H.P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential writers of the past century. Although he was never financially successful during his lifetime, his stature has grown incredibly, thanks in no small part to advocacy groups such as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society who actively create and support the continued rejuvenation of Lovecraft’s legacy. For this edition of Avant Cinema we are proud to present two films created by the HPLHS, some of the purest distillations of the Lovecraftian spirit: H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) is most famous for the creation of the Cthulhu mythos, a connected fictional universe in which a majority of his stories took place and which these two films explore. Like many great speculative fiction authors of the 1920’s and 30’s, Lovecraft mostly sold horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories to the growing pulp magazine market. These have been collected into various anthologies posthumously. His most famous stories view the universe as filled with creatures and dimensions that humans could not possibly comprehend and which lead to insanity if one tries to understand. His stories have influenced countless writers since his death from cancer in Providence, RI in late 1937.
THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS (directed by Sean Branney) is based on the Lovecraft short story of the same name that follows Albert Wilmarth’s attempt to investigate and debunk the old folkloric tales of “The Old Ones” through the use of superior scientific methods. But as the assistant professor explores the hills of Vermont, he delves too deeply into an investigation filled with expressions of horror and impossibility he could never have imagined through science.
THE CALL OF CTHULHU (directed by Andrew Leman) has been deemed the best H.P. Lovecraft adaptation yet by some critics and has been praised for its unique construction, being one of a handful of silent films made within the past decade. The film is based on the short story of the same name, following Francis Wayland Thurston into his investigations into strange cultists worshiping “The Great Old Ones.” Thurston also travels with the sailors of the Emma as they find a mysteriously abandoned boat in the Pacific Ocean that leads to frightening consequences.
Besides their source material, what makes these movies unique is the self-described “Mythoscope” process used to create them. As explained by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, the process mixes new and vintage filming techniques to mimic the horror masterpieces of MGM and the Universal Studios era of the 1920’s and 1930’s. While THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE UNKNOWN, DRACULA, KING KONG, and FRANKENSTEIN reigned supreme for early horror film audiences, THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS can be seen as an extension of that style, updating it for the modern day audience. The lighting, camera angles, set design and plot structure all follow the classic Hollywood style, contemporary for the story’s time, while showing off the rich detail and clean contrast that high definition digital is allowed to provide. THE CALL OF CTHULHU, however, is a much more exotic exercise as the filmmakers wanted to develop a film that would have been possible in 1926, the year the original story was written. Thus, the only noise heard by the audience is the impeccable score and the sound of their own frightened hearts in the well-paced 48-minute length of the film. Also shot in glorious black and white, it makes one yearn for the days before the advent of the “talkies.” -- Aaron Malazahn, Austin Film Society
Wednesday, August 29, 7:00 PM
AFS Screening Room
(1901 E 51st St)
Tickets: $8 General Admission / $5 for AFS Members and Students with Valid ID