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Necronomicon is a horror anthology, loosely based on the works of H.P.
Lovecraft. Lovecraft regular and B-movie icon Jeffrey Combs gets to perform
as Lovecraft himself in the wraparound story for this movie, which involves
Lovecraft reading stories from the 'Necronomicon' inside a
The first story, titled "The Drowned" follows the story of a house in which a man resurrected his dead wife and son with the help of the Necronomicon. This tale is directed by Christophe Gans, the same man that went on to direct the French horror hit "Brotherhood of the Wolf". This tale is well directed, Christophe manages to create the right atmosphere for the house, and the special effects are surprisingly well executed, especially upon the appearance of the demon god towards the end. Surprisingly, it is the story that lets this tale down. After a delightful sequence in which we see an elderly man, consumed by the loss of his family, throw his bible into the fire and then resurrect his family with the Necronomicon; the tale is unable to suitably follow it up, and the ending disappoints as it doesn't go anywhere; it doesn't have a point to it and it leaves it feeling rather empty.
The second tale is without doubt the best of the three and is worth the film's running time on it's own. This tale, titled "The Cold" and based on the Lovecraft story "Cool Air" follows the story of a reporter that is sent to a woman's house to investigate a series of murders. The lady of the house tells her story of how the murders occurred and through this story, a great sense of mystery and intrigue is built up and it makes you want to find out what the truth is behind the events. Unlike the first tale, this tale is not skilfully directed, and also unlike the first tale; it has a story that is more than enough to carry it despite this. This tale also features a predictable, but non the less satisfying twist at it's conclusion.
The third and final tale of the three, titled "Whispers", is the darkest of the bunch. This tale is about a policewoman that follows a criminal, known as "The Butcher" into an old abandoned house. This story is directed by the accomplished horror director; Brian Yuzna, whom horror fans will recognise instantly as the producer of the horror classic "Re-Animator" and the underrated "From Beyond", as well as the director of both the Re-Animator sequels, and the under acclaimed horror gem; "Return of the Living Dead part 3". His dark and repulsive style is shown abundantly in this tale. Despite its dark and creepiness, this is, unfortunately, the weakest of the three tales. This is a shame because it has a great set up, and it does feature some really nice moments, such as the brain dead cop and the atmospheric 'cave'. This tale is also the goriest and most horrifying of the three, and its lack of a coherent plot is most definitely its downfall.
The film is finished off with the conclusion to the wraparound tale, which stars Jeffrey Combs. The conclusion feels rather rushed, and is something of a rip-off of the ending of the first tale. This is a shame because the film ends on a limp note rather than an exciting one, and it therefore doesn't leave a good taste in the viewer's mouth.
Necronomicon is not essential viewing, or even recommended viewing; but if you just want a film that will entertain you for 90 minutes, then you could do a lot worse.
Like the other horror trilogy I saw recently, "Tales From The Darkside", "Necronomicon" gets progressively better as it goes along. The first story is unspeakably boring, but the second is an improvement (and features a notable performance by David Warner), and the third one comes closer to a convincing depiction/vision of what Hell might look like than perhaps any other horror film ("Hellraiser II", for example). Spectacular gore effects are a highlight throughout. (**)
Brian Yuzna's Necronomicon features a wraparound in which Jeffrey Combs
portrays H.P. Lovecraft, circa 1932. Prosthetic makeup, in combination
with Comb's naturally high voice, results in what is probably the best
portrayal of H.P.L. we're likely to see. However, those familiar with
Lovecraft's life will be amused (or perhaps annoyed) to see him
depicted as an occult believer/action hero who gains access to a copy
of the Necronomicon through subterfuge. A somewhat similar liberty was
taken by novelists Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in their
'Illuminatus' trilogy; and, of course, Robert Bloch based a character
in 'Shambler From The Stars' on Lovecraft. (With H.P.L's permission,
Necronomicon is a melange of Lovecraftian characters, stories, and themes. The Deep Ones, Cthulhu, the strange high house in the mist at Kingsport Head and, of course, the dreaded Necronomicon itself are all reasonably well treated. H.P.L.'s short story 'Cool Air' provided some inspiration for one of the film's segments.
Lovecraft's stories - notoriously short on dialog and female characters - do not easily lend themselves to direct cinematic adaptation. Consequently, Brian Yuzna deserves credit for extracting many essential elements from the Mythos and presenting them in a way contemporary horror audiences can appreciate. Necronomicon may offer a bit too much gore for some tastes; but as far as I'm concerned, even loose adaptations of Lovecraft's work are better than none at all.
