(the movie) begins in the fall of 1932 with actor Jeffery
Combs as a strangely action-oriented Howard P. Lovecraft,
sporting an equally action-oriented prosthetic chin. He's
on the prowl keeping our streets safe by attempting to steal
the infamous Necronomicon (the book) from the gilded library
of "an order of Omjahdi Monks."
With the help of a stolen key, Indiana Lovecraft
sneaks to the nether regions of the library and finds a wall
safe that suddenly pops open, revealing an electrically charged
and cosmos-cracking copy of the Necronomicon.
As Lovecraft examines the tome, hidden gates inside the
safe reveal an inter-dimensional portal. Oblivious, Howard
pulls out his trusty notepad and starts transcribing The Drowned,
the first of three stories from the accursed book, unwittingly
triggering the summoning of some thing.
The Drowned, directed by Chistophe Gans, is an original story
by Brent Friedman (screenwriter of The Resurrected) who borrows
heavily from the ideas and themes of the Lovecraft Mythos.
It opens as Edward, the "last descendant of the De La Poer
line," (a reference to HPL's "The Rats in the Walls") returns
to New England to claim his family estate, now a rundown manor
perched on a rugged seaside cliff.
After settling in, Edward ponders a letter from his long-dead
Uncle Jethro (played in flashbacks by Richard Lynch). The
letter/flashback recounts how Jethro, the lone survivor of
a deadly shipwreck in the 1890s, denounced God for letting
his family drown and, after spending the night grieving between
the coffined bodies of his wife and son, is visited by a shambling
Deep One. The seaweed-covered creature replaces Jethro's discarded
Bible with the Necronomicon. "In your time of need," it gurgles
like some batrachian grief counselor, "you are not alone."
The opportune book then opens itself to a chapter on resurrecting
the drowned. In a corruption of the Mad Arab's writings, Jethro
That which is not dead can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
In his lair Cthulhu waits dreaming.
Following the eldritch recipe in the book, he then throws
his blood on a giant pentagram sketched across the foyer.
The ancient symbol lights up as his drowned wife and son sit
up, finger puppets controlled by Cthulhu's tentacles. Jethro
can endure no more and, after writing the plot-explaining
letter, jumps from the highest balcony, joining his dead family
down in the depths of the sea.
Back in the present Edward decides to raise his own dead
wifethere was a car wreck, by the wayfrom the
sea and begins a search for the Necronomicon, which he discovers
hidden behind a family portrait. Disregarding Jethro's frightful
letter, he uses the Necronomicon to call up his wife who returns
naked, water-logged, and tired of blowing bubbles.
This facsimile doesn't fool Edward, especially since a nasty-looking
tentacle is still attached to her body, leading all the way
down to the foyer. Apparently, instead of R'lyeh, Cthulhu
waits dreaming in a sea cavern directly beneath the floorboards
of the old house and it appears that Edward's wife is actually
a shape-shifting tentacle of Great Cthulhu.
Wasting no time, Edward severs the tentacle and makes a
run for it, climbing the stairs to the topmost floor of the
hotel just as a cyclopean Cthulhu bursts through the ground
floor. Cthulhu quickly locks its big eye on Edward and sends
its tendrils up after him. Edward jumps upon the conveniently
placed spiked chandelier and sends the pointy object hurling
into Cthulhu's great eye.
Human 1, Great Old One 0.
Back in the vaults, Lovecraft (the action figure) begins
transcribing the second tale, entitled The Cold, still oblivious
to the consequences of his actions.
Directed by Shusuke Kameko, The Cold is a rather interesting
interpretation of "Cool Air." This is not the first time the
story (published in a 1928 edition of Tales of Magic and Mystery)
has been adapted, the most famous being a 1971 Night Gallery
episode discussed later in this book.
The story unfolds around a reporter arriving at an old house
to interview a young woman named Amy Osterman. Amy's home
isn't the best place to conduct an interview; a "rare disease"
compels her to remain indoors where the temperature is kept
at near-freezing. The shivering reporter is there to uncover
the truth about numerous strange murders that have occurred
in the area. To compensate for the cold, Amy gives the reporter
a nice hot cup of drugged tea.
Through some veiled threats, the reporter finally coerces
Amy to tell him the story of her mother, Emily, who had rented
a room in the house some twenty-two years ago, and of the
mysterious tenant on the third floor, a recluse named Doctor
From the first night, Amy recounts, her mother knew there
was something bizarre about the house. She noticed what smelled
like ammonia dripping from her ceiling and heard strange mechanical
noises coming from the room above. In a bizarre "updating"
of Lovecraft's story, she also gets a surprise visit from
her lecherous step-dad (played by Alien Nation's Gary Graham).
Step-dad has unhealthy parental lovin' on his mind and chases
Emily up to the third floor where Dr. Madden, played by David
Warner, stops an impending rape with a surgical scalpel through
step-dad's groping hand. Emily, of course, faints. (In HPL's
original story the narrator is male, and struggles into the
freezing room of Doctor Munoz because of a heart attack.)
With step-dad dispatched, Emily wakes to find herself inside
Madden's winter wonderland. The doctor explains that he needs
the very cool air for "a rare skin condition." In another
departure from Lovecraft's original, Emily not only falls
in love with the cold-blooded doctor but also makes love to
Dr. Madden's copy of the Necronomicon has deviated from
its primary utility as a repository of cosmic horror and becomes
a downright helpful and health-conscious tome on how to preserve
life. There is, of course, a catch: to be able to enjoy life
preservedto be able to feel flesh, smell flowers, and
yes, even to loveyou need to tap large amounts of .
. . spinal fluid.
