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08 October 2007 @ 01:42 pm
H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival - Reviews  
For the few who care, here's what I saw and what I thought about it.

Friday, first night. A movie and a block of short films:

9 Lives of Mara - A well done film, about a man's recollections of his step-mom, who MAY have been a witch. The film leaves things just carefully murky enough that the kid/man MIGHT have just been crazy and killed his step-mom, or she MIGHT have been an ancient evil that was damning his father and himself. Well done, well shot. The kid's dialogue seemed off, at times, but it could also have indicated the man's remembering the time, instead of being the actual time. The writer/director and principle actress were there, and all were good to talk to.

Trailer for The Orphanage - This looks like it has potential. Not sure about much as far as actual story, but what little we saw was pretty.

Shadow of Time - a 3D rendered piece that was nice, but seemed unconnected. Visually, it wasn't bad, but I kept waiting for something to happen that made it a story and it didn't. As an art piece, sure, not bad.

The Terrible Old Man - Follow the link and see it for yourself. Nicely done Flash cartoon of the story. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.

Azathoth - Very short, taking a short piece and putting a visual to it. It was good, for what they did, but sadly, it was pretty much forgettable.

Perpetuum Mobile - There seemed to be more pieces this year that weren't really connected to Lovecraft, or only very tenuously, this was one. A beautifully done 3D animated piece...no surprise, since the makers were apparently either working with Pixar or had access to Pixar's software, according to the credits. Still, a cute story, if a little shallow.

The Statement - There are a few of HPL's stories that get done a LOT, simply because they are easier to do: no monsters or weird effects needed. The Statement of Randolph Carter is one of them, and this adaptation was weak, at best. The camera work was not good, the acting was stilted, and the dialogue, fine for a Lovecraft story, was awkward and badly delivered. Also, the credits for the flick were damn near longer than the actual short, which, in my opinion, is pretentious and annoying. make your film, do a quick screen or two with principle credits, and give your website address...and put the rest of them there. This is a festival short, not a feature film. Have a little courtesy and humility...especially if you're gonna suck this bad.

Calls For Cthulhu - If you've never seen this, you should, it's a complete riot. The creator was at the festival this year (though I missed meeting him) and had done a special episode just for us, which was, as always, hilarious.

Of Darkness - One of my favorite pieces at the festival. Several kids unleash something they didn't expect, which slaughters them all...except for the one kid it uses as a further messenger. sure, the kids couldn't act well, but that just made them believable. Meanwhile, the film kept up the suspense and pressure, and didn't flinch away or try to weasel into some kind of hippy-happy ending. Credits were too damn long, though..."thanks to:" is fine, I guess, but when you go "special thanks," "very special thanks," "extra special thanks," and then "extra, extra special thanks"...plus then give one last set of thanks to family...then maybe you've gone too far. Save it for the awards ceremony, man.

A Short Film About John Bolton - I'm not a Neil Gaiman fan. Sorry, I'm just not. So, with that in mind, knowing that he wrote and directed it, you can figure it's gotta be damn good if I liked it. Gaiman basically did a version of Pickman's Model, using Bolton as the artist, and did it well.


Saturday, Day, 2. Same as it ever was, but fun.

A couple shorts before the feature.

The Vault - One man in a bar tells us that he's found something and learned a secret he can't tell us. This felt like it was setting up the film, not the film itself. I LIKED the set-up...but I wanted the film.

The Mask of Ollock - an animated piece, done in a pencil drawn-and-shaded style, with no dialogue, just music. Not only was it a lot of fun, it appears to be done based on a book of the same name...by the same guy. Regular Renaissance man, there. Well done.

As John carpenter was winning a "Howie" award this year, we had two of his films as features, In The Mouth of Madness and The Thing. I'm sure I don't have to review them, they were excellent; besides, I'd never been able to see the latter on the big screen. Good times.

