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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 04.09.08] movie review apocalyptic horror

Year: 2007
Release date: Unknown
Director: Dan Gildark
Writer: Dan Gildark
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 7.7 out of 10

Cthulhu is such an amazing achievement in virtually every respect that I'm still reeling from the fact that it's writer/director Dan Gildark's first project ever. As visually arresting as it is well conceived, Cthulhu spins a twisted tale of a Seattle professor who returns to his hometown on the Oregon coast only to find that his family is leading a sinister movement to bring about the destruction of the world. And yes, I am being purposefully vague in terms explaining the hows and whys of the plot and indeed what the heck H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu has to do with it all but it's because Gildark's film does such a good job at delivering its mysteries through vague and dreamy clues that it would be a shame to ruin people's viewing experience by giving away all the good bits. Indeed, like the greatest works of Polanski or Lynch, Cthulhu's strengths lie in its ability to be psychologically probing which makes it more unnerving than outrightly scary.

Of course being that the title of the film is also the name of one of H.P. Lovecraft's most notable creations means that there has been quite a lot of confusion and fan furor over Cthulhu's lack of dedication to its original source material. So perhaps a good place to start would be to let everyone know right off the bat that that's not what this film called "Cthulhu" is about. This isn't "H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu." This is a film which takes all the craziness and psychological aspects of Lovecraft's tortured oeuvre, and uses the whole mess as a metaphor to tell a story of a man who awakens to see the unhinging of the natural order of things.

As you can see by the above stills, cinematographer Sean Kirby has drenched the majority of the film in crisp metallic blues and cool grays giving it an icy look to match the story's austere subject matter. Only rarely does the film's look stray from this and when it does it's in the entirely different realm of warm toned interiors of the main character's family home and dreams; the source of his nightmarish realizations.

However, where tonally the film is flawless and never looses control of its creepy vibe, the storytelling could have been tightened in order to amp up the mystery and intrigue. There are a few too many meandering moments in the first half of the film where Gildark decides to pull away from the more mysterious aspects of the plot to delve into character moments that just feel a bit long. While it's all very tastefully handled, and some seemingly random side plots do pay off in the end, one wonders if, at a running time of almost 2 hours, some further editing wouldn't have help the film's overall flow. But, with stunning photography throughout and some genuinely scary moments, there is enough here to overlook this little flaw.

I mentioned Polanski in the opening paragraph and that's because Cthulhu shares much with Rosemary's Baby in both tone and story. Gildark certainly seems to be the genuine article and real talent to be watched. I know that, at QE anyway, we're greatly looking forward to seeing what's next on his agenda.

Official Cthulhu Site

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quietearth (13 years ago) Reply

I just watched this and I would HIGHLY recommend this not only to horror fans but film buffs in general, it is wicked brilliant! The director manages to keep a long string of tension running throughout almost the entire film.

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