For Reel

The Call of Cthulhu (2005)
April 29, 2017, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Andrew Leman
4 Stars
The Call of CthulhuThat The Call of Cthulhu was produced by an independent company known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society tips off that it was a labor of love more than anything else. What surprises is that, in addition to paying justice to the eponymous story in keeping nearly all details the same (the twist that the narrator is driven insane by the findings only brings the film closer to the spirit of the writer’s fiction), it is just as dedicated as an homage to filmmakers such as Murnau and Lang. Using what the filmmakers dubbed “Mythoscope”, the film incorporates both vintage techniques such as the use of miniatures and stop motion animation and more modern, computer-focused practices. Therefore, the film not only uses impressively scaled, abstract sets in the vein of The Cabinet of Caligari, but can precisely and convincingly use special effects to allow actors to inhabit several parts of the set in a way that seamlessly conveys depth and scale. As a filmed narrative, the film suffers in the same way the source material does—the episodic nature of the plot feels less like a steady investigation and more rambling, whereas Lovecraft’s more linear works tended to develop the themes of madness and dread with a sharper sense of progression. Regardless, the filmmakers’ care for technique elevates this beyond what would expect of a “fan film”—in some sequences, the effort recalls the films of Guy Maddin, who similarly uses the silent film aesthetic in achieving a tone of madness.

Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (2005)
November 1, 2015, 10:58 pm
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Director: Constantine Nasr
3 Stars
Shadows in the Dark The Val Lewton LegacyTypical of a Warner Brothers documentary, Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy deftly finds the appropriate balance between a biographical overview of the subject and articulating an appreciation of his body of work. The talking heads (including Guillermo del Toro, Neil Gaiman, John Landis, and others) speak much about what Lewton brought to the genre, namely the film noir aesthetic that grounds the horror elements in the everyday (whereas in the 1940s, Universal was churning out films that simply brought their famed cast of monsters together for sheer spectacle). Furthermore, Lewton’s famed mastery of suggestion is discussed, with a clip of the brutal first killing in The Leopard Man demonstrating the horrors that Lewton would insist one’s mind to conjure. One wishes the documentary involved more of an aesthetic appreciation–while there is an insistence that Lewton was a master of assembling the right team for his films, little is said about his relationship with someone like Nicolas Musuraca, who undoubtedly brought his own contributions to the overall atmosphere of these productions.

Inside Deep Throat (2005)
April 17, 2011, 9:37 pm
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Director(s): Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato

In 1972, the seminal pornographic film entitled Deep Throat challenged the censorship courts and ignited discussions of obscenity. Despite its controversy, the $25,000 budgeted film has earned hundreds of millions of dollars to date, some even citing it as being the highest earning picture in history. Inside Deep Throat discusses the obscenity charges and the generation that the film influenced, as well as how the lives of those who starred in the picture were forever changed. While undoubtedly a fascinating story, the film is unfortunately overstuffed with information and would need to double its length to satisfyingly discuss everything it wants to. Concluding with a juxtaposition of the modern porn industry and the porn films of old, the documentary nostalgically looks back at the liberating adult films of the 1970s whilst demonizing the state of the industry today. While such an argument would make a fascinating documentary on its own, it’s a bizarre counterpoint to a film that seems to applaud the efforts of young people fucking and exhibiting it for the public, the repressors be damned.