|Andrew Leman Director|
Film based on the classic horror tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
|H. P. Lovecraft||story|
|Ramón Allen Jr.||Louis|
|Leslie Baldwin||Greta Johansen|
|Daryl Ball||Officer Cassidy|
|John Bolen||The Listener|
|Aidan Branney||Swamp Boy|
|Sean Branney||Pub Man|
|See Full Credits|
While considered a classic horror story, The Call of Cthulhu was for many decades considered to be unfilmable. H.P. Lovecraft's tale of eldritch horror is not merely one story, but a series of stories within other stories, and as such contains a hard-to-define plot.
However, breaking with traditional thought, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society nonetheless decided to bring The Call of Cthulhu to the screen. They chose to film the tale as a black & white silent movie, as if it had been made in the 1920s when the story was originally written. The choice paid off, and the resulting short is one of the most faithful Lovecraft adaptations ever filmed.
Fretfully poised over an almost finished puzzle, a man, clearly pale and disheveled, makes his companion make a promise: that the papers containing his life's work, and that of his great-uncle's life's work, be burned. The companion agrees to do so, and the disheveled man beings to tell him why it must be done.
Named executor of the estate of his great uncle, Professor George Gammell Angell, the man goes through the belongings of his great-uncle to settle his affairs. Among the papers and documents is a strongbox. Using a key his great-uncle had given him on his deathbed, the man opens the box, to find that his great-uncle had correlated several files together. These files all pertained to the Cthulhu Cult.
The first file is from 1925, and is labeled "Dreams and Dream Work", and relates to Angell's encounter with an artist from Boston, Henry Anthony Wilcox. Wilcox came to Angell with a strange stone carving. After first, Angell is confused, as the craving is obviously new. Wilcox openly admits that he carved it last night, after a disturbing dream. Angell asks young Wilcox if he had felt the earthquake that had occured that night. Wilcox said he did with "every fiber of his being." In his nightmare, he wandered a nightmarish landscape, and the while a sound, like nothing he had ever heard before, called to him. Intriged by Wilcox's dream, the Professor asks him to write down what he remembers from his dreams, and to bring the log to him. Wilcox agrees. For three weeks, Wilcox is plagued by the dreams, and dutifully writes them down and talks to Angell about them. However, on March 23, Wilcox fails to appear. Worried about the young man, Angell seeks the young man at home, only to find that he has been hospitalized with delirium and fever. Angell stays at Wilcox's beside until the young man suddenly recovers on April 2nd. Wilcox cannot remember any of the dreams he suffered during his delirium, nor can he recall any of the dreams before that. The man continues through the strongbox, finding newspaper clippings for strange and terrible events from all around the world that took place during late March of 1925, all during the time Wilcox suffered from his dreams.
The man uncovers another file from an event from 1908, labeled "Narrative of Inspector Legrasse". Professor Angell was attending a gathering of archaeologists in St. Louis when a police inspector, John Legrasse, comes to the convention for help. He unveils a strange idol, and asks if any of the archaeologists can identify it. Most of the archaeologists had never seen anything like it, save one old archaeologist. He had seen something like it in Greenland in the 1870s, shown to him by what he called "a degenerate band of devil worshipers". The shaman of the group had uttered the chant "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wagh'nagle fhtagn" as he attacked the archaeologist, taking the man's eye out with a blade. The old archaeologist had never discovered what the chant meant. Legrasse tells him it means "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
Legrasse tells the assembled group of an event that happened in November of the previous year. He and his men had been called to a remote area of swamp by a group of backwoods folk. The people reported that several women and children were missing, and the sound of drums could be heard from deep within the swamps. The backwoods folk had gone out themselves to investigate, but had been terrified by what they saw, so they had retreated and called the authorities. One of the backwoods men leads Legrasse and his men to where the drums are. When they arrive, Legrasse and his mean heard terrible cries that sounded part human and part beast. The police find a clearing, in which a strange ritual is taking place. A mob of people dance wildly around the idol Legrasse had at the convention, sometimes stopping in unison to chant the strange words that the archaeologist had heard in Greenland. Around them were the bodies of the missing backwoods people, strung up on crude frames. While horrified by what they see, Legrasse and his men gather their courage and storm the clearing. In the resulting struggle, they arrest 47 of the cultists and kill five. Only of the cultists, a man named Castro, talks to the police. Castro tells them that the cult worshiped the Great Old Ones, terrible beings that came from the stars long before man came into being. He also says that the Old Ones now sleep, but that they will awake and reclaim what was theirs. Castro identifies the idol as Cthulhu, and tells the police the translation of the strange chant, adding that Cthulhu will return when the stars are right. Castro also claimed that the cult killed no one, that they merely put the people out as offerings, and that other things came to take what was offered. Legrasse finishes his story, saying that the investigation of the Cthulhu cult has become his personal crusade. Despite his pleading, none of the archaeologists have any information that can help him. His questions unanswered, Legrasse leaves.
