“Cthulhu” – Looking Back at Another Disaster from Seattle, City of Cinema Lame-O’s

H.P. Lovecraft has a history of mistreatment in the cinema. Films based on his stories have been passable (“Die, Monster, Die!”), mediocre (“Dagon”), and outright terrible (“The Unnamable”), but nothing comes near the abomination of “Cthulhu,” which not only desecrates Lovecraft, but film craft.

Let’s start with the screenplay by longtime poseur Grant Cogswell. Granted, many horror films don’t make sense until the ending, but they at least provide a few scares along the way. This shambling mess offers nothing but a lesson in how not to make a movie.

Jason Cottle plays Russell, a college professor who returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral to discover his family might be behind a series of child kidnappings. A victim of small-town homophobia, his outsider status increases when he is suspected of being a close cousin to The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

His old friend Michael likes him, though, and they even have sex, but the afterglow is ruined by Michael’s proclamation that “I can’t just change my life and be a gay guy.”

Sean Kirby’s cinematography is fine in the daylight. The interior shots, however, would have been better left undeveloped. A bar scene is illuminated by nothing but pinball machines and a light bulb. Were it not for the occasional ray of light through a window, we would be looking at a dark screen. When Kirby bothers to light a scene, he favors colored filters to grotesque effect. At the memorial for Russell’s mother, the orange is more intense than the pained expressions of the mourners.

The cast is rank, and director Dan Gildark does nothing to conceal their shortcomings, often letting the camera roll from a static position while they run their lines.

When he at last drifts to the end of his tale, and this little town on the Oregon coast has gone as crazy as one of Stephen King’s New England villages, Gildark represents the apocalyptic chaos with a montage of ringing telephones.

With the town in panic, and its residents in flight, I wonder who was making the calls.

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