Next, the Howie Awards. Every year, these are given to those deemed to have made achievements in "Naming the Unnameable, Showing the Unseeable, Speaking the Unspeakable, and other wise drawing the feeble mind of Man closer to an understanding of the Unknowable Horrors of the Cosmos." This year, those individuals were John Carpenter, Richard Band, and Bernie Wrightson. Carpenter couldn't be with us, due to scheduling issues, but he recorded a special interview and thanks to be shown. Band and Wrightson were in attendance, though, and it was an honor to meet them both, as I've been a fan of Band's movie soundtracks for a long time (even got him to autograph my CD of the Puppet Master soundtrack), and Wrightson's art is legendary...and I told him so. ;)

Ended the night with another block of shorts

Nyarlathotep - apparently, this was a bit of an experiment between two people, where they did the music first, then fit the images to it, instead of vice versa. As an art piece, it was OK, as a short film, it was boring and somewhat useless. It had little to really do with it's subject, short of the name and some of the imagery.

Fantasy Beyond - OK, I'm a nut for claymation, so that was a good start for me, here. Inventive story, fun work, and good presentation made this a piece that stood out. besides, how can you not like futuristic fighters against the Mythos, wielding guitars and fighting with hyper-sonics?

Baltimore - a short film playing "what if" with the circumstances of Edgar Allan Poe's death. Shortly before he expired, he was calling for someone named "Reynolds," but no one knows who he meant. Fairly well-done, though the actor playing Poe lapsed into a bit of a drawl, form time to time.

The Crimson Robe - Very well done, if predictable. Still, kept the creep factor running, and was a fun short.

The Frolic - a nicely creepy little piece, based on a story by Thomas Ligotti. Very well done, and another of the highlights of the shorts.


Day 3, and with the end in sight, a couple schedule changes made us shift our intended viewing. originally, we'd been going to catch a film, but ended up sitting in for a couple of panel discussions. There were a lot more panels this year then previously, and that's not my thing, really, I go for the films. Still, one chunk of the second day, we not only had them, but had one of the three screens blank, making your choices more limited (either the movie on that screen, or panels). I hope this isn't a trend; I understand some of the reasons for doing it, but it felt like I was being forced to take part in a side action, instead of being allowed to do what I came to do.

First panel was a couple of "sneak peeks." One was a discussion with Hans Rodionoff about his planned upcoming adaptation of his comic, Mnemovore, to the screen. The other was with the guys from The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society about their upcoming "Whisperer in Darkness." Both of these look like they are gonna be good. Next panel was "Making Movies on a Shoestring Budget," and since Edward Martin III was in on it, and I've worked with him a couple time, I knew it'd be interesting.

Back to the movies. Wishbaby was billed as a "savage urban legend" which made me a little tentative, but it turned out to be a well done and excellent film. Very creepy, lots of backstory that was easy to infer and kept you wondering. The director was a real character, but fun to chat with.

Chuck and Dexter, Live! - these two 'cthultists' have made several comedic shorts, and this year showed up and did a live bit of comedy, and they were frickin' hilarious, not that we thought it would be otherwise.

Nobody - This film sounded good, and I was looking forward to it, but I was ultimately disappointed. It had a great setting, a neat idea...and in the end, it had absolutely no real resolution, just ended. It sucked to have me so drawn in, so interested, and to drop me on my ass like that.

Lastly, of course, was the "secret screening" block. This is always interesting, as it'll contain things that Andrew isn't allowed to mention, for one reason or another, and things so bad, they HAD to be seen, but CAN'T be taken seriously.

Amniotic - a squint towards the Innsmouth backstory, done as bad hand-held vid camera with one continuous voiceover and no direction. Bad? You bet.

Come To Us - Edward Martin's quick short, also glancing towards Innsmouth, but this more serious. I think it didn't get in the main blocks because it was so low-key, just a continuous shot of ocean waves while the voice over tells of life in the sea and how the listener should come to join Dagon there. Well done.

Next, an odd short which I had forgotten, the first time I wrote this, and whose title I still seem to have repressed. It was mostly very simple 3D CG, with a live guy filmed and put into it. The guy was an odd shade of yellow, most of the time, and the film itself referred to Dagon...I think. It was hard to tell what the Hell was going on or why. Highlight of the short was the legion of deformed cultists, or maybe they were supposed to be Deep Ones, that showed up, all 'dancing' in unison. This was the highlight because they were very rubbery, and the various breasts and genitalia bounced, stretched, and wobbled in the most disgustingly hilarious ways, and they were black and white mottled, like cows.