Lovecraft's stories don't translate well to film. Much of their effect comes from the personal horror the characters feel at what they're seeing, and it would take a true filmmaking genius to bring something like that across; if such a person has existed they have not taken aim at Lovecraft's works. The other problem is that it's hard to stretch his short stories out into movie length. Those who try, usually introduce elements that distract from the true flavor and atmosphere of the stories. "Necronomicon" falls into that trap, despite preserving the short stories as separate segments. The first story, which combines elements of "The Strange High House in the Mist" and "The Shadow over Innsmouth", among others, is the most successful at preserving the evil and terrifying atmosphere of Lovecraft's works. The second is a direct adaptation of "Cool Air", a story whose one cool concept doesn't adapt well to a segment of this length. The third segment (actually based on "The Nameless City" and not "The Whisperer in Darkness" as some here have said) winds up being a hamhanded gorefest with no finesse and only a casual relationship to Lovecraft's work. It's not as though gore wasn't an element in Lovecraft's stories, with characters being "torn to ribbons" and all; but it always takes the form of horrifying and unspeakable things that happen and is never present for cheap thrills' sake as it is here. If you're a fan of Lovecraft's stories, you'll probably want to see it. You might not like it very much, but you'll want to see it anyway. If you really like cheesy horror films, it'll entertain you. But if you want a good horror film or a good adaptation of H.P.Lovecraft's works, keep moving.
I was at first, very excited about this film due, to the fact that I am a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft. But after seeing what amounted to a pathetic version of Creepshow, I was very let down. Don't get me wrong, some of the content was worthy enough to be associated with HP, but much of the film was cheesy and not very engrossing. If you wish to see a Lovecraftian style film, check out In the Mouth of Madness. It is INSPIRED by HP, but not related directly to one of his stories.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
H.P. Lovecraft's gloomy short stories about obsession and the
supernatural monsters that lurk all around us unnoticed by society at
large naturally lend themselves to a multi-storied omnibus fright film
format. Well, this trio of truly terrifying tales does the master full
justice, combining both supremely sepulchral midnight-in-the-graveyard
moodiness and jump-out-at-you startling straightforward shocks with
often genuinely frightening results.
First yarn, "The Drowned" - Wealthy Bruce Payne inherits a crumbling old seaside hotel that unbeknown to Payne has a foul carnivorous demon residing in the murky basement. Directed with exceptional style and grace by Chistopher Gans, this particularly chilling humdinger is highlighted by Richard Lynch's touching turn as a bitter man who renounces his faith in God after losing his wife and child in a shipwreck and direct-to-video erotic thriller perennial Maria Ford's strikingly eerie, ethereal and even strangely sexy cameo as Payne's dead girlfriend who's resurrected as a ghostly, pallid, mossy-haired zombie.
Second vignette, "The Cold" - Sweet young runaway Bess Myer rents a room at a shabby apartment with a lonely, reclusive scientist (movingly played by David Warner) residing on the weirdly freezing top floor. When Myer befriends the sad, fragile Warner she learns that he has discovered the secret of immortality, which not surprisingly comes at an especially terrible price: Warner can only remain alive by constant fresh injections of human spinal fluid! Director Shusuke Kaneko manages to milk considerable poignancy from this haunting parable about the horrible price one must pay for cheating fate, coaxing fine supporting performances from Millie Perkins as Warner's protective landlady, Gary Graham as Myers' abusive, incestuous brute stepbrother, and Dennis Christopher as a foolishly snoopy newspaper reporter.
Third and most gruesome anecdote, "Whispers" - Gung-ho female cop Signy Coleman and her more sensible partner Obba Babatunde stumble across the dark, dank and forbidding underground lair of these ancient subterranean monsters with a voracious appetite for bone marrow. Director Brian Yunza eschews the spooky atmospherics of the previous segments for a graphically visceral approach that's crudely effective in a gory, mondo disgusto, gross you out hideous sort of way. "Return of the Living Dead" 's Don Calfa and Judith Drake are wonderfully quirky as the nutty old couple guardians of the savage flesh-eating flying beasts who need new victims to keep their race thriving for all eternity.
All these stories in and of themselves certainly smoke, as does the thankfully solid wraparound narrative starring Lovecraft movie vet Jeffrey ("Re-Animator," "From Beyond") Combs, who's perfectly cast as the author himself who visits a secret library to check out the legendary tome of evil "Necronomicon" and almost gets killed in the process. Barely recognizable under heavy make-up which makes him resemble a gaunt Bruce Campbell, Combs simply shines in a role he was seemingly destined to portray. Moreover, the uniformly superb special effects by such dependable artists as Tom Savini, Todd Masters and Screaming Mad George are as ghastly and grotesque as they ought to be, the splatter is likewise properly revolting and plentiful, the tone suitably creepy throughout, and, most importantly, the individual stories ultimately cohere into a provocative and penetrating meditation on man's tenuous hold on reality, exposing a scary netherworld that if intruded upon by us stupidly inquisitive mortals can prove to be quite deadly and dangerous. A superior horror anthology.
