The history of film adaptations of the works of H.P. Lovecraft is almost universally atrocious, so understand that saying Cthulhu is among the best movies based on his work is damnation by faint praise — like saying someone is the kindest of serial killers. Set in the very near future, the movie tells the story of a prodigal son returning home at his mother's death, only to be drawn inexorably into a web of ancient evil and unspeakable horror. It manages to get a lot of things right — the setting of a seaside town with a dark secret; the dreamlike atmosphere; the sense of claustrophobic, inescapable horror — and hints of mind-flaying insanity around every corner are all true to the source material. Unfortunately, those elements are weighed down by the same problems that plague most low-budget horror movies. The acting is stiff and awkward. The direction and editing meander, and the pacing is uneven. And although the underlying story seems solid, the script could have used a comprehensive rewrite to streamline and clarify things. Yet despite its problems, Cthulhu is an interesting and worthwhile movie for Lovecraft fans or horror fans who are tired of the torture-porn slasher flicks currently in vogue.
Cthulhu opens Friday, September 26, at Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli. Visit www.denverfilm.org or call 303-595-3456 for tickets and showtimes.