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In 1928, Miskatonic University folklore professor Albert Wilmarth
enjoys debunking theories of the occult, even though he is roundly
trounced on radio, no less by Charles Fort when they have a debate
on whether certain stories in Vermont that have come to light following
a flood are based in fact. He has also been carrying on correspondence
with an intelligent, yet fearful, farmer in Vermont, who insists that
the strange beings seen in the floodwaters are real, and are all around
his farm. Wilmarth is curious, especially after he finds the original
manuscript of a very rare book of folklore collected in Vermont back in
the 1800s, containing stories which seem to correspond to what his
farmer correspondent, Henry Akeley, has described in his letters. So
when he receives a strange letter from Akeley that completely up-ends
the farmer's previous fears about alien creatures and that invites
Wilmarth to come to the farm to discuss the wondrous things that he has
learned, well, Wilmarth can't possibly turn the invitation down. But
when he arrives in the hills of Vermont, the local folk he meets all
seem downright hostile, and when he arrives at the farm, he finds that
Akeley himself is not well. And that is just the beginning of the
discoveries that await him....
This film, created by a collective called the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, is clearly lovingly made done in black and white and in the style of the early 1930s, it tells one of Lovecraft's more evocative tales and then expands upon it. (Lovecraft's story ends at about the one-hour mark of the film, which continues for another 40 minutes or so.) The atmosphere is terrific, and the style of the story-telling really permits the audience to feel themselves back in the early 1930s, even up to the various mad-scientist gadgets that evoke such classics as the lab in the original "Frankenstein" film. The monsters are more or less what one might expect to see in an early 1930s film based on an HP Lovecraft story, but that doesn't make them any less menacing or eerie. You don't need to be a Lovecraft fan to love this movie, though it wouldn't hurt; you probably don't even need to be a fan of old movies. You just have to love movies, especially ones with great atmosphere and straight-up acting and a storyline that keeps you involved every step of the way. Highly recommended!
I saw this film as part of the "Imagine" film festival 2011 in
Amsterdam. I booked it out of curiosity, wondering how a modern film
maker would treat the 1930's source. I must confess that I'm not fond
of most Lovecraft's stories. Though not having read any within more
than 30 years, I'm still stuck with an impression of
adjective-overloaded descriptions of monsters and their attributes.
Many alternative books and stories in this same genre that I've read,
attracted me much more. I'm prepared to accept that my reading sample
was wrong and my bad impression is just as wrong.
The film makers decided to run the film in black&white, which did not hinder me at all. It even seemed the natural way after some minutes. I'm very glad that we got sound with the film. I hate intervening text boards showing the dialog, known from silent movies. In anticipation I was a bit afraid that parts of the film would develop slowly, not unexpected given the original material, but my fear proved completely unjustified.
The director was present at the screening and answered several questions during the final Q&A. We learned about the 350K$ budget, financed by the film makers out of their own pockets. They did the same for their previous 47 min short "The Call of Cthulhu", which paid itself back eventually. Understandably that several corners were cut for reasons of costs, but their love for Lovecraft did make up the rest. The editing of the material, as well as the pace in which the story develops, were adapted to match current speed expectations. Nowadays we cannot bear to watch 15 minutes of people reading letter fragments to each other, and this part of the original story was visualized differently for good reason. The finale shows a lot of action, and even some monsters. What these aliens look like, has been described by Lovecraft in much detail. These monsters could not be left out, or it would have left us strongly disappointed (said the director).
Back at home I discovered the original story in my own book collection. It was bought a long time ago (1978), and I completely forgot having it. When re-reading the story, I saw some changes by the hands of the film makers in order to liven up the original. As mentioned above, the exchange of letters between Akeley and Wilmarth has been dramatized considerably. And with good reason, otherwise we certainly would have dozed off. Further, the final outdoor scenes don't appear as such in the original story, and has been invented by the film makers, if only to show a few alien monsters and to introduce some action scenes. Maybe somewhat detached from the original, especially the plane scene, but such liberties occur often enough when turning a static book into a motion picture.
