While there has been many adaptations filmed from the eldritch works of Rhode Island’s grumpiest son, H.P. Lovecraft, possibly one of the most deranged may very well be a little seen anthology movie that trickled onto the scene during the early nineties – a time notorious to horror fans when big-screen horror had all but withered and died.
A leading light in the genre during this time was undoubtedly was Brian Yunza, who came to prominence by producing Stuart Gordon’s first batch of films (including awesome Lovecraft adaptations Re-Animator and From Beyond) and who then made the leap to directing with 1989’s unforgettable (and that’s putting it lightly) body horror social commentary, Society. While the genre laboured on under Hollywood’s assumption that horror “just wasn’t profitable anymore”, Yunza seemed to keep on slinging out fucked up epics such as Bride Of Re-Animator, Return Of The Living Dead III and The Dentist on narrow budgets while still producing other, similar movies that boasted extensive, special effects blowouts on frugal amounts of money. However, his most ambitious project was undoubtedly Necronomicon; a movie featuring three mind melting tales, numerous directors and more disturbing rubber than a 1980’s sex shop.
Howard Phillip’s Lovecraft: author of the arcane and weirdly dashing adventurer, arrives at a monestary in order to flick through some of their ancient tomes in order to find some juicy tales to include in his newest offerings of literary “fiction”. The monks eye up Lovecraft with well earned susipicion, because the second their guard is down, Howard lifts a key of one of them and starts frantically jotting down material from that of the most dangerous and forbidden of books – the Necronomicon.
The first tale tells of Edward De Lapoer, a man wracked with the loss of his wife in a car accident who learns he has inherited an old, creaky, family hotel overlooking the sea in New England. After a spot of maudlin digging, he finds an envelope from his uncle, Jethro, who tells a similarly tragic tale of loss after his wife and son were killed in a shipwreck and who was visited by a Necronomicon wielding, amphibian fisherman after the distraught husband and father publicly renounced God. Using the dodgy hardback to resurrect his loved ones, Jethro is horrified to discover that his wife and child has returned “not quite right” and soon a familiar, tentacled fate is posed to claim Edward too.
The second story tells of reporter Dale Porkel as he attempts to uncover the rash of odd killing that’s been occuring in Boston over the past couple of decades. His interview of a woman in her unreasonably cold apartment yields the tale of Emily Osterman, a young girl on the run from her abusive stepfather who ends up sharing tenancy in an apartment building with secretive scientist Dr Richard Madden, a man with a literally chilling affliction.
Finally, Lovecraft reads about two Philadelphia cops on the trail of a psycho killer named the butcher, but the relationship between the two, already strained by the fact that Sarah wants to abort Paul’s baby, is rendered a moot point when their argument causes them to crash their squad car. Awakening to find Paul missing, Sarah follows a bloody trail to an abandoned warehouse where she meets exceedingly odd couple of Mr. and Mrs Benedict who may be the human face of a race of extra terrestrial space bats that absorb the brains of humans in order to reproduce.
Now that Lovecraft has this trio of troubling tales in his possession, he next has the unenviable task of escaping the monastery alive…
Instead of simply trying to pin down just one of the wordsmith’s deranged tales of cosmic calamity, Yunza and his fellow contributors instead strived to lay out a varied hat trick of horrible happenings (technically four if you count the wrap around) and the finished result may possibly be the most unrestrained attempt at realising Lovecraft that currently exists snd that’s fucking saying something.
Story one is The Drowned which sees Brotherhood Of The Wolf director Christophe Gans tackle The Rats In The Walls by barely adapting it at all and instead turning in a watery section loaded with giant sea gods, resurrected loved ones and tentacle-faced moppets. Despite the loose adaptation, The Drowned is probably the best all-rounder of the three, delivering plenty of typically squelchy Lovecraftian shenanigans as cult actors Bruce Payne and Richard Lynch both endure all sorts of fishy tomfoolery as various waterlogged loved ones try to lure them into the clutches of a cycloptic ocean deity. It’s all simple, but highly atmospheric, stuff and it’s a far sight more interesting than Shusuke (Gamera: Guardian Of The Universe) Kaneko’s rather buttoned down The Cold, which takes the story of Cool Air and ends up being – climactic meltdown aside – by far the most ordinary of the stories despite featuring a central performance from David Warner playing a character who best described as if Mr Freeze was a boring bachelor.
Thankfully, Yunza himself picks up the slack with yet another adaption that’s looser than a ninety year old ball sack as he vaguely adapts Whisperer In The Darkness as Whispers; an absolute batshit entry that’s gets ever more enjoyable the weirder it gets. While it stubbonly refuses to make a shred of sense (magic book or not, how the fuck is Lovecraft reading about a contemporary set story in the 1920’s?), it’s an unrelenting decent into garish insanity as the hapless police officer has to endure such madness as, crawling through.a charnel pit, witnessing brainless husk of her lover staggering around while his consciousness comunicates via a vaginal opening on the body of a rubbery space bat, having both her arms and legs amputated and, worse of all seeing that her unborn baby has been transferred into the transluciebt body of an alien/human hybrid as it scolds her on the wrongs of abortion. So in closing, typical Yunza madness then.
The whole thing is tied off by the hugely entertaining wraparounds which sees one time Herbert West, Jeffrey Combs don a fake nose and chin in order to portray Lovecraft himself but weirdly ends up looking like Bruce Campbell instead and the concept of a solo movie or a series featuring the author travelling the world, gathering first hand experience of the macabre shit that turns up in his stories sounds perversely awesome – or at least it would have if Lovecraft’s hadn’t been a problematic D-bag… Still, while Necronomicon is staggeringly uneven, you can’t fault the intent as Yunza brings together talent from around the globe and provides the kind of rubbery, low budget, practical effects extravaganza that brought together numerous FX houses during an era that sort of ended with this movie.
A good cross section of the various kinds of stories Lovecraft liked to tell – although from what I read of the man, he seemingly never liked anything much – Necronomicon delivers watery eldritch gods, messed up scientific experiments and whacked out cosmic horror on a scale hitherto unseen until Richard Stanley fried our noodles with Color Out Of Space.
Lovecraft by the book.