The whisperer in darkness

I don’t think I’ve done a film review before and I’m going to ramble here a little, but last night I finally got a chance to watch the film version ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. As I had really enjoyed their version of ‘Call of Cthulhu’ I was looking forward to this even though I was a little late to the party (it was released last year and I somehow missed it). I’ve watched quite a few big budget films this year and it was nice to settle down with something that didn’t have a huge amount of CGI willy waving to do (‘John Carter’ and ‘The Avengers’, I’m looking at you).

So this film is made in the style of 1930’s cinema and, while there are a few deviations from the story, there is an obvious love of both the original material and early cinema throughout the film. The camera angles are wonderful with plenty of low shots looking up, heavy glances, long pauses and dark shadows to set the mood. The sets and costumes work wonderfully and the attention to detail is outstanding. Elder signs painted on a barn, the location filming, the music… all of it.

Where the first film produced by the HPLHS had some stop motion that looked right out of the original King Kong, the effects here are a little disconcerting. The opening with the credits is of a hillside with trees and a cave and it screams “MINIATURE SHOT” but it fits perfectly with the style of the film which is a little at odds with some of the later VFX shots which are CGI and are a little too perfect. There’s also one grisly makeup sequence (as Wilmarth enters a cave to make a horrible discovery) which genuinely made my stomach turn. I think it was more of what it represented rather than being graphic so I’m going to give that one a plus next to it.

The one big thing that niggled me throughout was the black and white effect on the video, it was very crisp and looked like it was just modern video turned black and white. When I’ve done black and white effects before it can be tricky to make it look right and I’m not talking about slapping loads of noise and crappy filters over the top but a little bit of grain and a higher contrast to blow the whites and blacks out a bit could have helped to make it that little bit more “authentic” (my option anyhow) as old film often had higher contrast than modern film.

I’m not going to give too much of the film away but just say that its a very enjoyable piece that is well worth watching if you are a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos.

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