As the lawyer visited the man in the mental asylum, he was given specific instructions about what to do with his great uncle's papers - destroy them, burn them, obliterate them, but whatever you do, do not read them. The lawyer understandably wanted to know more, so with his agreement that he would do as the man wanted, he took in what he was told with increasing horror. For in those papers was such a story that had truly terrible implications for mankind, a story which enveloped investigations within investigations until it reached to one huge and obscene truth...
The Call of Cthulhu was an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, and down the years though many filmmakers had attempted to harness the cosmically horrified nature of his prose, no one had really nailed it, so who better to give it a go than the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society itself? Drawing on meagre resources, they opted to use pastiche as their weapon of choice, not a pastiche of the original material so much as one of the medium they employed, which was that of the silent movie. Thus, in 2005, seven years before The Artist won Oscars for doing the same thing for comedy, director Andrew Leman and his team recreated a silent horror film.
Obviously a labour of love, the fact that it was recreating a usually fairly cheap medium worked in their favour, as you could excuse the creakiness of the sets and put it down to period authenticity. It looked very decent indeed, with its black and white photography and handmade sets and special effects, with only the shot on video look taking the viewer out of the mood, though they had done their best to include ageing tricks such as digitally added dust and lines on the supposed cellluloid. Yet even then, such was the amusement generated after a while you didn't notice such restrictions so much and were willing to lose yourself in the atmosphere - perhaps Lovecraft won through after all.
At just over forty-five minutes, it wasn't going to keep you long, and though you could get a little lost in its flashbacks placed in flashbacks and so on, like a puzzle box structure, the power of the author's ideas shone. Lovecraft was not so much a great storyteller as a great ideas man anyway, and his appalled yet fascinated descriptions of unspeakable evil made manifest were probably beyond the means of most filmmakers, no matter what their budget. In this case, they didn't even try to shake up the audience, well, not too much at any rate, preferring to operate at a knowing distance while wrapping you up in the adventure of gradually revealed forbidden knowledge.
It's lucky the characters wrote so much down, almost as if they secretly wanted someone to find out the ghastly terror they had uncovered, but as the layers are peeled away we see more of the Cult of Cthulhu and what implications it has for the human race. An inspector will break up a rally of its members, a statue of an unearthly being will be found, and finally the tale of the sailors adrift in the ocean makes the characters realise they have gotten in over their heads simply by asking the questions which lead to the information nobody wants to know. In this case, that's the Great Old Ones, forgotten gods who yearn to enter back into our realm of reality, and neatly rendered for this film's climax as a stop motion puppet: not scary, especially, but charming and in this context, almost as awesome in conception as it was meant to be on the page. Not that the sickened reverence of Howard Phillips was totally captured, but this was more simple, and yet more complex, than that.