Cthulhu (2007): A Subversive Twist on Lovecraft

From the title of the film we know this is going to be a Lovecraft inspired horror film, but they make clear from the start this is not just another hack B-movie. It opens with clever exposition, voice over of a news cast establishes a dystopian near-future defined by a global refugee crisis and rising sea levels, references to the death of the last wild polar bear and the need to secure arctic ports against “Eskimo terrorists” tell us everything we need to know about the setting. In the first ten minutes we know our protagonist is a lonely Gay college professor returning to his small hometown for his mother’s funeral. Lovecraft fans will appreciate how the director weaves the allusions into the narrative. We see the sign outside the church reading “Esoteric Order of the Dagon / The End Is Near” and learn the name of our protagonist is Russell Marsh. These Easter eggs are planted with a subtlety that assures the viewer that this film respects the source material.

However, because the first thing we learn about Russell is that he is Gay we also know this is not a film constrained by the Victorian conventions that burden Lovecraft’s original works. Further, his homosexuality quickly becomes a defining plot point. We can quickly infer it is why Russell is estranged from his family, as well as his unrequited love for his best friend from high school. Russell’s sexuality remains a source of dramatic tension as it is revealed he is the last of the Marsh bloodline. The story follows Russell as he slowly discovers the truth about his family, and confronts the legacy which he is expected to inherit as Cthulhu’s apocalyptic return unfolds around him.

This is a small budget film (IMDB est. $750k) but the quality of the production is not compromised on any level. The acting is natural and consistent, the cinematography, direction, and special effects are competent and professional. The story’s reliance on dramatic irony does not hinder the development compelling sense of horror. This is not an adaptation of any one Lovecraft story nor is it Lovecraftian pastiche, but, an original artfully crafted tribute to the unique genre of horror fiction created by HP Lovecraft, cleverly updated to appeal to the sensibilities of a 21st Century audience.

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