Thursday, June 16, 2011

In Search of Lovecraft (2008)

Spoilers appear below. If it's possible to spoil a movie like this.

So I watched this movie today. Apparently, at first, they intended it to be in that style where they're filming a documentary, a lot like REC/Quarantine or The Blair Witch Project. It's the story of a rookie reporter named Rebecca Marsh (Marsh, that is), her camera man Mike, and their intern, a high school girl named Amber. Rebecca fills the role as the driven, career-obsessed reporter. Mike is a camera man who compulsively films everything--everything, including Rebecca waking up in her apartment--I mean, seriously, after 30 minutes I would not have been surprised if he had walked in on her while she was sitting on the toilet. Also Mike served in combat in Iraq and is apparently suffering from PTSD or something. Anyway, he's haunted. Not to belittle anyone who actually has PTSD--not in any way. It's just that our "Mike" was such a terrible actor that I just couldn't believe him. He looked more like some kind of poseur who only acted (cough) "haunted" to pick up chicks.

Amber was the comic relief, the young girl who only wanted to have fun and had a sweet, bubbly personality. This was so you would feel real bad when she was the first one to be carried away to her screaming doom.

So Rebecca is assigned what she considers a fluff piece for Halloween, and she goes to this big Halloween thing--I don't know, it was outside and she remarked to her editor-in-chief that about 300,000 people were there. Anyway it was this big Halloween thing and she was asking the people questions about their costumes, what they liked about the season and so forth, and someone mentioned H.P. Lovecraft. So she asked some other people there about Lovecraft and got a variety of answers, only a few of which included actual usable information.

She complains to her boss that she should be doing something more valid, but he tells her that before she can do that, she has to be able to make a minor story such as this "great." So she starts doing further investigation on Lovecraft and runs into a professor who tells her that there are some people who think it's all real. He points her to an "expert on the occult" named Dr. D'Souza who clues her into activity that points to an actual existence of an actual cult.

Somewhere along in here Rebecca and Mike discover the records of a pair of anthropologists (a man and a woman) from the 1930s who claimed to have uncovered cult activity, and they somehow manage to find some old film footage that these two shot during their investigations. The film footage of course shows that it's all real. Later on some of this footage somehow shows the woman anthropologist has become a devotee of Nyarlathotep and she kills her partner.

After about 45 minutes they abandoned their documentary style, apparently having run out of excuses for Mike to constantly keep his camera rolling, and it became a normal movie. Well, not's still pretty stupid but I mean normal movie style.

Dr. D'Souza warns them that their lives are in danger if they keep investigating, but Rebecca is so obsessed with her big story and inspired by the old film footage she found that she ignores him. So she, Mike and Amber go out to meet Dr. D'Souza at some old house that he has set aside for fighting unspeakable horrors from beyond mortal ken, but they get lost. While they're sitting in their car checking a map, they're attacked by something with big wings that makes a big wing flapping sound.

At this point there is what I consider the funniest part of the movie. The thing with big wings is shaking their car around, but their effects for it are transparently lame. They are obviously just wobbling themselves back and forth to attempt to create the illusion of their car rocking. It becomes even more obvious when the camera switches angles to show Mike and Amber sitting perfectly still but Rebecca continuing to rock back and forth like mad.

So the thing with big wings smashed through the back windshield and seizes Amber. She disappears into the sky and that's the end of her.

Later Mike and Rebecca are talking to Dr. D'Souza in a public place during daylight (the only way they can be safe, for now) and some spastic weirdo homeless guy comes up and shoves a bloody package into Rebecca's hand. It turns out that it's Amber's ear. They know it's hers because her ear ring is still attached to it. I screamed right out loud. Really, I did.

Mike and Rebecca do eventually find the house where Dr. D'Souza is. It had previously belonged to some cult members and they had allegedly done some vile, unspeakable things there. Also, Dr. D'Souza had enlisted the aid of a witch (good, apparently) named Keja to help them fight the cultists and their monsters or whatever.

By the way, the woman who played Keja is named Rachael Robbins and I thought she was unusually good-looking for a movie of this caliber. Rebecca (Renee Sweet) is also attractive, but in a more normal girl-in-the-next-cubicle kind of way. Turns out Robbins has appeared in Playboy.

Well, Keja tries to do a Tarot card reading of Rebecca to determine her past lives, but all the cards suddenly start turning black as she flips them over, which was one of the things I thought was actually kind of cool about this movie. But then she was using a Rider-Waite deck, which is so passé.

Somewhere around in here we learn that Mike is carrying a gun--a semi-auto pistol of some sort, which he plans on using to "banish the evil." D'Souza tells him it won't do him any good, but he won't listen. Apparently all one has to do to banish the demons or whatever is to trace a pentagram (Elder Sign) in the air with one's finger.