When leaving the theater, I gave an "excellent" score for the public prize competition. I can only applaud the design decisions by the film makers, choosing for black and white (no problem) but with sound (very good), and properly pacing the story to maintain a modern tempo throughout its duration. In other words, to a reasonable extent truthful to the 1930's style of film making, but not to such an extreme that it would be tedious for viewers A.D. 2011.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm Sandy Petersen, and some people know me as a game designer (I wrote
the original game Call of Cthulhu, for instance). I helped fund The
Whisperer in Darkness, though I had no creative input (and expected
The movie is, in my obviously prejudiced opinion, a masterwork of taking an unfilmable Lovecraft story, and getting it not only on film, but in such a way to make it accessible to those who have not yet read the tale.
I don't understand the reviewer who says it seems like a mishmash of Lovecraft - has he even read the original tale? This movie was taken straight from it. Some characters are added to dramatize events which, in the story, are in the form of posted letters, but that certainly doesn't hurt the film. Yes there is a lot of dialog, but the camera is not static - things move, shadows lurk, and the dialog itself is terrifically ominous.
It does not follow the near-standard Hollywood 3-act-play sequence, to its everlasting credit. Instead the sinister elements keep building steadily until they reach a climax and even feature an artsy epilogic montage. Just as with the story, the evidence before Albert Wilmarth (the main character) keeps growing until he can no longer deny his eyes. Even the revelation of the alien horrors is done bit by bit. First we see a footprint, then a blurred photo, then a shadow on a wall, then on a curtain, then a single leg, then a brief shot of one walking offscreen behind some humans. Ultimately we see them fully and they are worth the wait.
But it's not just the aliens - every element of the story grows in this manner. As you learn the alien plan bit by bit, the horror and tension mounts.
Every death in the movie was unexpected to me. As a long-term expert in horror films, I'm used to being able to peg who lives and who dies often in the opening credits, so this was a nice surprise.
The movie has subtlety and class. One good example is the scene with the young girl, Hannah. Albert Wilmarth is hiding out with her in a barn, trying to avoid detection. He converses with her, and tells her of his own daughter, who died of influenza years ago. The scene is touching, but just before it degenerates into bathos, he offers to sing Hannah a song which he once sang to his own child, and Hannah shakes her head, and says, "No". Just in the nick of time! I saw an early version of the film, and this scene with the child is what convinced me to invest my money in this movie. The whole thing is very professional.
It is not an action film, though it contains action. It is a cerebral horror film. There are no "boo" moments, and every moment segues logically into every other. It is a tightly knit coherent hole.
A truly impressive production, "The Whisperer In Darkness" is as much a sincere homage to the weird storytelling of H.P. Lovecraft, as it is a faithful recreation of the pacing, nuance, and style of 1930's Hollywood film noir and horror. The actors give serious performances; with neither camp nor insincerity, they deliver studied emulations of early 20'th century acting methods. The script takes liberties with the original Lovecraft story, but never in a disrespectful way; the truly disconcerting moods and feelings of the original prose are reproduced with startling efficacy. The costumes, set designs, and filming locations are excellent. The score is dynamic and evocative of the era. The "advanced technologies" are portrayed from a 1930's perspective--- indeed, much as Lovecraft himself likely envisioned them. CGI was used sparingly, but tastefully; toward the end the special effects bore an amazing resemblance to stop-motion models. CGI, or traditional animation? Either way, it enhanced the vintage feel of the film considerably. Truly a labor of love by talented individuals who genuinely adore both Lovecraft and the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
Really enjoyed the clean look of this film in black & white, and also the sound editing. This is probably the classiest example of what can be achieved with a limited budget when the filmmakers obviously have a love of the material which shines through. The script is faithful to Lovecraft yet it does cuts down on a lot of the excessive verbiage to make it somewhat more palatable to a modern audience. The pace progressively builds and does pay off. The standout performance is from the adorable Autumn Wendell "Hanna Masterson" who embodies the film and is very effective at being terrified, yet innocent at the same time. A perfect fit to a film which achieves the same things.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First off, this is my first review I have ever bothered to write on
IMDb. And the reason is simply this...This is a pretty damn good movie.