This gruesome realization makes Emily flee, but she returns
to Madden after discovering that their tryst has left her
pregnant. Lena, the doctor's landlady and lackey, wants to
kill the unfaithful wench (more spinal fluid for everybody,
plus she's apparently jealous of their tryst), but Madden
still loves Emily and, in a passionate rage, knocks over some
chemicals starting a roaring AIP-ish fire, causing the cold-blooded
doctor to melt.
Madden's melting is a bit more graphic than Lovecraft's
description of a "dark, slimy trail . . . from the open bathroom
door to the hall door, and thence to the desk, where a terrible
little pool had accumulated." Instead, we see every gory and
slime-running second of liquefying flesh. Lena, enraged that
her unrequited love for the doctor will always remain thus,
shoots Emily, who, with her dying breath, informs Lena that
she's pregnant with the doctor's baby.
Ending the flashback, Amy concludes her story just as the
drugged reporter is about to learn the hideous and very melodramatic
truth: Amy Osterman is Emily Osterman! Not only that, she
needs the reporter's spinal fluid to be able to feel Madden's
twenty-two year old unborn love-spawn kicking inside her.
And there is always the hope she might give birth somedayisn't
that right, Lena?
Back in the barred Necronomicon reading room, the third
and final story called Whispers reveals itself to our pen-wielding
hero. As he begins the third story, the gateway to some eldritch
evil continues to open.
Whispers is based on "The Whisperer in the Darkness." Written
in the summer of 1928, it belongs to that rare group of tales
Lovecraft actually liked, and was first published in the main
commercial outlet for his works, that legendary magazine of
the bizarre Weird Tales. Unfortunately, Whispers is only loosely
based on HPL's creepy cosmic tale.
Wanting Necronomicon (the movie) to end with a whiz-bang
finale, director Brian Yuzna cuts to a chase through gritty
urban streets as two cops pursue a serial killer called "the
Butcher." During their high-speed pursuit the male and female
police officers engage in pillow talk where we learn that
Sarah, the female officer (nicely played by Signy Coleman),
is pregnant. Paul, her partner and the father-to-be, is so
startled he hardly notices their black & white cruiser flipping
over. In the confusion, a man wearing weird red goulashes
drags a bleeding Paul out through a broken window.
Sarah, dizzy from the crash, follows her partner/lover's
blood trail into a vast and crumbling warehouse. There she
literally bumps into a hilarious Don Calfa as Mr. Benedict,
the so-called owner of the building. Mr. Benedict tells her
that he hasn't seen Paul, but "the Butcher" does stay there
sometimes. He takes her deeper into the building where Benedict's
blind wife smells the baby cooking inside Sarah. Their trailer-trash
love nest comes complete with a copy of the Necronomicon,
and maybe that's where Benedict's wife learned that this "Butcher"
is really an alien that's been here since before the dinosaurs.
But Sarah's main concern is finding Paul, and besidesshe
skipped occult training at the Police Academy.
Benedict leads her deeper into what looks like pre-Columbian
tunnels filled with Lovecraftian bas-reliefs showing terrible
Aztec-like sacrifices, victims butchered to some dark snake
Deeper and deeper they go, when Sarah suddenly notices that
Benedict is putting on red goulashes! Before she can scream
"Outer Ones," she's doused with fire by Mrs. Benedict and
thrown down a steep and slimy tunnel. Tumbling into a putrid
chamber filled with decaying bodies, Sarah discovers firsthand
the subterranean lair of the Mi-Go.
Lovecraft described these space-traveling beings as:
"pinkish things about five feet long; with crustaceous bodies
bearing vast pairs of dorsal fins or membranous wings and
several sets of articulated limbs, and with a sort of convoluted
ellipsoid, covered with multitudes of very short antennae,
where a head would ordinarily be."
Yuzna sticks fairly close to Lovecraft's alien visitors
from Yuggoth, but spins the story into a more visceral and
gory direction when the creatures want more than just Sarah's
mind; they're after her unborn baby and bone marrow as well.
Strapping Sarah to a kind of altar, the aliens cut through
flesh and bone with serrated beaks, leaving her a cackling
quadriplegic mental case in the belly of the beast, feasting
on her succulent marrow. Meanwhile, the truly tragic part
of Whispers occurs when Mr. Benedict apparently loses his
car keys somewhere in the festering soup of human remains.
After transcribing this final story, Lovecraft the action
hero is attacked by a creature through the grate beneath him.
Howard successfully defeats the monster with his trusty sword-cane
(!) but the forbidden browsing has been discovered and he's
forced to rip off the face of an attacking Omjahdi monkpresumably
with the superhuman strength gained from years of writing
lettersrevealing the true alien form beneath. Meanwhile,
the safe that held the Necronomicon releases a thing that
rockets into our dimension. Someone has to be sacrificed,
so Lovecraft selflessly offers up the face-challenged monk.
With his research complete and his library privliges no
doubt revoked for good, Lovecraft escapes with the Necronomicon
(the book), and is whisked away by a cabby (director Brian
Yuzna!), concluding Necronomicon (the movie).
Lovecraft was mainly a writer of short stories, so a problem
arises when a filmmaker decides to adapt, say, "The Colour
out of Space" . . . there's just not a whole lot there for
a 120-minute feature so "filler" is added, usually burying
most of Lovecraft's original.
An anthology film such as Necronomicon would seem to be
made to order for bringing HPL's short and tightly plotted
terrors to the screen. And so it would be, if the filmmakers
actually wanted to adapt what Lovecraft wrote.
Although Necronomicon is a watchableeven an enjoyablefilm,
it suffers from the hipness factor. It wants Lovecraft's name
above the title, but doesn't trust his stories to be cool
enough for horror fans and so becomes a jumble of Lovecraftian
ideas and themes. But hey, it does go well with popcorn and