Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS is one of the creepier and tenser short stories from H.P. Lovecraft. Readers are given enough hints to know all too well that something bad is going on as the story’s protagonist, despite his academic intelligence, seems too clueless and too stubbornly grounded in his notion of the realistic world to realize that he’s heading to a perilous destination. Journeying along with this character, Professor Albert Wilmarth, into an unnatural and creepy situation written in a first person perspective is largely what I think makes this short story work so well. In the first half there’s a lot of tension that is built up from the letter exchange correspondence between Albert and another character, Henry Akeley, whose farm is seemingly being invaded by alien monsters. However, nothing really ends up being truly conclusive with a lot being left to suggestion or just being the possible result of some weird and unexplainable phenomena or coincidences.

While I don’t think that it reaches the same high tension found in Lovecraft’s original story, the film adaptation by The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society (HPLHS) does an exceptional job at taking the liberty of filling in a lot of blanks by rounding out the story with much more definite events and including a third act that contains some new surprises that don’t disgrace the original story in the least. Though the narrative is understandably tweaked a bit to be more suitable for film, this still feels like one of the most faithful and near-perfect Lovecraft adaptations since the HPLHS’s CALL OF CTHULHU from 2005, though I honestly enjoyed THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS a bit more.




Like with CALL OF CTHULHU, the vintage filming style (the organization’s patented technique: Mythoscope) is definitely something to marvel at. If you ever plan on watching this with someone who’s unaware of when the movie was shot; tell them that this is a really old movie, and I bet there’s a good chance they won’t notice that it was made in 2011. Although they might suspect that something is up when they see the cool looking CG monsters (The Mi-go).




In addition, the performances by the actors that play the key characters from the book are spot-on. CALL OF CTHULHU’s Matt Foyer returns as the Lovecraft protagonist, Albert Wilmarth, and he no doubt ends up being a perfect fit as the story’s skeptical Professor of mythology. He’s given the right look, and he does justice to Wilmarth’s skeptic-like nature, particularly during the scholarly debate scene. I rather enjoyed his frantic gestures and hand motions as the debate started to heat up. Also, Barry Lynch nails it as Henry Akeley and The Whisperer. He plays a great creepy old man, and so I was rather taken aback by the contrast between Barry Lynch’s personality while watching him in an interview and his role in the film. It’s always a mark of a good actor when you get surprised by how different they seem in real life. Furthermore, Daniel Kaemon deserves praise for his accurate portrayal of the suspicious Bostonian gentleman, P.F. Noyes, whose role ends up being a little more significant in the additional third act, exclusive to the film’s adaptation.




So, I’ve been enthusiastically describing the merits of this film from the perspective of a satisfied fan of the source material. But will it please those who’ve never read the story or viewers that may not even be fans of Lovecraft?  Well for one, fans of 1930s horror should enjoy the throwback to what is a highly authentic classic filmmaking style that also avoids limitations by including modern techniques. And with the modification of the narrative to help make the story work better as a film, it succeeds in overcoming the challenge of bringing the story to life without being a strict retelling. The end result is its own evocative piece of work that I feel not only satisfies fans but could potentially introduce new readers to Lovecraft’s writing. And seriously, who doesn’t like a good monster movie?




I can’t help feeling thankful that as much care and attention went in to making THE WHISPERER IN DARKNESS as authentic and satisfying as it is. It’s a delightful treat and I am happy to own it. I’m looking forward to more and no doubt so are many others. During an interview that came as an extra with the limited edition, the filmmakers claimed that they are planning for what is next for the HPLHS feature films, and there were vague hints and whispers about a horror and Dunwich or something, and also something about a shadow and a place called Innsmouth.



8 comments:

  1. I had no idea that the people behind Call of Cthulhu had done another Lovecraft film. I need to get a hold of this right away, thanks for the splendid review!

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    1. Hey Jonny, thanks for stopping by. I actually forgot to mention in the review that, unlike COC, this one isn’t a silent film, but it is still a nice progression and my favorite of the two. Definitely worth checking out. By the Way, sometime Friday or Saturday I think I’m going to sit down and write a review for THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA for your site :).

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  2. Movies on Lovecraft there are not enough! I will recover it!

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    1. I'm sure it will be worth seeking out, Luigi. I'm on the hunt for Lovecraftian films; there are also a few that I've seen that I plan on covering in the near future, such as CTHULHU, DAGON, and maybe DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE.

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    2. I love "Call of Cthlhu" of the same production, i have also reviewed.
      Master of Horror first season episode, H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch-House is not bad!

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  3. I can't believe I haven't heard of this film! Now I'm chomping at the bit to see it. Your reviews are well written and informative, I'm glad I found this place.

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  4. COC was available to view online (@IMDB and YouTube) for free. Have they done the same for this or do I need to track it down on amazon.com?

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    1. I bought the DVD directly from the HPLHS: http://www.cthulhulives.org/store/storeDetailPages/whisperer-dvd.html. Of course, it does appear to be slightly cheaper on Amazon.

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