I loved "Dagon" the movie, my first exposer to HP Lovecraft freshman
year of college and then started reading his stuff. 8 years later, I
keep all his work proudly displayed on my book shelf so my daughter
does not have to wait till freshmen year to hear about HP Lovecraft. As
people who have read his work already know, the stories are impossible
to translate into a movie, hence, terrible movies. I kept coming across
weird horror movies that advertised themselves as "From the mind of HP
Lovecraft" (one that is just called Lovecraft) and found them to be
entirely lame, cheesy and an insult to the awesomeness that is
Lovecraft. This movie however was a lot of fun. So fun in fact that
around 20 min in, i decided to pause it and get myself a drink and
change of cloths and turned my phone to vibrate which is kind of my
ritual for movies that I get into and a nod that the movie truly has
caught my attention and no more distractions will be tolerated. The
acting is pretty good and the whole black and white deal gives it more
of a "Twilight Zone special written by HP Lovecraft" feel. The
creatures aren't Avatar standard CGI but honestly, Lovecraft monsters
live in your head and to manifest them and visualize them only ends up
diminishing the true horror of it all. All is all, I highly recommend
this movie...HP Lovecraft fan or not.
p.s. "From Beyond" isn't too bad either.
An adaptation of Lovecraft's story of the same name, which I have read. Within seconds, I pegged this as the work of the people who made The Call of Cthulu (director Brannery wrote and produced that film). I liked that one, but felt it was perhaps too slavish to a short story which didn't really lend itself that well to such a literal adaptation. The Whisperer in Darkness perhaps lends itself a lot better to such a treatment, and this adaptation is therefore quite good. It's been probably ten or eleven months since I read the story, so I don't remember it perfectly, but I think this is very faithful (the ending seems different, but I can't recall how the story ended that well). This is very creepy, with nice black and white photography. I don't much care for CGI monsters, but, for some reason, I think they look quite good in black and white, and the flying crab aliens look very good. The acting is amateurish throughout, but I did like Matt Foyer a lot in the lead. He has a great look for this movie. Highly recommended.
I've seen the other Mythoscope offerings and while I found them
'entertaining', I didn't have too high a bar of expectation.
This movie blew that bar away. The producers chose good actors, made judicious use of current tech FX and CGI and wedded it to the true strengths of Black & White Media.
Color is wonderful in its own way: It explodes across the screen and fills the eye. The Movie will do all the Imagination for you. The viewer just sits back and enjoys the ride.
Black & White, however, is the true suitor to Horror & Suspense. It doesn't fill the eye-- instead B&W subconsciously invites the imagination to fill in the blanks-- to populate the shadows, to imagine the colors, to wonder what it would REALLY look like. This is why so many of us still prize the Old Outer Limits over its newer color cousin. Or as another example-- even in color, the scariest monster moments occur in the semi-Dark.
The movie took liberties with the story-- as other reviewers have noted-- but HPL would have approved, I think. The story picks up speed and becomes more adventurous and action-oriented towards the end.
The sights of the Alien/MiGo are carefully and sparingly dispensed-- and even when fully revealed are exceedingly well done. Creepily NOT-human and NOT-of-this-earth.
And underneath it all, the imagined alien technology was well researched. Creepy, Dark and Unpleasant. In HPL's world, WWII had not happened yet. Dreams of technology were still running along the old Pulp adventure storyline we see in old series like "Tales of Tomorrow". And if anything, their view of technology was cold, outré and alienating.
This movie is a MUST for HPL lovers. For those who've never read HPL, it can seem a bit...slow.
But if you're willing to give this flick a chance-- play it late at night...when it's raining. Mood is everything.
