The Whisperer in Darkness (2012)
Cast: Matt Foyer, Barry Lynch, Matt Lagan
Director: Sean Branney
Studio: HPLHS (The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) 2-disc set [7/31/12] (Distr. by Microcinema)
Video: 16:9 B & W (in Mythoscope)
Audio: English DTS 5.1
Subtitles: Czech, Danish, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
Extras: 2½ hours of featurettes on monsters, miniatures, makeup and other effects; Deleted and extended scenes; More H.P. Lovecraft; Replica prop newspaper clipping
Length: 104 minutes (feature)
I couldn’t say I’m a great H.P. Lovecraft fan, though I did attend the recent H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival here in Portland. All the reviews of this independent feature on Amazon are totally complimentary; here’s a less slanted view. By the way, this is also available on Blu-ray, but the black and white image quality is superb—like a Criterion reissue—and I can’t see that it would be that much improved on Blu-ray. And like Criterion there are loads of extras on the second DVD, which I never sampled since my interest doesn’t extend quite to that length.
The previous feature from HPLHS, The Call of Cthulhu, was made by some of the same people, and was frankly a bit embarrassing. The cinematography was also more blurry and murky, trying to look like the classic Hollywood horror films of the 1930s. This one is top-flight B&W image quality, with an excellent range of grey tones and suitable noir-style images. The original musical score fits the period look and is in 5.1 surround—unusual for a B&W feature. The acting is also good—especially lead Matt Foyer—who plays a professor investigating legends of strange creatures in the remote hills of Vermont, who at first believes they are all just exaggerated folk tales.
One of the Amazon reviewers is sorry that this film never got distributed to the big screens. Well, there’s probably very good reason for that. Near the ending things sort of fall apart and I was left wondering what had happened. I understand the filmmakers departed considerably from Lovecraft’s original story at that point. But in addition, the timing/pacing is off—there are many shots that hold just a bit too long, almost like those couple of comedy directors who deliberately hold a shot at the end when everyone in it has finished their lines and there is an embarrassed pause. I could also say I was sorely disappointed that apropos of the film’s title, when one character finally does his “whispering in darkness” to the ear of the Matt Foyer character, we never hear what the whispering is! Only that it is something to terrible to behold. Plus I thought I’d finally get to see Cthulu, but he/it isn’t even mentioned.
The plot is basically that the professor is convinced by his associates who are much more believers in the strange tales to go visit the farmer whose son has come to them with stories and photos of the creatures which have plagued them. His inquiry finally reveals a glimpse of the terrible truth behind the legends. I was surprised at the sci-fi elements in the story; it’s certainly not your typical 1930s horror movie. But fortunately it’s also not your bloody horror movie of today. The creature effects are not bad considering the low-budget nature of the whole production.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.