:: Die Farbe (2010)

The Unspeakable Challenge: Day 26, Movie 26


A young man searches for his father, who had been a medic after the Second World War, who has gone missing in Germany. On his arrival, he finds an old man who once knew his father.  Armin Pierske (Michael Kausch) tells him a tale of what happened to the now blasted farmland in the year leading up to the war: a strange meteorite, with stranger properties, fell to earth and blighted the land with a strange malevolence.  Crops grew large, but rotten, and his neighbours, the Garteners became oddly afflicted…


Die Farbe, directed by Huan Vu as an adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out Of Space” is shot in sumptuous black and white, with nods to German Expressionism in several places.  As an adaptation, the shift in local from the States to Germany works very well.  There is something about the German language with really fits the telling of the tale, and more of Lovecraft’s works should be filmed in German.  It’s almost a perfect lyrical match.  The acting is pretty much dead on: Michael Kausch is great as the old Pierske, and they’ve cast his younger self extremely well in Marco Leibnitz.


Together they provide a perfect narrator to the story.  The Gartener family is likewise extremely well cast, from the mother who goes insane (Marah Schneider) to the father, Nahum (Eric Rastetter) trying to keep his family together in the face of a calamity.  These characters really make the story, giving real gravitas to the proceedings.


The special effects are minimal, but when they turn up, they pack a punch: the manifestation of “the colour” is particularly effective, and Vu manages to impart a sense of menace from the moment it arrives. 

:: Wendigo (2001)

The Unspeakable Challenge: day 25, movie 25


New York photographer George (Jake Weber), his lawyer wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson), and their imaginative son Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) travel up-state into the snow-covered woods for a weekend.  However an accidental collision with a stag, and an altercation with a belligerent local named Otis (John Speredakos) leads to Miles becoming fixated on the notion that something troubling and dark is stalking the family.  When he is given a small wooden idol from a Native American representing the hungry, angry spirit known as the Wendigo, his imagination goes into over-drive… or does it?


Wendigo is written, directed and edited by genre genius Larry Fessenden.  I’m a bit of a Fessenden fanboy, so I’m going to try and be impartial.  Wendigo is the first of Fessenden’s wendigo trilogy, which continues in The Last Winter (2006) and an episode of the TV show Fear Itself called “Skin and Bones” starring the incomparable Doug Jones as a man succumbing to the hunger of the wendigo (a role that incidentally freaked out my dad, a former bouncer.) The acting in the film is excellent, with naturalistic performances given by Weber and Clarkson that seem real and convincing.  Speredakos too is great in his role as the troubled Otis.  Most interesting is Erik Per Sullivan as Miles.  A bad child actor can sink a movie.  Erik Per Sullivan does not sink this movie.  His acting is, like the others, naturalistic and believable as the overly imaginative, yet somewhat reserved Miles.  The film uses Miles as the launching point for it’s otherworldly aspects, and Erik Per Sullivan carries this burden very well.


The direction is pretty solid, which some exceptional moments of flair in technique and editing that help the creep-factor rise. 

:: Avengers Age of Ultron Trailer! NOW

Prepare to geek the hell out.

:: In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)

The Unspeakable Challenge: day 24, movie 24


When best-selling horror author Sutter Cane (Jurgen Prochnow) disappears, Insurance Investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is hired by his publisher to track him down.  Trent smells a scam, but plays along.  He is joined by Cane’s editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen), as they try to find the real Hobbs End, a fictional town in Cane’s writing.  As Trent digs deeper, he finds his sanity, and reality itself, unraveling…


In the Mouth of Madness was written by Michael DeLuca and directed by legendary horror maestro John Carpenter.  There are problems with the film from the offset.  It’s deeply tongue in cheek, with script and direction taking nothing very seriously.  For a movie that deals with the end of the world through a descent into madness and mutation, it is nowhere as bleak as it should be.  The main problem is the script… and the plot.  It thinks it’s a lot cleverer than it actually is, which isn’t very.  It relies on some of the worst cliches of horror writing, throwing in a variation of “it was all a dream” trope.  There is the bones of a great existential horror story in here somewhere, but it misses every mark consistently.


The individual elements would all be great, traditional horror tales: the missing horror writer channeling the Old Ones; an ancient evil rising to infect a small town; a crazy mutant monster lady with a “thing” growing in the greenhouse; a book that drives people insane and mutates them.  Each one of these could have made a fine, intimate tale of terror.  As it is, the film is essentially a mess of lost opportunities.  Some of the blame has to be laid at the feet of John Carpenter, who throws in lots of typical jumps and scares, and whose crisp, steadycam work feels totally out of place. 

:: Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)

The Unspeakable Challenge: day 23, movie 23


The only documentary in our line-up, the 1999 film adaptation of Michael Lesy’s 1973 book, isn’t what you would expect to find in a review of Lovecraftian cinema.  However, if you watch the film, you will find yourself drawn down a rabbit hole of madness that the Old Gent himself would have found fascinating.


We have Ian Holm voicing the newspaper editor Frank Cooper, as a displaced Englishman with the beginnings of a Wisconsin accent, as he sets the scene.  In the flesh, Cooper is played by Jeffrey Golden.  Cooper, we are told was the editor of the Black River Falls local newspaper, and he has a optimistic view of his state and county.