As Angell's executor puts this file away, he now understands why his great-uncle spent so much time working with Wilcox. Curiosity leads him to pick up where his great-uncle left off, and he beings to investigate the cult himself, and he becomes haunted by dreams as well. Continuing through his great-uncle's belongings, he comes across another file, titled "The Madness From the Sea". However, the refuses to look at the file, and locks away all the papers pertaining to the Cthulhu cult. His own investigations have lead him to believe that anyone who knew about the cult was with dead or insane, and so he sets the Cthulhu Cult case aside to return to his own research. However, he is drawn back into the case by chance when he discovers a newspaper article.
The article tells the story of the ship Emma, which sailed from New Zealand on March 1st 1925, but was pushed off course and damaged by a tropical storm. In the storm, the crew of the Emma find an abandoned fishing boat, the Alert, and the commandeer it as the Emma is sinking. The log aboard the Alert tells that the ships crew had gone ashore to an island called R'yleh three days before, however the island is not on any charts. The Emma crew also finds another strange idol on the ship. Captain of the Emma decides to investigate the island to find out why the Alert was abandoned.
The article ends there, only saying that six men died aboard the island, with only the first mate of the Emma surviving and being found on the Alert with the idol after days of drifting. The executor compares the dates from the article with what Professor Angell had recorded before, and decides that it cannot be a coincidence. Between Wilcox's dreams, the other events around the world that happened in the same period, and the events involving the Alert, all information points to something huge happening. Desperate for answers, the man travels from Boston to New Zealand to find the first mate. However, the first mate, a man named Johansen, had moved to Norway. The executor tracks the idol that was found aboard the Alert to Hyde Park in Australia. He sees it, and finds out that the staff at the museum was never able to identify the stone it was carved out of. The man then travels to Norway in the hopes of talking to Johansen, however, he is too late; Johansen has died However, the journey was not in vain as Johansen's widow gives the man the Johansen's logbook.
The man reads the logbook on the return trip to Boston. The crew of the Emma found the island listed in the Alert's logs, and they go ashore. The island is full of strange architecture and statues, but there is no sign of the original crew of the Alert. Finally, the crew of the Emma finds a large, monolithic structure. As they approach it, the structure opens, unleashing a dense fog that makes one of the crew, standing atop the structure, fall to his death. Another of the crew looks into the opening, and is struck dead from terror as a large monster emerges from it. The crew of the Emma scramble back to the Alert, but either are either caught by the monster or fall to their doom because of the alien nature of the architecture. Only Johansen and one other crew member make it back to the Alert. However, the monster chases the boat out to sea. In a desperate gamble to escape, Johansen uses the Alert to ram the monstrosity at full speed. The creature dissipates in a cloud of fog, allowing the Alert to escape. However, it was too much for the other crew member to take, and the man dies of fright, leaving Johansen alone on the Alert with the idol.
As he finishes his story, the executor smashes his fist into the puzzle, scattering it. He laments that all who know - Johansen, his great-uncle, and others - are dead, and that he will soon join them. But the cult, and likely, Cthulhu, live on, and that we can do nothing but wait for the call of inevitable doom. At that point, a nurse arrives to take the man away. He has been committed to an asylum, and the man he is talking to is his psychologist. As the executor is wheeled away in a wheelchair, he exhorts his doctor again to burn the files. However, instead of burning them, the obviously shaken doctor picks up the files and begins to read them.
The Call of Cthulhu was selected to show at several film festivals, including the Slamdance Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival. It has also been met with positive reviews from genre critics. The film has a 100% Freshness rating from 6 critics on Rotten Tomatoes.