One cannot help but give full marks to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical
Society for their efforts to bring H. P. Lovecraft's eerie stories to
the screen in a manner in keeping with the texture and mood of the
original material. Although there have been other attempts to film
Lovecraft stories, most have generally been unsatisfying failures due
to misguided attempts to modernize or glamorize them. Not so with
HPLHS, who have gone out their way to keep faithful to the period and
locales in which the tales were set, even going so far as give the film
the feel of an early-1930s black-and-white movie. Even their logo is an
homage to the the old Universal Studios logo of the early 1930s (the
studio which produced such classic horror movies as Frankenstein,
Dracula and The Mummy), replacing the familiar
airplane-circling-the-earth with a dirigible.
The plot involves Albert Wilmarth, a college anthropology professor specializing in folklore, who becomes intrigued by a series of unusual newspaper stories reported from a rural part of Vermont after a period of particularly heavy rains. It seems that bodies have been observed washing down from the mountains in the swollen rivers, bodies which are, reportedly, neither human nor animal. The bodies apparently also recall, among the older inhabitants, old tales of strange beings that live in remote parts of the hills, beings that are neither human nor animal, and possibly not even of terrestrial origin. Wilmarth begins his investigation into these stories on the basis that they are nothing more than mere interesting folklore, but soon finds himself dealing with something far more sinister.
Admittedly, the producers of the movie added some material and characters not present in the original story. In fact, the short story actually ends at a point only about one hour into the film. However, the original version was, after all, only a short story, and I suppose the makers felt that they had to add some material to the plot in order to expand the short story into a full-length movie. nevertheless, the movie still does a far better job of evoking the feel of H.P. Lovecraft's writing than any other movie versions of his works, with the only possible exception being the resent silent film version of The Call of Cathulhu, which was made by the same producers.
One addition to the film is a debate staged between the protagonist, Professor Wilmarth, and Charles Fort. While that was not a part of H.P. Lovecraft's original story, it is interesting period touch because Charles Fort was actually a real person, a celebrated and controversial author of the early 1900s who was known to contemporaries as "The Mad Genius of the Bronx". Fort, who died in 1932, wrote about what are now called paranormal phenomena before that term was even invented, and is credited, among other things, with coining the word "teleportation".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Glad to see so many positive reviews, all of which I agree with. Well
acted, well-crafted and should be a staple in film school of how to
make a movie.
As a Lovecraft devotee, the only point I'd emphasis is that this is the only adaptation, except for Dunwich Horror (1970), that works.
Lovecraft's stories speak to the darkest midnight of the imagination and trying to translate that midnight to film is virtually impossible; many movies have tried with few successes.
Dunwich succeeded by weaving that midnight into a far more conventional story of innocence, power and lust (Sandra Dee's tour de force with strong assists by Ed Begley and Dean Stockwell) and Whisper does the same within an homage to both Noir and '30s SciFi and Horror films. It works beautifully, even the dangerously hokey finale with its potentially disastrous revelation of ritual, monsters, frantic flight and circular denouement. A little beauty hopefully destined to be a cult classic.
5-22-14 P.S. Just saw The Haunted Palace again on TCM - a favorite from my early adolescence and one of the best of American International's horror movies. Vincent Price was flawless.
Mention it because it has a lot references to Lovecraft, from the name, Charles Dexter Ward, to the deformations of the locals. And, like Dunwich, it does have a brief scene (the opening) of a semi-clad maiden about to be inseminated by an Old One (or spawn thereof). Not quite as erotic as Sandra Dee's Tour-de-Force but getting there.
Despite those references, Palace is not a Lovecraft movie. It's a well-made AI horror movie using the Lovecraft allusions to add depth but not to drive the plot, which centers on Price's character, Joseph Curwen, being possessed by an ancestor named C. D. Ward (who bears no resemblance to Lovecraft's character). Point being that, while it is a very successful horror movie, it isn't a treatment of any of Lovecraft's stories or characters. Its success as a horror movie does not equate to success as a Lovecraft-inspired horror movie.
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