This optimism is juxtaposed with the dark tales that will unfold.  Using the photography of Charles Van Schaick and newspaper reports from the 1890s, the director, James Marsh, delivers bleak reconstructions and dramatisations of those tales.  The stories of terrible weather, economic woes, madness, murder and suicide are woven before our eyes in sumptuous black and white, again, juxtaposed with colour footage of the region as it was at the time of filming.


There is something deeply disturbing about the way these little newspaper reports seem divorced from the visceral nature of the reality, a dispassionate madness of it’s own, the calmness of inevitable doom.  Ian Holm’s voice is perfect for this: he reads with inflection, but without emotion.


There is a second narrator, John Schnieder, who delivers non-newspaper reports in a low, soft whisper which is in itself deeply creepy.  There are also vox pop voice-overs and interviews with modern residents of Black River Falls, but even the way these are shot carries dark and terrible undertones. 

:: The Unspeakable Challenge: Blatant Cheating

Well, life got in the way.  When I say life I don’t mean frolicking over green hills surrounded by puppies and balloons.  I, of course, mean the soul wrenching hammering of a capricious universe on the creaking doors of sanity.  So, I fell behind in the Challenge.  Sorry about that.  In order to rectify this, I’m going to have to resort to so blatant cheating and do something I said I wouldn’t: review previously reviewed movies.  But, to save you from the boredom, what I’ll do is just post some links here relating to the relevant days and films, with some additional notes where appropriate.  Again, sorry, but life can be a spanner in the rectum of planning.


Day 14, Movie 14: Mr Jones


While not overt, there is some distinct Yog-Sothery going on here, with a disintegration of time and space as the main leads open a “gate” to the Dreamlands.


Day 15, Movie 15: Banshee Chapter


Some hard HPL references, as the film is essentially a lift from “From Beyond”.


Day 16, Movie 16: The Woods


Some Shub-Niggurath syle action in a witchy-witchy fairy tale.  Very good.


Day 17, Movie 17: Conspiracy


The Lovecraftian element is more of a dark atmosphere here, than in any actual references to alien gods.  But the strange cult feels Lovecraftian, rather than actually being Lovecraftian.  Great film.


Day 18, Movie 18: Beneath


Is it a god?  Is it a monster?  Can it be both?  Myth and reality collide in this giant killer fish tale which reeks of deeper meaning.


Day 19, Movie 19: Re-Animator


An adaptation of a serial that HPL himself despised, but I think is wonderful (because… zombies). 

:: Bleeders [aka Hemoglobin] (1997)

The Unspeakable Challenge: day 13, movie 13.


John Strauss (Roy Dupuis) suffers from a degenerative blood disease of unknown origin.  He and his wife Katharine (Kristen Lehman) track down what may be the hereditary source of the malaise that is killing him.  It seems that he is related to an old Dutch family of smugglers, the Van Dams, who escaped persecution in the Seventeenth Century by traveling to the new world.  Their crimes: sexual perversions and incest.  While John is suffering, his wife and the local alcoholic Dr Marlowe (Rutger Hauer) investigate.  Meanwhile, on the island, coffins are being broken into… from beneath, and it transpires that the Van Dam family may not be extinct after all…


Bleeders was written by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Sushett, and Charles Adair, and is directed by Peter Svartek.  Judging by the reviews, I was expecting an infected armpit of a film.  I was actually surprised when it turned out to be not too bad.  Although it was shot in 1997, it does feel like an 80s made-for-TV movie with added sex and violence.  The script is actually good, and has a lot of similarities to O’Bannon’s other work The Resurrected, although this is in no way a film noir adaptation.  Instead we get an exposition scene setter in the 1600s with the beautiful Eva van Dam (Gillian Ferrabee) being painted by Vermeer (Pascal Gruselle) and shagging her twin brother… also played by Ferrabee.  For these perversions, the Van Dams have to flee, and settle on an Island off Maine, USA.  We then meet John Strauss, who begins the film wearing what can only be described as a “big girl’s blouse”, has a fit (so we know he’s not right), and spends most of the film looking unwell, trying to rape his wife, being more unwell, and then being unwell. 

:: The Thing (1982)

The Unspeakable Challenge: day 12, movie 12


A spacecraft sweeps down towards Earth and disappears.  The words “The Thing” burn across the screen.  A dog is being chased by a gunman in a helicopter across the antarctic wastes.  The dog sees signs of habitation: a US station, crewed by bored scientists, battening down for the coming antarctic winter.  When the gunman opens fire, hitting one of the Americans, he is shot dead by the base commander, and the dog is taken in.  The dog, however is not what it seems, and soon the relationships between the men descend into fear and paranoia, as they begin to question who is human, and who could be… the thing

The Thing 1982 - The Blair Monster 2 de 4

The Thing, written by Bill Lancaster and directed by John Carpenter, is perhaps one of my favourite films of all time.  There was a period when I watched it every Sunday for about a year until my VHS tape crinkled itself into oblivion.  I used to recite it to myself when I was having trouble sleeping, and it ranks high with Jaws (1975), Dawn of The Dead (1979) and Day of the Dead (1985) as one of the films I know extremely well.  The plot is based on a novella called “Who Goes There?” written by Joseph W Campbell, and was loosely adapted as The Thing From Another World (1951).  That it deals with a shapeshifting alien rather than a vampire carrot, John Carpenter’s version takes more from the original.


Bill Lancaster, now sadly dead, put together a really tense thriller upon which the gory garnish is an alien.  The script is beautiful, heavy with people acting in their own worse interests, even when they are trying to work together. 

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