DVD REVIEW: The Last Lovecraft - Relic of Cthulhu
Fight the minions of Cthulhu with the Last Lovecraft...
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The writings of H.P. Lovecraft (1890 - 1937) are revered by fans of the horror and macabre. His tales of the Great Old Ones and malevolent entities like Cthulhu have inspired authors, artists, and filmmakers to this day, and you might be surprised to find out that he created such things as Arkham, Dagon, Re-Animator, the Necronomicon, and much more. Films based on Lovecraft’s writing have been hit or miss, from the awesome Re-Animator series and Dagon to the somewhat less cool more recent release of Cthulhu (with Tori Spelling). One difficulty filmmakers must confront is how deeply to delve into Lovecraft’s mythos; go too far and it’ll be difficult for newcomers to understand, while going too light on the source material often loses the core concepts and dark, brooding atmosphere of the short stories. Out now on DVD is Devin McGinn’s The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu, a truly ingenious melding of the Cthulhu Mythos with the author himself, all translated into a modern day road movie!
The Last Lovecraft tells the story of just that, the last member in the bloodline of real-life author H.P. Lovecraft. Unfortunately for the world, that scion is Jeff Philips (Kyle Davis), a loser suffering in a boring job. When the Cult of Cthulhu uncovers one half of a relic that can unleash the evil god upon the world, a secret society entrusts Jeff with the other piece. His mission is nothing less than to save the world from Cthulhu’s monstrous minions! Thankfully he has help in the form of best friend Charlie (the film’s writer/producer Devin McGinn), a comic book enthusiast, and former bullying victim Paul (Barak Hardley), an expert on everything Lovecraft. Meanwhile, Cthulhu’s general on Earth pursues them with murderous intent, forcing the heroes to travel deep into the desert and seek allies in the unlikeliest of places. Without giving too much away, there’s the obligatory epic final battle, and even a great send off that paves the way for sequels!
From the very beginning of the film, a Lovecraft quote fading to an Egyptian archaeological dig, you can see that the filmmakers really cared about staying true to the source material as well as putting together a quality product. For a low budget independent feature, they achieved quite a bit. Using a Red camera with Zeiss lenses ensured that it wouldn’t look cheap, and much of the ambitious effects (both CG and makeup) look passable if not genuinely cool! The acting is also better than expected for a direct to DVD Lovecraft film. Davis and McGinn have an easy chemistry of long-time friends who don’t always see eye to eye, and as the evidence and horror builds the initially resistant Jeff steps up to become a true hero. Hardley seems to be doing his best Zach Galifianakis impression, but that too works to drive the story and provide comedic relief.
Unfortunately the short running time means that we don’t delve into the characters as much we might like. For instance, does Jeff’s newfound heroism translate into success with co-worker and interested hottie Susie? And why was Jeff an alleged high school bully when he seems like such an introverted nerd now? We can hope that a sequel will flesh out the main characters even more. As with many road movies, though, the brief cameos really shine. Whether it’s Richard Riehle as the heroes’ boss at SQRLY Gift Delivery, the ultra creepy Roy’s Motel proprietor, Paul’s foul-mouthed grandmother, the desert dwelling Captain Olaf, or the cult’s Star Spawn leader, the minor characters are multi-faceted and funny.
The Last Lovecraft is definitely part horror/part comedy, and so it has its fair share of blood and guts. The creature design stands out especially in the case of the Deep Ones and the sucker guy on the car window. One thing that really sets this film apart is its animation. Director Henry Saine put his hand to several pieces including the opening credits, a map travelogue, and a really incredible “history” of Cthulhu in the film. Designed on two levels to bring Jeff (and the audience) up to speed on key elements of Lovecraft’s Mythos, this sequence features a comic book style, great character design, and lots of easy to digest information. Who doesn’t love a mad Cthulhu slaughtering a herd of shoggoths with the head of a triceratops?
The DVD presentation of the film comes in a clear standard DVD case. The artwork on the cover is great, capturing the heroic trio in battle against a tentacular monster. Look closely in the background to see tons more elements from the film including Jeff’s SQRLY car, a Deep One and other cultists, and Olaf and his desert bound RV. The back of the case has a few screenshots along with a detailed description. Also notable are the two laurel icons for its “Official Selection” merits at Slamdance and Toronto After Dark.
Pop in the disc and you’ll see the usual assortment of pre-movie trailers. The main DVD menu repeats the artwork from the case, with animated explosions in the background. The film is divided into 14 sections in the “Chapters” menu, and Setup lets you choose between regular audio and commentary (hilarious – just in the first moments the creators discuss some challenging FX and share some really interesting anecdotes) as well as English or Spanish subtitles. The Bonus menu has four items. The Extended Scene builds on the Miskatonic University intro, adding more Lovecraftian ideas about intelligent life on Earth other than humans, and it includes a brief Star Spawn attack scene not otherwise in the movie. The Pencil Test takes you behind the scenes of the animated comic book sequence with notes by the director. Behind the Scenes Stills have shots of makeup and prosthetics, the relic, catering, Richard Riehle, concept art, location filming, and more. Finally, there’s a trailer for the film.
With its elements of Lovecraftian horror, comedy, monsters, and suspense, there’s truly something for everyone in The Last Lovecraft. I’m a big fan of the author, and so I really enjoyed all of the references to his works and creatures (and there are plenty in this film!). At the same time, I think it is very much approachable for viewers unfamiliar with Lovecraft. You can check out more about the film at its homepage thelastlovecraft.com, or pick it up on Amazon, Netflix, etc. Buy your copy today and maybe soon we’ll see The Last Lovecraft: At The Mountains of Madness!
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Dark Sky Films