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Posts Tagged ‘Daikaiju’

– The Call of Cthulhu –

March 19, 2009 160 comments

This isn’t a new film, but it’s one that not nearly enough people have talked about. So now I’m gonna. If, like me, you were a HP Lovecraft fan before hearing about this movie, don’t bother with this review. Just go buy it. Do it now.

Ahem.

The Call of Cthulhu is a short film (about 45 minutes) based on the short story of the same name by famous racist lunatic HP Lovecraft. Considered one of Lovecraft’s most enduring horror masterpieces, Call traces a series of seemingly unrelated events that are in fact all tied to an ancient and malevolent god, Cthulhu (a sort of a bat-winged octopus bodybuilder the size of a skyscraper). Where Cthulhu’s sinister touch is felt, madness and death follow. The movie is the work of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, a pretty well known fanclub of the late author.

What makes this movie stand out over other films made by English professors and internet dorks with a copy of Final Cut Pro and a big stack of depression-era men’s magazines? In a word, effort. Not content with making an obviously fake low-budget horror film, the HPLHS instead created their own silent film, replete with chiaroscuro lighting and stop-motion creature effects. This is also authentic to the time period in which Lovecraft wrote. The effect is convincing for the most part. The antique drawing rooms and theater bayous that make up the film look wonderful, and Cthulhu’s cursed city of R’lyeh is a masterwork of modeling. The high frame rate of videotape gives the film away at times, however, and some of the compositing is a little obvious.

The acting in Call is hard to critique. The performers are emulating silent-film horror parts, and do the job well, but the result isn’t scary, any more than it is in genuine silent films. None of the performers breaks the feel of the film, and they all look spot on for the times and places depicted.

The soundtrack is excellent period music that fits to the film much better than a true silent film soundtrack could- there’s no dialogue or effects here, but instrumental stings sync up to the action nicely. The creepy moodiness of the soundtrack generates the bulk of the spine-tingles here, and the film would suffer without it.

Obviously you can only get this movie on DVD through web-order, and at $20 it’s a steal. There’s an hour or so of making-of features that are pretty awesome, and my copy came with a replica of one of the newspaper clippings used in the film. Support neato indy filmmaking, and your own entertainment, and pick this one up.

Buy it from these folks: http://www.cthulhulives.org/toc.htm

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D-War: You Didn't Miss Much

March 17, 2009 Leave a comment

If you’re anything like me, you like to spend time on the internet looking at movie trailers. These trailers are usually better than the movies they advertise. For instance, the Watchmen trailer made Watchmen look like a movie where stuff happens, and the Crash trailer made Crash look like a movie that contained acting.

One trailer that may have jumped out at you while you were trying to tune out your ex-girlfriend yelling at you was the trailer for D-War (short for Dragon War), a Korean-backed American Daikaiju movie where dead Korean ninjas reincarnate as the cast of Friends and have to help the army battle a giant snake. If you’re like me, you probably thought it looked totally sweet, and years later, after the movie was released, you bought it rented it checked it out from the library had your fiancĂ© check it out from the library.

First the good: there are fifteen solid minutes of totally sweet actual dragon war in this film. They are right in the middle. Highlights include a bunch of knights on velociraptors attacking the police and the pilot of an Apache shooting out the window at dragons with a Detective Special. Stuff explodes in a mighty, yet thoroughly PG-13 spectacle of violence and awesomeness.

Now the bad: the other 70 minutes or so consist of a bunch of nobody yuppie actors blanding their way through the same 5 scenes over and over. Magic reincarnated ninja guy saves girl from giant snake, takes her to see disposable cast member, hugs her platonically, giant snake shows up and wrecks stuff. Lather, rinse, repeat. When the good giant snake shows up (there’s a good one, I guess) things become even messier because the giant snakes both basically look alike and you don’t know who to root for.

What’s ironic here is that the creators of this film felt the need to come to America to make a really, really Asian film. Giant monster cinema is bigger there than it is here, and the Power-Rangers bad guy villains fighting the army would have fit right into a Toho film. Even the cinematography feels more like Asian than American cinema. But the Americanization of the film, complete with a Western cast, makes this movie feel not like the Daikaiju epic it was meant to be, but like an American knockoff. It’s an old tradition that Hollywood doesn’t trust viewers to follow a movie with foreign heroes (see U-571) but it’s sad to see foreign filmmakers come to America and make the same mistake. Combine vague Hollywood ethnocentrism with a mostly dull movie, and you’ll realize it’s no surprise you missed D-War actually coming out.

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