Saturday, October 18, 2003

Bring Me the Head of Brian Yuzna: The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival

Well, the 10th edition of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival was held here in P-town October 9th through the 12th at the historic Hollywood Theater. Lynda, our good friend “Walkout” Joe Pettit, Jr. and I attended the eldritch festivities. This was our second year going to the festival, and although it started inauspiciously (more about that below), the wealth of interesting things to see Saturday and Sunday more than made up for Friday’s rotten feature-film offering, the Lovecraft-anthology Necronomicon (1993). Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to anything other than Necronomicon on Friday since we spent most of the evening having drinks and food at the great British pub, The Moon & Sixpence, which is located down the street. Joe and Lynda were interested in seeing Brian Yuzna’s recent film, Beyond Re-Animator (2003), but I managed to convince them that it would be a let-down since I had seen a little of it the week before when the film premiered on cable. I got them to see Necronomicon, instead. I’d read some very positive reviews about it and had always heard that it was pretty good. Man, what a fool I was. The film is a trilogy of short films very loosely based on Lovecraft tales -- The Drowned directed by Christophe Gans (who later went on to direct Brotherhood of the Wolf), based on “The Rats in the Walls;” The Cold, directed by Shusuke Kaneko; and Whispers directed by Brian Yuzna. The latter two entries were “inspired” by “Cool Air” and “The Whisperer in Darkness” respectively. Gans’s short film is the best of the three, although it would be difficult to be any worse than Yuzna’s and Kaneko’s horrible contributions. The less said about them the better. But the question must be asked, Have Brian Yuzna or Kaneko actually ever read H.P. Lovecraft? After the screening the three of us returned home pissed off and dejected.

Luckily, Saturday’s offerings were a lot better. We caught the Shorts Block 1, which consisted of some very cool films, most notable of which were The Imperfect Solution (a fantastic adaptation of the fourth Herbert West – Re-Animator serial “The Scream of the Dead”) and Cutethulhu, a 2-minute anime-inspired cartoon with a hilarious punch line. Afterwards we checked out the screening for The Shunned House, an Italian made feature film that, although interesting at times, seriously lacked any sort of narrative drive. Later in the evening we caught what turned out to be the highlight of the festival, Shawn Owens’s documentary about Mr. Lovecraft and his contribution to pop culture entitled The Eldritch Influence. Containing interviews with horror writers Ramsey Campbell (the greatest living practitioner of the genre) and Brian Lumley, fantasist Neil Gaiman, director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon), and Lovecraft biographer S. T. Joshi (who was also an attendee at the festival), the documentary was an excellent primer on the attraction of all things Lovecraftian.

Sunday afternoon we attended the “Secret Screening” of Nigel Kneal’s The Stone Tape. Originally made for British television, the film is a fascinating and occasionally disturbing chronicle of a group of scientists, led by the sociopathic Peter Brock (a completely over-the-top Michael Bryant), who stumble upon the existence of a ghost within their new research lab. Filled with ideas, some genuine unpleasantness, and enough hysterical performances from its large ensemble cast to rival Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985), The Stone Tape should not be missed. Afterwards, we took in the Shorts Block 2. Memorable entries were: Beyond the Wall of Sleep by Bradley A. Palmer and Bryan Moore’s splendid Cool Air, starring Jack Donner. Nice black and white cinematography, a literate script, and excellent performances by Donner and Moore easily made Cool Air the highlight of the shorts. It’ll be interesting to see what Moore and company will come up with next. Moore and Donner were also in attendance and held a nice Q & A session after the screening. What else can I say? We were exhausted after the whole thing. And we didn’t even get a chance to see everything. But there’s always next year. . . .

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