Lovecraft created a secret society to guard over a relic that, if joined with another, will release his iconic beast/god Cthulhu from a watery prison. Once released, the beast will devour the earth and make us all his slaves for eternity. Jeff (Davis) is the last remaining member of the Lovecraft line. He works as a graphic artist for an advertisement agency with his friend Charlie (McGinn). The two really want to create comic books. Charlie has ideas based on the stories of Lovecraft. They are basically comic book geeks. A man, Professor Lake (Lupinski) arrives with the relic and explains Jeff’s bloodline. He’s given instructions to defend the relic with his life. They remember that a kid they used to pick on in high school was an authority on Lovecraft. Sure enough they find Paul (Hardley) still living with grandma. Paul is skeptical at first but eventually agrees to lead them to Captain Olaf (Lawrence) Olaf was once a sea captain who is the only person known to have battled the minions of Cthulhu and survived to tell the tale. Now he lives in an RV in the desert as far away from the ocean as he can get. All the while Starspawn (Wilde) and his own minions are after the boys to get their hands on the relic.
The film isn’t going to win any awards for originality, f/x or even the comedy. It’s a low-budget film with all of the limitations that go with that situation. Creatures are dressed in silly masks or red faces. But there is a good level of style here. The movie embraces its situation and attempts to make the best of it. These actors know they aren’t going to be confused with De Niro or Pacino, not even Fred De Niro or Bart Pacino. Instead of allowing their own limitations challenge the performances they decide to just have a good time with the whole thing. That shows through and allows us to join in with the fun and keeps us from getting too bogged down picking apart the film’s shortcomings. They know this is all silly fun and just invite you to play along. It’s like those days as a kid when you might find a pile of rocks and start playing Star Trek. You made it up as you went along. The script here has that same kind of quality. In fact, I would not be surprised at all to learn there was a significant amount of improvisation connected with this movie.
The Lovecraft background stuff beats that ongoing problem of depicting Cthulhu on screen. The background information is told through an animated comic sequence that is pretty cool. Again we’re talking simplistic budget stuff here, but it is imaginative and will offer you a look at the Lovecraft mythos that you haven’t seen before. It’s all in good fun and has to be approached in that way or you will really hate this movie.
The Last Lovecraft is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. For the most part I think you’ll find this a solid low-budget image presentation. Colors are natural enough, but the film lacks any real texture. The detail is fine, in fact a little too good for many of the monster masks. The Starspawn mask is pretty good and holds up, but some of the aquatic creatures look quite bad. The real problem here is a bit of compression artifact that causes a few scenes to look somewhat unstable. Black levels are on the average side with very little in the way of shadow detail.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a bit overpowering at times. It seems that the music or sound often buries the dialog. I found a few instances where I had to back up and try to figure out what was said. There are some incredibly obvious examples of dialog looping which show me there wasn’t a lot of board work done in the sound design. Such are the limitations of budget. I wouldn’t let any of these things scare you away, however. It’s all still in good fun.
There’s an Audio Commentary with Henry Saine, McGinn and Davis. They laugh a lot, which reinforces the whole fun idea of the film.
Extended Scene: (2:39) More of the Lake lecture scene from the beginning of the film.
Pencil Test: (2:13) Take a look at early design on the animated comic. There’s an interesting commentary by director Henry Saine.
Maybe not the film for the serious Lovecraft fan out there. Is it me, or do you guys just not really laugh that much? While this movie might be quite forgettable, I suspect that you might find it worth the rental. Give the guys credit for finding a way to present material that is just too difficult to capture effectively on film. It’s a farce, and you have to approach it that way from the start. It’s silly. Irreverent and respectful of Lovecraft all at the same time. If you’re not careful you just might get sucked in. “It’s like a nerd black hole.”