The other week I managed to watch a pretty bad series of horror stories, all wrapped together in a film called The Necronomicon. I knew it was going to be a bad movie even before it started, but I was still looking forward to it because it’s based upon the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.
For those unfamiliar with this author, he was a reclusive American writer who wrote in the mid-1920’s. His specialty was horror writing, but a horror unlike almost everything else in the genre. If you have any familiarity with Edgar-Allen Poe then you’ll know the style. We’re talking dark brooding horror, focusing on insanity and the human mind. Lovecraft managed to create his own shadow world which looked like ours, but contained unimaginable evils waiting to break free.
I read his stories as a teen and was struck by just how unique his visions were. They are not always scary, but most are genuinely creepy in a way that I’ve never seen before or since. The power of Lovecraft was that he rarely described the horror directly, but just suggested it and let you fill in your own details.
The movie is loosely based around Lovecraft’s world. The Necronomicon is a book that features in this, being ‘the book of the dead’ and containing all manner of dark secrets.
Loosely is a very apt term as the movie has little to do with the real stories. The whole story is centered on Lovecraft himself, performing research for his stories. He finds the Necronomicon in a monastery in America, and attempts to use it to further his stories. In doing so he discovers some of the events that happened because of the book. These are shown as sub-stories, with three in total.
The first is pretty bad and features a Rutger Hauer look-alike returning to America to claim his ancestral home. We learn (through some very bad dialogue) that all his family died in unusual circumstances. He then begins to have dreams of exactly how it happened. Simply put, the father of the house used the Necronomicon to resurrect his dead wife and child.
The guy, having lost his wife, also does the same, and she returns to him as a servant of Cthulhu (Lovecraft’s big baddy) with tentacles galore. Despite this being a very cheap movie there are some nice effects here, particularly the whole woman-morphing-into-a-tentacle part.
Story two is more Twilight Zone than Lovecraft. A reporter discovers that a house is associated with many deaths, and goes to investigate its current occupants. He meets a woman who is allergic to heat, and who lives in a permanently chilled environment. He questions her and she tells the story of the previous owners.
We discover that there was a doctor who managed to cheat death by extracting spinal fluid from people and injecting it into himself, with the side-effect that he had to be constantly chilled. You can probably imagine the rest. Suffice to say the reporter didn’t get out alive. The surprise here is that the doctor is played by David Warner (the bad guy from Tron).
The third story was much better, and more in line with Lovecraft’s stories. Two police officers are involved in an accident when chasing a car. While still dazed and pinned underneath the car wreckage, one is dragged away by an unknown person. The other eventually breaks free and tries to track down their partner.
The story then gets very surreal and creepy, with the cop meeting two bizarre people who appear to help, but who are ultimately part of a weird nightmare world of stolen babies, weeping walls, and flapping bat things.
I found this last story the best of the bunch because it follows the usual Lovecraft style: an ordinary situation becomes very dark, very quickly, and with no real escape.
So would I recommend the movie? Only if you’d read Lovecraft, or you wanted a few chuckles. The three stories were written and directed by different people and their style and capability vary enormously. Generally the writing is sloppy and clichéd and the actors manage to overdo even the most basic of human emotions. The special effects range from ridiculous wobbly plastic blobs, to moderately impressive tentacles. Low budget and low class is the key factor here.
On a side note, anyone familiar with the Silent Hill series of computer games will instantly feel at home.