What a wonderfully brilliant conceit: to film Lovecraft’s story as if it had actually been picked up by a studio right after publication in 1928 and produced as a silent horror movie. It’s like watching a bit of history that was somehow plucked from an alternate dimension. The filmmakers obviously spared no effort to create a work that was as seamlessly true to the period as possible, and the authenticity of the film is downright eerie at times. One of the most interesting choices was the decision to use 1920’s-era special effects technology to realize Lovecraft’s monstrous imagery, instead of “cheating” by trying to sneak in some sort of disguised CGI effect or whatever. One might think this limitation would render the whole affair laughable, but in my opinion it was exactly the right decision: when great Cthulhu awakens, the sheer eye-startling wrongness of his movement only adds to his alien appearance.
I managed to catch a late showing at Tampa’s Necronomicon sci-fi convention last night. The audience found the silent film approach quaintly comical at first, and promptly started in with attempts at “Mystery Science Theater”-style riffing. But within a few minutes, the catcalls and comments died away and a sort of awestruck hush fell. At the end of the film, there was a spontaneous burst of applause.
My hat is off to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society for their remarkable labor of love. HPL would be proud.