Also they're looking for a rock of some sort, which is supposed to be key in summoning Nyarlathotep's avatar The Haunter of the Dark, so I guess they're talking about the shining trapezohedron. If they can get the rock, they can stop Nyarlathotep's coming, I think.

Another thing that would have made me say "you can't do that" if anyone else had been around to hear me, was that the old house they were in didn't have any electricity, but they still managed to watch more of the old film footage because Mike was somehow able to run a 110-volt AC projector from his 12-volt DC car battery. Yes, I know it's possible if you have a transverter, but there was no indication of that. Mike just said, "I was able to wire it up to the car battery." But I guess in a world where Nyarlathotep is actually real, you can run projectors from car batteries.

Then suddenly Keja, or what appears to be Keja, comes to D'Souza dressed only in her bra and panties (the high point of the movie) and seems to attempt a seduction. He realizes something isn't right, traces a star in the air with his finger, and she (or it) vanishes.

They go to sleep and there's this acid-trip montage. When they wake up, D'Souza is sitting dead in his easy chair for some reason. Then a "dimensional hound" comes out of the door (not through the door, but out of the actual door itself) and tries to eat them, but Keja traces a pentagram in the air with her finger and says something, I think it must have been ancient Sumerian for "bad dog!" and it disappears. Keja tells them that dimensional hounds exist in another plane of existence (or something like that) and can enter our dimension only through spaces that are not curved (i.e., flat). This completely ruined the movie for me. Everyone knows that a Hound of Tindalos can enter our dimension only through corners, not flat walls or doors. However, this bit of special effects was really cool in my opinion and probably constituted 80% of their budget all on its own.

Then a zombie D'Souza appears and Mike puts him down with a double-tap. Then Mike goes away to sulk, leaving Rebecca and Keja alone for some l*sb**n witch sex.

Just kidding. That didn't happen, although I would not have been particularly surprised if it had. Rebecca and Keja talk about Lovecraft mythos stuff for a while, while Mike goes into another room to sulk and brood. Rebecca eventually goes after him only to see him kill himself with a shot to the head.

So some indeterminate time passes and Keja starts making a magic circle to protect her and Rebecca from the monsters. She does some kind of occult tai-chi or possibly some kind of interpretive dance and the circle is complete. Then zombie D'Souza (who apparently only went to sleep for a few hours when he got shot before) and zombie Amber come for them, but Keja makes a star in the air with her finger and they disappear. Then some old boyfriend or something of Rebecca's appears and tries to talk her out of the circle. I'm not sure, but I think this was actually supposed to be Nyarlathotep himself. Keja makes him go away by drawing a star in the air with her finger.

Let's see...I think I'm getting out of sequence here but it doesn't really matter. In fact, I think that may give you a better feel for what it was like to actually watch the movie. Zombie Mike also comes for them while they're in their circle, so Keja tells Rebecca to "take this sword..." Wait. Where did a sword come from? I can only assume Keja had it concealed in her cleavage, but that's only a guess. She tells Rebecca to use it to banish the monsters by--in case you haven't figured it out already--tracing a pentagram in the air with it and saying some secret word which she only whispers in Rebecca's ear so we can't hear it. We never hear it. Rebecca never uses it. She cuts off zombie Mike's forearm with the sword, he collapses just outside the circle, and she realizes some blueprints are still in his back pocket. Rebecca retrieves the blueprints but unfortunately breaks the circle in doing so. A tentacle comes out of the darkness and grabs Keja, dragging her screaming away to her doom. The tentacle was another bit of special effects that probably took up the other 20% of their budget.

Rebecca looks at the blueprints and suddenly somehow realizes where the rock is. Remember the rock? So she runs away to get it. She finds it quite quickly, even though she had to travel all the way back to the city and stuff. This really bright light shines in her face and the scene ends.

Rebecca wakes up in an asylum, wearing a straitjacket with one eye bandaged. Two orderlies are standing over her talking about what a shame it is for such a good-looking young woman to have gone totally nuts like this, and that she had tried to claw her own eyes out. Then one mentions that she is also pregnant. Rebecca, although gagged, attempts to scream, and that's the end.

I probably missed some details, but I think that pretty much covers it. Terrible movie. Not really bad enough to be good except in certain parts. Horrible acting, jarring discontinuities, and occasional rote regurgitation of random Lovecraftian phrases.

You can stream this movie from Netflix or get it from Amazon, although I don't know why you'd want to. It took me two days to watch the whole thing, and after 30 minutes I kept checking to see how much time was left before I would find the sweet peace of oblivion. If you watch it, roll percentile dice against INTx5 and permanently lose 1d4 INT if you fail. Fortunately, I succeeded. I think.

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