The Last Horror Blog: Here's the New Chucky; Plus: Guillermo del Toro on the Best Horror Movie You've Never Seen

The Last Horror Blog: Here's the New Chucky; Plus: Guillermo del Toro on the Best Horror Movie You've Never Seen

May 30, 2013

Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.

Get your first look at the new Chucky – Whether anyone wanted it or not, we’re getting a new Chucky movie and today we’ve got your first look at how everyone’s favorite serial killing child’s toy will look in Curse of Chucky.

This photo comes from the upcoming film’s soundtrack – and if it’s accurate to what we’ll see in the finished movie, Chucky is getting back to his classic roots. This version of the killer Good Guys doll doesn’t look nearly as menacing as the version in the previous installments – which is cool, because I think Chucky's creepier when they go with the more understated, almost normal, look.

Curse of Chucky soundtrack

Evil Dead bloodies up your living room this summer – It’s crazy how fast movies go from in theaters to on DVD and Blu-ray these days. Take Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead reboot. That film (which we mostly dug) was in theaters back in April. If you missed it, don’t fret -- it’s already hitting the home video market on July 16.

No word yet on whether the discs will feature an unrated cut of the film, but I suspect we’ll be seeing that version eventually even if it’s not on these discs.

Katherine McPhee reveals her Depravity – I know exactly one person upset by the cancellation of NBC series Smash (my mother), but star Katherine McPhee doesn’t seem to be taking it too hard. She’s already lined up a film project based on a novel by Dennis Lehane.

McPhee has joined the cast of Depravity, a psychological thriller (the buzzword for horror films pretending to be highbrow) about a group of roomates who descend into an amoral world after they kill an innocent man they believe is a thrill killer. Sounds interesting…

Arcane Sorcerer

Guillermo del Toro talks about his favorite horror flick that you haven’t seen – I'm a big Guillermo del Toro fan, so when the maestro starts holding court talking about his favorite or most influential horror films, I grab a chair and listen.

GDT is featured in a new book from Robert K. Elder entitled The Best Film You’ve Never Seen – and true to the title, del Toro goes pretty arcane. His selection? Italian filmmaker Pupi Avati’s 1996 occult horror film Arcane SorcererCheck out an excerpt from the interview – and then watch the film on YouTube before someone pulls it (the DVD is out of print). Like all of Avati’s films, this one is definitely worth a look.


Horror Review

Whisperer in Darkness cover artAdapting the work of early 20th century horror author H.P. Lovecraft has proved vexing for Hollywood. Lovecraft’s stories, filled with horrifying elder gods who could and would crush humanity in an instant, strange creatures, and crazy occultism, should make for great films. The issue is that Lovecraft’s writing – while perfect at establishing a mood and an ever-present sense of dread – was often pretty vague when it came to actually describing these mind-shattering terrors his protagonists uncovered.

Because of this, reading Lovecraft is a very personal experience – even moreso than reading, say, a Stephen King book. Lovecraft frequently resorts to the narrative crutch of “things too horrible to describe," but it works in his fiction because the reader fills in the blanks. There’s no such room for ambiguity in a visual medium like film – those indescribable monsters are going to be presented for everyone to see. Invariably, there’s a bit of a letdown when the monsters aren’t as awful as what we’d imagined.

That’s but one problem with adapting Lovecraft’s work – but it is perhaps the biggest. It’s very telling that the best Hollywood has ever done with bringing Lovecraft’s work to the screen was John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness – a film that wasn’t actually based on a Lovecraft story, but was more of a pastiche of ideas from his work.

Just because Hollywood hasn’t really figured out how to get a handle on adapting Lovecraft’s fiction for the screen (I had really high hopes for Guillermo del Toro’s big-budget adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness – but it appears that project is dead) doesn’t mean everyone is stumped. The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has made two feature films based on the master of the macabre’s work. Today we take a look at its second effort, The Whisperer in Darkness.

