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DVD Review: Cthulhu (2008)

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H.P. Lovecraft set the pace of horror and has yet to retreat from our fast-paced, technological world. With board games, magazines, and role playing games, Lovecraft’s monsters continue to freak people out. And for the most part, these venues are a tribute to the man whose name is synonymous with horror. The only media that has yet to capture his genius is ye olde silver screen.

Movies have never seemed to do him justice. For example, the amazing but oh-so-campy 2001 Dagon wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really great either. And now, recently added to that list is the 2008 independent film Cthulhu, which I assure you leans more toward the not-so-great side.

The movie follows Jason Cottle’s character, a history professor by the name of Russ, who has to return to his small hometown after his mother’s death. He meets with his creepy family, dreams about creepy rocks, and finds out the town he grew up in is slowly being taken over by a new-age religion led by his father. Oh, and Tori Spelling rapes him somewhere along the way. I forget exactly when… or why, really.

I know so far this plot sounds amazing, but just because it’s stamped with the name of a well-known monster doesn’t mean it’s good or even Dagon good. Director Dan Gildark and writer Grant Cogswell were trying to make this movie less campy and more artistic, but through that, they lost the very core of what makes horror movies good.

The version I watched wasn’t quite fully edited, and maybe that’s the valid excuse for endless minutes of scenery. However, I doubt it justifies the scene of Russ as a kid jacking off with some friend over pretty girls, or the mechanics of how Tori Spelling raped a drugged man, or why she did (if not to simply fill the need for a sex scene), or the sudden jolt ending with no explanation. Other than the complete lack of coherent plot, the somewhat distracting venture into Russ’s homosexual world, and the bad sound quality of my DVD version, Cthulhu almost redeemed itself with some amazing visuals that are quite Lovecraftian.

One appears during a restless night in town when Russ wanders into a warehouse with hundreds of names written on the walls. Another time, Russ sees a box that has washed up on shore with hands protruding from all its cracks. And the most amazing scene of all, which might make this movie worth seeing, occurs when Russ stumbles upon the mass of tunnels under the small town. He’s making his way through the dark, using the flash of his camera to light his way. For about two minutes, this movie was absolutely amazing; however, it quickly lost momentum as soon as Russ returned above ground.

I was really excited at the prospect of watching Cthulhu as many of you might still be. There’s something about H.P. Lovecraft’s tales that continues to intrigue and terrify us. However, let me steer you toward the board game Arkham Horror or H.P. Lovecraft's Magazine of Horror, instead of Cthulhu. This movie is not a tribute to the man or to his monsters.

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