Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

One can only dream of having the privilege to meet and converse face to face with significant figures in history, to live the same events as our ancestors, or to reach out through time and take possession of the bodies of descendants in the future and never have to succumb to death. If such a book contained the key to making this possible, it would likely be best kept forbidden and locked away forever, lest we find ourselves in danger from our own ancestors clawing away at our souls, trying to take possession of our lives. If you, like the main character in tonight’s film review, often find yourself dreaming that you are someone else in an entirely different time period, then it’s possible you may have been cursed from someone high above you in your own family tree that wants your life very much. 
By the way, all of this talk about taking the lives of descendants is the theme to H.P. Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, which is the basis for Raymond Saint-Jean’s 56-minute long, made for TV film, OUT OF MIND: THE STORIES OF H.P. LOVECRAFT. As the title suggests, the film also contains familiar scenarios from a few other Lovecraft tales that fans will likely enjoy noticing. However, the film’s main highlight is that it actually includes a very convincing H.P. Lovecraft played with stellar acting by Christopher Heyerdahl, who teaches us how CTHULHU is really pronounced. A pronunciation I’m unable to duplicate myself despite multiple attempts.  

"Man's relation to man does not captivate my fancy, it is man's relation to the cosmos-to the unknown-which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination"--H.P. Lovecraft

The story follows Randolph Carter (Art Kitching), a struggling metal sculptor who inherits an old book from his uncle, George Angell (Art Kitching also), on his twenty-seventh birthday that turns out to be none other than the Necronomicon. 
After leafing through the book a bit and speaking aloud some of its foreign phonetics, Carter begins having troubling nightmares of encounters with a man named Harley Warren, a researcher driven mad by “fundamental research” of the Necronomicon. In the dream state, Carter is his Uncle from the past and has to witness and endure unspeakable experiments from Warren, who is sort of like the frightening Lovecraftian madman from the past whose malicious spirit is still as threatening now as it was then, as if no time had elapsed. 
The actor that plays Harley Warren and Carter’s only friend Blake (Peter Farbridge) is great as both a dungeons and dragons novelty store clerk and the maniac in Carter’s dreams. In the dream world, Farbridge gives off a rather convincing 1920’s persona, which is an impressive contrast to the nerdy cynical store clerk he plays in the waking world.
Blake and Randolph Carter in the waking world.

Harley Warren and George Angell as they are known in the dream world.

"Can flesh be sculpted?"--Peter Farbridge/Harley Warren 

Later, at the store Blake works at, Carter inquires on the identity of a gentleman in a photo that was nestled in the pages of the book he inherited. The person in the photo happens to be Lovecraft, and it turns out that the store is having a sale on Lovecraft T-shirts, but Blake gives him one for free because apparently they’re not selling well. Blake also lends Carter a book of some of Lovecraft’s best writing so he can better familiarize himself with the author. A scene with Carter reading the back cover to this book, in a voiceover, is a great capsule bio to H.P. Lovecraft and his writing.  

In order to learn more about his dreams, the Necronomicon, and their connection to Lovecraft, Carter consults a professor addressed in a letter that came with his inheritance named Henry Armitage (Michael Sinelnikoff), after the heroic protagonist from THE DUNWICH HORROR. With hopes of getting answers, Carter leaves the book with Armitage, whose response to seeing the Necronomicon is dead on. This ends up backfiring as Carter arrives the next day to find the Professor having his brain being eaten on by a hairy squid-like creature. One of the film’s few gory moments…  

Hairy brain eating squid from Outer Space

After being unable to drive himself to torch the Necronomicon, Carter continues to dream of past events under the identity of his Uncle and eventually walks the forest of dreams while conversing with H.P. Lovecraft himself.  

A fanboy's dream

The overall explanation for what is happening in the story is that Carter’s fiendish ancestor utilized the Necronomicon in the past as a key to possess his descendent through dreams and ultimately be reincarnated.  
As dream, reality, and nightmare become less distinct while the film plays on, an interesting idea is emphasized that reality is merely the secondary existence while that of the dream world is in fact the more significant. 
Though the film doesn’t have the most climactic ending, the main idea is still gotten across during the final story event. A remarkable scene at the end, before the film closes, includes the Lovecraft character dreaming and wandering the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, Rhode Island, and while viewing his own grave, a voiceover by Heyerdahl describes the afterlife as nothing more than oblivion. Much of the spoken dialogue in this film from Heyerdahl is actually taken from letters and essays penned by Lovecraft himself. 
Winner of an H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival Award, OUT OF MIND is an unusual but creative Canadian film that is a treat for Lovecraft fans, and it is also recommended as an introduction to those not yet familiar with the man, since it’ll likely incite curiosity.


  1. I'm not a huge Lovecraft fan, but this looks really interesting...

  2. It’s true that Lovecraft isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I believe I found most enjoyment from this film as a Lovecraft enthusiast, so I’m not so sure how nonfans will feel about it. It’s still very interesting and like I said in the review, it might be a good introduction for those not yet familiar with Lovecraft. Thanks Rich for stopping by and I wish you good luck with your brand new 0.50 Action Express blog. http://050actionexpress.blogspot.com/

  3. Cheers Gio! I think I'll give this film a try. (thanks for the plug too!)

  4. It’s refreshing to read a good quality article for a change. You’ve made many interesting points and I agree. This has made me think and for that I thank you.
    Visit: hp film world

  5. I stumbled upon this gem while researching more on Lovecraft, any movies specifically. This is a well-made film. The actor who plays Lovecraft is so eerily convincing. It's almost as if we are meeting Lovecraft himself. And I'm pretty sure I will be dreaming meeting Lovecraft, just as the film portrays. And I will cherish each dream moment.