This movie was okay, considering Lovecraft's ideas are hard to portray
on the screen. Each story stayed true to Lovecraft's horror, though the
last was leaning towards the modern version of horror (gory, bloody,
etc) The acting was much better than I expected, especially the last
story. The sequences with Lovecraft are taking many licenses with his
real self, but then again, his real personality doesn't need to be
shown to enjoy his stories. I enjoyed the low budget, yet quality,
effects as well.
(for the MSTies, watch for the Necronomicon door sequence near the end, amusingly similar)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good props, good music, good scenery, good lighting and competent
actors with Jeffrey Combs at the helm of the wrap around make this
movie worth watching. The main plot is kept delightfully simple - H.P.
Lovecraft goes to a monastery library to catch a forbidden glimpse of
the Necronomicon. He steals the key to a gated chamber where he finds a
safe containing the Necronomicon; setting off a mysterious mechanism
that apparently locks him inside.
He then sits at the table; flip open his writing tablet and rather than copying pages, he proceeds to write three stories inspired by the fishy effervescence of alien magic contained therein.
That's when things get weirder than they already are. Not for the character, but for the viewer. The average viewer is not nearly familiar enough with Lovecraft's writings to understand how he portrayed the traditional family unit, and therefore how to understand what the movie producers were trying to translate onto film.
Family and procreation in Lovecraft stories were at best only relevant in terms of interbreeding with aliens (shadow over innsmouth); at worse a social mechanism that has the capacity to de-evolve humans into violent primates (lurking fear). Lovecraft made no bones about it - the family that stays together, gets strange together.
Without a lens of literary context to see this movie through, it's no wonder that it ultimately translates into an anti-abortion message. You have one character that is a perpetually pregnant woman; and another character that is bargaining to continue her pregnancy to save her own life. Perhaps the producers of this movie should have considered how these elements would affect the female half of the audience rather than just hoping everyone would "get it."
With that said, I have no reason to believe that there is an anti- abortion message in this movie; particularly since the first story burns a Bible early on. If that doesn't establish where this movie stands in terms of religious values, I'm not sure what will. Also, a horror movie is probably the worst place to try to send an anti-abortion message; and certainly not from aliens that drink human bone marrow like a milkshake.
I wanted to give this a 10 out of 10, as they did a great job with what they had to work with. However, since literary context is necessary, I am taking it down a notch since I have to, once again, encourage people to read Lovecraft to understand what's going on. For me, the ideal Lovecraft movie would not only accurately express his literary vision; but in such a way that the mainstream audience can understand it too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*A few spoilers, perhaps.* The first two stories were all right. Especially, for being stories within stories (Lovecraft's trademark). Richard Lynch was brilliant, as the sea captain who goes temporarily insane with grief. And, David Warner was absolutely convincing as the true-love-starved immortal, ultimately betrayed by his over-possessive housekeeper. The third one, though? YECHH! The only thing truly Lovecraftian about it was the small touch of Negrophobia in it. *Sad but true; HPL was a closet racist. Just read "Call of Cthulu!"* I guess the nicest touch was the subtle homage to a similar anthology: the British b/w classic "Dead of Night." The wrap-around segment, and its conclusion, strongly reminded me of the former! I guess, in all fairness, that my final score for this movie boils down to: 2.7 stars.
I see others lambasting this movie, but can't agree - so I need to
weigh in on the side of reason.
While this is certainly not a must-see timeless classic, it's a competently-executed B movie with reasonably good special effects and a few faces who have been seen in bigger and better things. The style of the movie is similar to "Creepshow"; i.e. several small, unconnected stories told with a wraparound that sort of takes the place of a narrator. Imagine three episodes of "Tales from the Crypt" spliced together and you've got a good idea of the way the film is structured.
All of the film versions of Lovecraft's works - and yes, I HAVE seen all of them in existence, as far as I know - were B movies, and the quality of this particular one is towards the upper middle of the pile. Yes, there are rubber monsters. However, they are quite well done for the era and budget that spawned this movie.
If you want to see an example of a Lovecraft film adaptation I think is at the top of the quality scale, see Dagon. But don't shun this movie either; if you're a Lovecraft fan, this oeuvre is not to be despised.
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