Friday, March 6, 2015

Necronomicon


  If you follow my blog, read my reviews, you'll know I'm a big Lovecraft fan. Being a Lovecraft fan, I've observed that in general, fans of him and his works fall into two categories. Ones who think his stories make great movies, and ones who think his stories would make great movies... provided they ever made them properly. I feel really bad for the fans who fall into the latter category because Necronomicon is really freakin' cool. As was From Beyond, Re-Animator and Dagon. All these movies, including Necronomicon, were made by the same people (more or less). They should release all of them as a set. They work so well together! So let me just start by saying, if you didn't like Re-Animator (and I don't know why you wouldn't) you're not gonna like the rest of these and especially not Necronomicon.

  If you did like Re-Animator, then you're in luck! Necronomicon, despite several shortcomings, is precisely the type of slimy, gore-filled, practical effects extravaganza that you'd want it to be. When it hits it's stride it also manages to serve up good acting, and solid writing. Not to mention some seriously disturbing stories as well. Yes, I said stories, plural. Necronomicon is in fact an anthology movie. It has three different segments, and a wraparound starring Jeffrey Combs as Lovecraft himself. The wraparound is one of my favorite things about this movie because Combs is brilliant as Lovecraft and manages to exude the kind of mysterious charisma he brought to Doctor Mordrid (a low budget riff on the Marvel character, Doctor Strange).

  The first story, "The Drowned", is kind of convoluted, but still good. It stars Bruce Payne (Passenger 57) as a man who inherits an old clifftop mansion by the sea, Apparently somewhere inside lies the secret for him to bring his dead wife back to life. Of course, when has bringing the dead back to life ever been a good idea in movies? Things go horribly awry in a spectacular fashion, exceeding even my own expectations of just how crazy this movie was going to get. I knew by the end of the first segment I already loved the hell out of this movie.  Yet, segment 1 was not without flaws. Like I said... it's pretty convoluted.

  All the segments are excerpts being read from the Necronomicon itself, by Lovecraft in some sort of strange library. Then in segment 1 we have a flashback and then a completely separate flashback, and I almost lost track of what was happening altogether. A flashback in a flashback in basically, yet another flashback. This is like the friggin Inception of flashbacks. If you manage to keep everything straight, the story pays off well more or less. Early on in the opening, Lovecraft explains to us that the fate of all mankind rests in the balance and it's up to him to save it. However, we're never really sure how or why transcribing stories from the Necronomicon is supposed to do that. It's never explained or elaborated on. In fact, if anything, Lovecraft seems to accidentally make things worse. But alas, who knows?

  Anyways, segment 2, "The Cold" stars David Warner as a scientist who's discovered the secret to eternal life. Of course, that kind of crap comes with a price... and a murderous price at that. Segment 2 is also largely told in one big flashback. It works slightly better here, but unfortunately the story itself isn't as interesting and the characters are uniformly annoying. Warner is great, but he's sort of peripheral until towards the end of the story. The rest of the characters chew scenery like they're starving and overact like there's no tomorrow. I enjoyed the concepts and the practical effects, especially the fantastic gore scenes, but overall segment 2 wasn't all that great.

  Of course the movie doesn't let up and moves right along into segment 3. Now, I found it odd that all of these stories seem to be set close to modern day (the 90's), and the wraparound with Lovecraft is set in the 1920's. It's not exactly clear if he's having visions of the future, or if he's reading these stories from the book itself and the book has recorded future events in it... which would be cool, but it's just never explained. I could spin theories all day, but the movie should've explained this better. It just seems like they omitted some dialog or a few scenes that would've clarified it better. Segment 3 however, is honestly the best one.  It's about two cops who end up being led into some creepy tunnels far below the streets of the city... like lambs to the slaughter.

  Segment 3, "Whispers", is the goriest, scariest, most disturbing and unnerving segment out of all of them. It's also probably the most depressing despite having the most likable protagonist. Whispers flies off the rails, turning into one of the hands down craziest things I've ever seen in a horror flick like this. With some of the best gross-out practical gore effects I've seen in a while, Whispers had me squirming in my seat like a little kid. It was great. As was the final part of the wraparound. Jeffrey Combs kicks so much ass as Lovecraft it's ridiculous. He has leading man charisma while also preserving that natural nerdiness he has. The movie wraps up with a bang as Lovecraft apparently averts some sort of mini-Armageddon I guess, it's not too clear.

  But who cares? The movie manages to generate more squirm-worthy visuals than any ten modern mainstream horror movies. It's wall to wall practical effects and has Jeff Combs as Lovecraft himself. It's a far cry from perfect, or even great, but it's so much fun. A damn good time to be had by horror fans everywhere. It's the kind of crazy, over-the-top, diamond in the rough that I think more people should see. It has all the visual insanity of From Beyond, but with the Gothic creepiness of Dagon. It's adventurous at times, and downright mean-spirited at others. But despite everything you can see a lot of effort and care went into making it. I liked it so much I think it's fair to say I loved it even. A must own for my collection and a full recommendation to boot.

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