For this second outing, The people at HPLHS up the stakes. Call of Cthulhu was a small silent film based on one of Lovecraft’s most enduring works. For Whisperer in Darkness, they’ve tackled a lesser tale – but they’ve added sound. The end result is a film that not only feels like a faithful re-creation of the author’s story – but one that looks like it came from the prewar period when talkies were first introduced.

The film follows English professor and folklorist Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) as he’s called to investigate reports of strange extraterrestrial crab beings haunting the hills of Vermont. Naturally, the academic is skeptical, but his investigation soon reveals that a local farmer named Akeley (Barry Lynch) might have been telling the truth about the strange creatures lurking in the woods around his property. What could these monsters want? Since it’s Lovecraft, it’s a safe bet that they want to open some sort of interdimensional doorway so more of their kind can come through.

As a tale of terror, Whisperer in Darkness is pretty much standard Lovecraft – and filmmaker Sean Branney does his best to make sure all of that makes it on the screen. This tale of creepy crab monsters from outer space isn’t as epic as Lovecraft’s greatest fiction, but it does translate quite nicely from the page to television. Branney’s film is charming – almost quaint with its low-budget presentation and attention to period detail. It’s very easy to forget that this feature wasn’t shot in 1935 – but was instead released in 2011.

The decision to add dialogue to the film was a necessity. Anyone who’s read Lovecraft extensively knows his tales are filled with people talking. Character discuss things at length, using arcane words that would make an SAT whiz run for his dictionary, then the characters narrate things to explain even more. Whisperer in Darkness is a dialogue-heavy affair for much of its running time – and that might put some folks off – but the dialogue is so typically Lovecraftian that I found myself not caring. This really is the closest anyone’s come to actually capturing the essence of Lovecraft’s prose for the screen. Purists who love the fiction will enjoy this adaptation.

For a film made by people who are first and foremost fans, Whisperer in the Darkness is a surprisingly accomplished production. The lighting is superb, the camerawork is faithful to films of the era, and the cast is surprisingly good.

Foyer makes a perfectly believable Wilmarth – the prototypical Lovecraft main character, Wilmarth is a man who puts his faith in science and reality only to discover that everything he’s ever believed might not be true. Foyer looks the part and does an admirable job with all of the film’s dialogue. The rest of the cast (including Barry Lynch and Daniel Kaemon) make the characters come alive. The twists and turns of Whisperer in Darkness are well telegraphed in advance of their actual occurrence, but the performances are so much fun that I never cared.

Hollywood is missing out on a potential goldmine by not tapping the works of Lovecraft for adaptation. The author’s stories lend themselves quite nicely to the kind of big-budget end-of-the-world spectacle the major studios love these days. The problem has always been, as critic Andrew O’Hehir points out, that the material is so earnest that there’s a fear of turning it into big-budget camp. That’s a valid concern, but with two films under its belt, the HPHLS has proven that adapting Lovecraft can be done and done well. The studios should be studying these films – and letting guys like Guillermo del Toro work their magic on the material. If that never comes to pass, here’s to hoping the guys at the Lovecraft Historical Society keep making films. These features really are a treat for fans of Lovecraft’s twisted tales.

Horror on the Horizon

Summer is officially underway, which means horror fans jonesing for some theatrical releases will be disappointed. The last day of May offers up a limited-release version of the Soska Sisters’ much-ballyhooed American Mary. That’s all she wrote.

The first week of June isn’t much better – but we do get The Purge, which isn’t technically a horror film, but might satisfy your cravings for some darker-edged entertainment.

Horror on Home Video

Things are at least a little brighter on DVD and Blu-ray. June 4 sees the arrival of the not-quite-horror film Warm Bodies as well as new versions of some Universal classics (Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man and The Mummy). Those alone should keep you busy for a few days.

June 11 brings us the much-maligned Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and a Blu-ray release of Jim Van Bebber’s awesome The Manson Family. Seriously, if you’re into Manson stuff, grab that disc. Great flick. 

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