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. :))

MIAMI VICE: THE DIRECTOR’S EDITION DVD Review

MIAMI VICE THE MOVIE: THE DIRECTORS EDITION is quintessential Miami Vice. It’s everything that’s great about that mad 5 year show, that dream of Balmy Days and blood warmed nights… distilled. And to think in 2006 it received a dismal 44% rating from critics of the day (even judging just on the theatrical cut) says a lot about the sad state of critics.

The film is everything a big screen adaptation of MIAMI VICE should be. It’s a love letter to a place, it’s romance writ large. And for anyone to go into a MIAMI VICE film and complain about too much romance, or sensuality, or sentimentality is for people to be completely bereft of such necessary things in themselves. And yes it’s moody, and layered, and languid, like hot days and hotter nights.. and purposely so, it is paced for you to enjoy the view. Which is something too few of us do in this life… with anything.

And for all its languidness there’s not a wasted frame. Michael Mann coming home with this film, and showing he has lost nothing of his considerable directorial skill, and indeed has added new tricks to his bag.

All those are to the good. And the entire cast does a great job reinterpreting iconic television roles and putting their own spin on it, successfully I think. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell and Gong Li and Naomie Harris to name a few of this stellar ensemble cast. Particularly apt is the romance, the counterpoint of the two relationships, as these men who spend so much time with lies, struggle to keep something real.

Ultimately MIAMI VICE is about people who lie for a living, and the toll such duplicity, for whatever reason, to whatever real or imagined good, ultimately takes on them. Much like the series, the film is about people who live on the edge, and their precarious balancing act.

It’s a great film, which is no surprise coming from Michael Mann, a filmmaker who consistently has created great films. An Actors’ Director, who understands giving actors that Authenticity in order to create (check the featurette to see the gun range preparation all the actors went through— Amazing!).

MIAMI VICE: THE DIRECTORS EDITION is in summation a consummately sumptuous, beautiful and frenetic film, crafted by one of the great directors of our time. My contention? When you put Michael Mann’s body of work in perspective… it will stand the test of time with the best of this still young, century old medium, called film.


Mann is not just a director, he’s a dissector and a biographer, a stylish one to be sure, of our age; And that is clearly seen in just how mesmerizing his director commentaries, and any special features are on his DVDs. If I’m an actor, Michael Mann is the director I want to work for.

And for film fans, he remains a director to watch and be inspired by.

Pick up MIAMI VICE both the series and the movie here:

Miami Vice: The Complete Series

Miami Vice (Unrated Director’s Cut) (See all Crime Movies & TV)

BBC, BBC America, Doctor Who and an outrageous Season 3 DVD Set!!

I have to tell you, I just got the US boxset of Doctor Who SEASON III (the one starring Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones), my favorite season of the new series, and the only one I think enough of to own in its entirety (Don’t get me wrong there are weak moments in this season, and bits from other seasons I like and think are great, it’s just as a whole I feel this season works the best), and while very happy with Season III’s episodes I’m not as happy with the special features, particularly the commentaries.

The BBC season DVDs are extraordinarily expensive, retailing at $80 per season in the US for only 13 episodes, calling that high-way robbery prices wouldn’t be too far off. BBCs pricing is rubbish.

And even though most of us can get it for less than retail, the fact remains if you’re going to justify that exorbitant retail price (you can get multiple seasons of most shows for that price or less) you need to offer more.

Namely you need to offer full cast DVD commentaries. This is David Tennant and Freema Agyeman’s journey, and people who love this season are buying to hear these great actors discuss and reminisce over that journey, so common sense would tell you to at the very least, have these two actors in the commentaries.

I’m always amazed how uncommon, common sense is.

Because these two show up together on the US release in exactly 0 episode commentaries. ZERO!

WTF is that?!!!

We do get commentaries, by various producers, and editors, and writers, but really the people you want to hear from most on these commentaries are absent, and it is a huge, effing glaring omission.

In addition to offering no Tenant/Agyeman commentaries, the special features are very light. Why just snippets of Doctor Who Confidential? Why not full episodes??

Christ, BBC you’re charging an arm and a leg for these boxsets, you can afford not to be cheap bastards.

So I’m very glad, I didn’t pay full price for this boxset, but even still… lacking decent cast commentaries I still feel more than a bit cheated. So I’d recommend (if you have a multi-zome player) avoid the BBC America DVD release and purchasing the UK version instead. At least you get (according to various sites) one Tenant, Agyeman, and Barrow commentary on the UK set, and it’s currently priced at 1/3rd the price of the US boxset. So even when you factor in shipping, it still screams deal to me. Man, US/Region 1 viewers are getting screwed. BBC America is rubbish!

So I guess that single episode 13 commentary (with all three stars) will have to do me until BBC grows some brains and decide to release proper full cast commentaries for this season.

So in closing, just say no to BBC America and their rubbish overpricing and heavy editing of episodes (and according to some, poor mastering of US/Region 1/A Blurays, read this). You’d be better off waiting for the UK DVD releases.

Here endeth my ranting for today.