Year 1993
Studio August Entertainment
Producer

Brian Yuzna

Samuel Hadida

Director

Brian Yuzna

Christopher Gans

Shusuki Kaneko

Writer

Brent V. Friedman

Christophe Gans

Brian Yuzna

Music music
Cast

Jeffrey Combs

Tony Anzito

Juan Fernandez

Bruce Payne

Belinda Bauer

Maria Ford

Richard Lynch

David Warner

Bess Meyer

Millie Perkins

Dennis Christopher

Gary Graham

Curt Lowens

Signey Coleman

Don Calfa

Judith Drake

Obba Babatunde

Length 96 mins

 
Necronomicon

‘‘ You might say that IT found me. ’’

Necronomicon (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

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 solemnly reads:

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 wife—there was a car wreck, by the way—from 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.


The Cold

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 Madden.

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 him.

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 preserved—to be able to feel flesh, smell flowers, and yes, even to love—you 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 someday—isn'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

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 besides—she 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 god.

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 monk—presumably with the superhuman strength gained from years of writing letters—revealing 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 watchable—even an enjoyable—film, 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 a six-pack.