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Determined amateur's zero budget effort

3/10
Author: nysalor from Canberra, Australia
21 September 2012

Cthulhu is an amateur production shot in Canberra, Australia in 1996 and '97. It has shown at a number of festivals, but has never been released to theatres. A burn on demand option is available through Amazon. This production should not be confused with the commercial 2007 U.S. film of the same name.

Cthulhu is an an amateur production shot with a single 16 mm camera using tails and excess film stock. It has no professional actors (you can often see them reading their lines), no closeups, little story coherence, no colour matching, and (it seems) no second takes. Apart from some gunshot squibs and and an exploding car, the SFX comprise single screen hand-drawn monsters and extremely crude polarization effects. The claim made on IMDb that it had a $100,000 budget is wishful thinking of the most extreme kind.

Cthulhu's plot is a pastiche drawing on the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft; in particular the tales 'The Thing on the Doorstep', 'The Dunwich Horror', 'Shadow over Innsmouth' and 'The Call of Cthulhu'. Coherence is sacrificed as so many elements are crammed in.

The most interesting aspect of the film is its use of Canberra locales, including the now demolished Canberra Hospital as Arkham Asylum and The Australian National University as Miskatonic U. The results are often unintentionally hilarious, such as a Belconnen second-hand bookstore selling rare occult medieval manuscripts. The exploding car has nothing to do with the story, but was the result of the SFX consultant mentioning how it might be done. The catering budget was emptied to buy a $200 car shell from a wreckers, and the director went door-to-door to farms outside Canberra asking for permission to blow up a car in a paddock.

The exploding car is a highlight of the film. (This says everything that needs to be said). A second highlight is the hordes of student extras morphing into inbred Innsmouth locals by the use of absurd Middlesex accents; "The trees they be a rustling'.

Cthulhu is not without its guilty pleasures, but they fall firmly into the so-bad-it's-good category. With the application of large amounts of popcorn, it might be enjoyed as a rehearsal take for a Hammer horror send up as directed by Ed Wood. Today, similar or better results could be obtained using a mobile phone.

However, the original music by Jason Sims is exceptional.

Cthulhu is a tribute to first time producer-director-scriptwriter Damian Heffernan's determination and passion to create something from nothing. I salute him. If you ever have a chance to see it, bring popcorn.

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