It seems there are only two ways to approach a Lovecraft adaptation. One, you shoot for the over the top insanity and horror, such as Stuart Gordon’s classic, Re-Animator. Or, you attempt a decidedly more cerebral and emotional approach, as is the case in Dan Gildark’s film, Cthulhu. Taking inspiration from the Lovecraft novella The Call of the Cthulhu and the short story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Cthulhu is so much more than a tale about religious cults in a small coastal town. Cthulhu delves into the very real and painful relationships between father and son. Between living your present while facing your future.
Don’t worry; this is still a film deeply rooted in Lovecraft’s nihilistic world. Darkness is afoot…
Russ, played with quite resolve by Jason Cottle, is the newest Director of the History Department at a Seattle University. He wakes one morning to learn his mother has passed away. Knowing a return trip home would only open up old wounds and memories, he still makes the choice to do his duty as a loving son. With a twinge of guilt, he returns to his small coastal hometown to fulfill his mother’s wishes. As a confident and comfortable gay man, Russ must once again face the prejudice he left all those years before. Even more difficult, he must come to terms with the man he loved in the past, but whom wasn’t ready to face his own feelings. Soon, Russ learns all is not well in the town that helped shape him into the man he is today.
Director Dan Gildark effectively weaves real emotions with a town hiding a hideous secret.
Like so many Lovecraft-based films that take the psychological approach, Cthulhu is a difficult film to review while trying to avoid plot spoilers. Gildark paints a brooding image of a town with deep secrets, secrets it slowly reveals to the lead character only when it is too late for him to run. Russ and his childhood town are inexplicably bound together and neither can survive without the other. Writer Grant Cogswell (with dialogue help from lead actor, Jason Cottle) weave a good thriller that does have you wondering what choices Russ will make and how it will effect those he loves; and those he hates. Even up to the final frame, you will wonder what choices Russ will make. Cthulhu might leave some scratching their head, and that is fine. This is the nature of Lovecraft-themed films. Dan Gildark, like his inspiration, merely presents the world as it is; it is up to the viewer to decide the reality.