The Fine Art of Poisoning: interesting quasi-chiaroscuro animation, set to a haunting little song. Not connected to HPL, of course, but an interesting watch, nonetheless. the link goes to the film, check it out.

In the end, though, we were all there for two things, "Unleash The Beast" and "Dreams in the Witch-House." "Unleash The Beast" is a hideously crappy song done to a hideously bad MSPaint video, and is just hilarious to watch. "Dreams" is possibly one of the worst acted films in history. It's a bad adaptation of the story, to begin with, and the terrible camera work, shitty effects, aforementioned abysmal acting, and over-all cheese factor make it a cult classic among those of us that love it. Hey, when a ferret playing a rat is the best actor in the film, you have problems.


Overall, I had more fun this year than last year. having caliban around didn't hurt that, none, and neither did getting to hang with brother_d73 most of the weekend. Saw several other people that I only really see once a year, as well (rowan_ashe, for instance, and Jason, among others). All in all, apart from feeling disappointed at the apparent direction of TFAW and the worst food and service I've ever had at a McDonald's, it was good times.

Back into my cave for another year!
Clever Internet Chat Handlechathandle on October 8th, 2007 10:22 pm (UTC)
Man. I've got to make it to the Fest one of these years. Thanks for the reviews, bro. Now to see if I can dig any of the good stuff up...
Rowennalapis_lunamoth on October 9th, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. I can't tell you how much I looked forward to this review. Someday, I'll get there.
Skeletoncrewskeletoncrew on October 9th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
You didn't mention that "Dagon" short with the cowthultists and their amazing bouncing boobs! Or did you repress the memory already?
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Rollarchmage on October 9th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, cripes, yes, I had blocked that out already. Updating now!
re_animating on October 9th, 2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
How did I miss this? Er... better late than never.

Thanks for posting this. As you know, I'm having to live vicariously through others as far as this past weekend's happenings.

The Statement was bad? :(
That's a bummer. I was looking forward to checking that one out. The trailer looked interesting.
(Anonymous) on October 11th, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)
The Statement
Why was The Statement bad? You haven't really put anything constructive, I think it looks awsome, HPL done right in a period setting, staying close to the source material.
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: AMPDarchmage on October 11th, 2007 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: The Statement
Anonymous commenting sucks balls. However, in the interest of perhaps helping another, here we go.

I thought I was pretty lengthy about why it wasn't good, above: The camera work was not good, the acting was stilted, and the dialogue, fine for a Lovecraft story, was awkward and badly delivered. Also, the credits for the flick were damn near longer than the actual short...

The cinematography was boring at best, and harsh at worst. Camera shots that were too tight when they could have shown more, and too loose when they should have focused on things. It relied too much on single-person-in-shot takes, which no doubt made editing a little easier, but made the film hard to watch, due to the many jump cuts.

The acting was weak, wooden, erratic. I didn't buy a single character's portrayal, not once. It's as if they were all first-time actors, and the director was incapable of helping them to understand why their performance wasn't working. Perhaps this is what the director wanted, in which case I blame the director. Ed Wood would have said these were not good.

This segues nicely into the dialogue. When you read a period piece, you are bound to come across some archaic language. You assimilate it and move along. In a movie, though, some of those archaic phrasings are too heavy. In the short, Carter is in a police station, being interrogated about the disappearance of Warren; when I see someone under heavy questioning, acting scared and slightly confused, I don't buy it for them to reply with something that sounds more like they were chatting at a tea party.

So, constructive? Better shots should have been planned, instead of close-ups, back and forth, giving us a little better sense of watching the film and not a tennis match. The acting should have been rehearsed and polished, making the players believable. The script should have been re-written and re-edited, making it come off as immersive, instead of sounding like a bad Shakespeare play. The credits should have been seriously truncated whether the film was good or not.

Yes, it was close to the source material, and set in the period, which is nice. But this particular piece has been done many times already, and done much better...which makes it stand out even worse.
(Deleted comment)
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll: What?!?archmage on October 11th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
See, I saw his name at the end, and thought "That CAN'T be the same guy as the artist who did Den." Sad to find it IS him.