While Reanimator or Dagon (or, depending on how you count it, In the Mouth of Madness) might be the best movie based on HP Lovecraft stories, and The Call of Cthulhu may be the most faithful, Necronomicon has to be the broadest. As an anthology, it “directly” adapts three of Lovecraft’s short stories, while incorporating elements from several others, resulting in a funky sort of greatest hits mix. Sadly, the film only got a censored VHS release in the US before being lost in the Phantom Zone of copyright legislation, but an uncut DVD was released in Germany, complete with original English audio track.
In the movie, HP Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs, who else?) has broken into some sort of evil alien cult’s library, and jots down notes from their Necronomicon, each forming one of the anthology’s segments. One pauses to wonder how Lovecraft, in the 1930’s, is reading accounts of modern-day events from an allegedly ancient tome, but I’m willing to grant this more magical leeway than I am, say, for Battlestar Galactica. The segments are:
The Drowned, loosely based on “The Rats in the Walls” (only in the sense that the main character is a member of the same family), directed by Christophe Gans (remember how I said his American movies are harder to find in America than his French ones?). In the segment, the main character inherits a creepy old manor, finds a copy of the Necronomicon left behind by some kind of Dagon-esque fishman, and goes about a Cthulhu-worshipping ceremony to resurrect his dead wife. The wife comes back, wrong of course, and is now a tentacle monster. It’s almost as if first-time director Gans threw a complete collection of Lovecraft’s stories into a blender and hit puree!
The Cold, based on “Cool Air”, directed by a pre-Gamera Shusuke Kaneko and written by a pre-Ghost in the Shell Kazunori Ito. Much sexier than the original story, it’s about a young woman’s romantic relationship with an undead scientist. Due to his condition, the guy has to keep in frigid temperatures, and every once in a while drain a victim of spinal fluid. Problems arise when the guy’s ex gets jealous, and by problems, I mean flesh-melting. Kaneko spoke no English and hadn’t made any international hits at this point, so I wonder how he was tapped.
Whispers, based on “The Whisperer in Darkness”, directed by Brian Yuzna. A pair of cops who are also interracial lovers (I bet Lovecraft wouldn’t have loved that!) get into a car accident, and in the aftermath the guy is hauled off into the sewers by the mysterious “butcher”. The woman follows, only to find a mindfucking gaggle of shape-shifting, brain-swapping, marrow-sucking aliens. Again, it’s not an exact recreation of the original story, but its own interpretation.
The effects work for the whole film is really nice, especially considering some of Yuzna’s other projects (e.g. Beyond Reanimator), and the crew was nearly as star-studded as the directorial chairs, including the likes of Tom Savini on makeup and Screaming Mad George on monster suits. The results were a lot of coolly gross creature prosthetics, the likes of which have nearly disappeared from screens nowadays.
Fans of Showtime’s Dexter might also want to listen closely to the movie’s score; Daniel Licht composed the soundtracks for both, and certain musical queues, including Dexter’s ending theme, were recycled from Necronomicon. Good to know at least the music’s getting some play stateside.