Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weeks Too Late: the H.P. Lovecraft Collection 1 & 2

The H.P. Lovecraft Collection. Volume 1: Cool Air Directed & Written by Bryan Moore. Volume 2: Dreams of Cthulhu: the Rough Magik Initiative Directed by Jamie Payne Written by Stephen W. Parsons.

Preconceptions: Hot off of enjoying the HPLS produced Call of Cthulhu, I wanted to see more stuff chalk full of tentacled horrors (but not Wicked City, anything but Wicked City-if you don't know what I'm on about, don't look). It turns out that the good ol' Netflix had a Bravo Canada series I'd never heard of called the H.P. Lovecraft Collection. Similar to the much touted (by me) Masters of Horror, this is a series of unrelated short films based on Lovecraft's writing. Really, it seemed like Bravo Canada of the distant past wanted to make a nice present for me. Thanks Bravo Canada.

General Review: Perhaps present was too positive a word. I always feel bad when I find something not a lot of people have heard of (this thing doesn't have a Wikipedia entry, for goodness sake) and then, instead of telling them about this great new thing, proceed to tear it to shreds. I really wanted to like this collection (and I figured I'd watch two so that you, the reader, would be getting at least an hour and a half of my time). I like the concept and hell, I liked the network when I was back in Canada. Unfortunately, I need to kick this particular tiny puppy that only wanted me to love it. I'm sorry puppy.

A brief plot run down in case you haven't heard of this series. Cool Air is the story of an awkward writer (I wonder if Lovecraft was the first horror writer to just write about himself over and over again?) coming to a city (probably in New England, that's where horror lives apparently), getting rooms in a run down apartment complex and meeting a mysterious doctor with an even more mysterious condition. The inappropriately long named Dreams of Cthulhu: the Rough Magik Initiative (I see a lot of committee thinking going into this title) is very loosely based on some ideas from the Call of Cthulhu. A shady government official (ala the X-Files) is researching a series of violent crimes caused by supernatural interference. He goes to bother a psychologist who ran across this sort of thing during war-time and forces him to have a series of flash backs.

Let me give my unnecessarily blunted torture implements a rest for a moment and discuss some of the positives. I liked the complete difference in tone and style between the two shorts. Cool Air was a slower-paced, more thoughtful piece and Rough Magik a 'splode-em-up war movie. The casting in Cool Air was a bit clever dick-y, making the main character look like Lovecraft. It was a nice bit of lantern hanging given that the character might as well have been called Howard.

And now, the rusty tools, if you please. Both Cool Air and Dreams suffered from 1990's style TV actors. I know neither script was exactly HBO quality, but a higher calibre of guy saying the cliche war lines ("stay frosties" and "I won't leave you behinds" were thick on the ground in Dreams) or sinister government agent lines (yes there were plenty of "there's more going on here than you could possibly knows" as well) would have made them easier to swallow. Perhaps worst of all was the Italian landlady in Cool Air who might as well have been asking if we wanted some Tootsi-Fruitsi Ice-a Cream. And watching our Lovecraft stand-in faint was easily worse than seeing a 16 year old drama student doing it. Strangely, the weird old men in both shorts were both a cut above the rest of the cast (though I could have done without the doctor's accent in Cool Air).

The fault wasn't entirely in the acting. No, they didn't sell the eye rolling-ly over used lines, but they didn't write them either. Moore, at least, seemed to be trying to keep things Lovecraft-y, but Parsons, ugh, Dreams read like X-Files fan fic (fortunately it wasn't slash). The directing of Cool Air was standard film student fair, not exactly bad, but a bit much at times (our writer character standing in front of a padlocked door, looking down at the lock with despair and holding it in his hands mournfully before moving on, for example). Dreams utterly failed to make me think I was watching something with a bigger budget.

Hopefully, this is enough puppy kicking to keep you guys from wasting your time with the intriguing, but lame H.P. Lovecraft Collection. Overall, I have a lot more forgiveness for Cool Air and than I do for (big breath) Dreams of Cthulhu: the Rough Magik Initiative. Cool Air was kinda boring and the twist was telegraphed, but it felt like a failed experiment rather than more of the same dross. Dreams of Cthulhu: the Rough Magik Initiative (pant) was strictly more of the same old same. Ignoring my own advice I'm probably going to check out a few more of these episodes idly (I dug the glimmers of cool I saw) but I can't recommend anyone else bothering.

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