DVD Review & Contest: THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS by H.P. Lovecraft

I do find it amazing how much and how quickly you can write, when on an Absinthe/Peyote high.

Hmmm.

Interesting.

Anyhow, onto the blog post, speaking of mind altering experiences…

I put a lot of work into these blog posts, and whether you agree or disagree with what is said, you can come here day in and day out, and know this is a man who will chew his veins open, in an attempt to say it well.

I strive for that type of ethic in myself, and I appreciate that kind of dedication in others. And this post is about a whole group of such people.

The good folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society were kind enough to send me a screening copy of their film THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS, the second in their feature length HP Lovecraft films (The first being a 72 minute film, done in the style of the Silents, called The Call of Cthulhu: The Celebrated Story by H.P. Lovecraft).

The Whisperer in Darkness DVD

The Call of Cthulhu: The Celebrated Story by H.P. Lovecraft DVD

Going into the story, while familiar with quite a few Lovecraft stories (some I like, some I don’t), I was unfamiliar with THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS. So beyond knowing the standard Lovecraft constants of Miskatonic University, a creeping darkness from beyond, and a penchant for New England and florid language, I was a blank slate.

A dynamic opening shot, very much crafted in the style of the period, manages to set the tone of the film. Something that is not a homage, but rather a wonderful invocation of early 20th century film language.

As a fan of German Expressionism and Film Noir, the deep focus, and lush B&W photography, and consuming shadows and sharp angles they utilize to tell this period tale, very much play to my personal preferences, and I would think the the preferences of any who bring an appreciation of Universal Films or even Hammer Films (they made some very compelling B&W films) to the table.

But the look of a film will only take you so far, if you don’t have a strong protagonist and a strong actor to helm your film.

In Matt Foyer’s Albert Wilmarth, this film has both.

Matt Foyer’s performance is excellent. All the more so because he takes a character type that we are all familiar with from legions of horror films and books, namely the disbelieving and infuriating skeptic (who blithely saunters into a danger that the audience of course sees coming), and makes of a caricature something with character.

So the strength of Foyer’s performance, complemented by the writing, is that his Albert Wilmarth doesn’t come across as a fool, or an obtuse, to the point of stupidity, skeptic. His Wilmarth comes across as a sympathetic character, who believes in an orderly world, a rational world.

And we journey with him, as slowly those worthy beliefs… begin to crumble.

There’s something quite likable and endearing about Matt Foyer throughout. It’s a performance you’d be hard pressed to find in a film with ten times the budget. and the whole cast gives such compelling performances.

Among them Stephen Blackehart as the ever smiling Charlie Tower and Daniel Kaemon as the sardonic P.F. Noyes.

This is Kaemon’s first feature film, it will definitely not be his last.

And you can just go up and down the credits and everywhere you stop you’re going to find an actor who gave a great performance in this film, from Barry Lynch as the chuckling Henry Akeley, Matt Lagan as Nathaniel Ward (a friend, the voice of caution, who has been to the abyss… and endured) and impressive young newcomer Autumn Wendel as Hannah Masterson, It’s the kind of film actors are proud to have on their cv, one rich in performances and chances… to act.

And the crew is every bit as talented as the cast.

Beautifully shot film, smartly written (and I’ll come back to that in a minute), impressively scored by Troy Sterling Nies (I like how the percussion at times rolls up on you), for the most part well paced (it does begin to feel a bit long in the 2nd act, but stick with it, as the film kicks in the burners with the third act), and excellently directed by Sean Branney.

The special effects are used sparsely and effectively, particularly given the budgetary constraints. Most of the effects are designed not to call attention to themselves, and work very well. There’s some CGI that rears its head pretty massively in the third act, that can’t help but call attention to itself… but by that point I didn’t mind it.

By that time you are either with the story or you are not, and I was with it and quite enjoying myself.

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I was on the fence with the film, during the 2nd act (almost completely set in the house). during that juncture the film began to feel… long.

But the third act kicks in, and it’s all quite engrossing till the end. The final act making the film for me, all in all… creating a film that not only am I happy to have seen, but very happy to recommend.

And if, like me, you enjoy making of featurettes and behind the scenes segments then splurge and get the Deluxe Two-DVD Set. I am a huge special features fan, for me a movie worth owning is a movie worth watching again, and one you want to listen to commentary about.

THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS is that kind of film.

The second disk in the deluxe set also sports a couple easter eggs, appropriate considering when I’m posting this. One easter egg involves a rabbit, or maybe it’s a guinea pig, some kind of furry creature. :) Then there’s one ‘after wrap’ easter egg scene, and of course numerous extras. As a package, it’s informative and fun.

Also, I’ve never seen a film with this many subtitle options. If you want to learn 23 different languages get this DVD. :) (but No Amharic? No Swahili?)

And one comment regarding THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS film versus HP Lovecraft’s THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS short story: There are MAJOR differences.

I picked up an audio reading of the story after watching the film, and at the risk of annoying Lovecraft fanatics everywhere, while Lovecraft’s original is a richly detailed story, I don’t think it is a good story.

The Whisperer in Darkness: Collected Short Stories Vol I (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural) (v. 1)

Yep, I said it.

Bring it.

BRING IT!

Fools will have me uppercutting you around here! :)

But seriously, I was underwhelmed by the original story. and I think the filmmakers’ changes (addition of characters, creations of scenes, adding a third act) turned an aloof stream of consciousness vignette into a dramatic full featured story. The film took four years to complete, three of those years being the two writers working on the script. My humble opinion, that time and effort paid off.

Lovecraftian purists may disagree. However considering this film was made by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society I don’t really see anyone being more of a purist than these guys.

So Final Verdict, on a scale of: ‘avoid’, ‘catch it on tv maybe’, ‘rent or stream it’, or ‘Buy the DVD’. My vote is Buy It. It’s one you’ll revisit. Grade: B+.

And putting my money where my mouth is, the 15th person to leave a comment saying “This sounds great! Thank you HT and The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society! I want a copy!” wins a copy of the DVD.

Yep, I said it.

Leave a comment, be the 15th person, win a DVD.

I won’t post any of those comments, I approve all comments so nothing gets posted automatically, they come direct to me. The 15th post (only one post per person is counted so no multi posting) wins the DVD. Include your email address when you leave your comment so I can notify you if you win.

Cool?

Cool!

Now get out of here and hug somebody! Did I tell you your Momma dresses you funny?!!

Well now you know. :) .

Oh, I’m kidding! I love you gals and guys!!

—-HT

Oh, and one more thing before you leave. Just, uhh… turn off those lights.

Yes, yes like that.

Now follow my voice,

yes…

yes…

come closer. closer….

closer. I want you here,

that’s it

beside me,

in the darkness…

so that I may…

Whisper to you.

(Man, I just creeped my own self out. :))

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