Bob Brinkman’s 7 of the Best: Lovecraftian Treats You Might Have Missed
Written by Bob Brinkman
S.P.O.N.G.E.: Speaking of the Unspeakable (1998)
This particular piece of Lovecraftian goodness is hard to nail down. Originally shot as a public access series, it was clipped together into a single movie that ran at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival. Gleefully combining horror with absurdist comedy, there are twists turns and Lovecraftian inside jokes throughout. As an additional bonus, those familiar with Renaissance Faires, and the act known as Broon, will easily recognize the comedic escape artist Brian Howard as the lead.
Offbeat and fun, Speaking of the Unspeakable follows the S.P.O.N.G.E team as they seek to prevent inter-dimensional beings from taking over their town. Success is uncertain, casualties a probability, mayhem a surety. The full version of this project had been considered lost for a long time and none of the principles had a copy of it. Fortunately a copy turned up in a private collection; with the blessing of all involved copies were made. Now, the project is available for viewing once again, all hail the power of YouTube!
For me, the whole of the story hangs together so well, odd little moments turning into running gags, and the comedy not interfering with the horror (and vice versa). Discovering that I know the star was just a real bonus for me, and made watching it all the more fun. I only wish that there had been more to this. There were a few audios, but I would’ve loved to have seen more of this offbeat series.
Bambi vs. Cthulhu (2001)
I was just beginning to plunge into Lovecraftian cinema when I stumbled across this little gem. I’d begun writing reviews for Unfilmable and started really digging through the web to see what I could find. Newgrounds was a treasure trove of Lovecraftian weirdness and camp.
Fans of cult short films will certainly be drawn to this Flash animation spoof on Bambi vs. Godzilla. Clocking in just shy of four minutes long, this bit of amateur animation hits the same notes as the classic short from which it draws inspiration. Watching Bambi rise in to the air, swelling with energy, in an attempt to vanquish the mightiest of the Great Old Ones is just a bit of nostalgic fun that shouldn’t be missed.
The short springs from a time when Flash animation was just taking off as an expressive form (and Newgrounds was certainly the heart of the movement). It is dated, the animation a bit stilted, the graphics certainly not the smoothest, but this little film has heart.
Ask Lovecraft: Jack Chick (2016)
Growing up, Chick Tracts such as Trick-or-Treat and Dark Dungeons were things I often found in bookstores near the D&D shelf and I must admit I was a huge fan of them. Not because I believed in their message but because they were just so…funny if you didn’t take them seriously. Of course, when Jack Chick died, people flooded out of the woodwork to vilify and denounce him, and I cannot say that I even disagree with some of the reasoning for such statements. It is just that, for me, Chick’s work was so unintentionally funny, so unrealistically over the top that anyone on the inside could plainly see that. Plus, they were free.
I still hold out hope that, with the success of the Dark Dungeons film, we may see other ironic adaptations of his work so that we can enjoy his work and recognize that, despite his best efforts, we still play D&D – and count people from all walks of life (including Derek White, the Geek Preacher) among our number. We aren’t the crazed Satanists he accused us of being – and his stuff is just funny.
Many folks, including Jeffrey Combs, have played Lovecraft. Some are more successful than others, but my absolute favorite is Leeman Kessler. Kessler’s performance as Lovecraft is sublimely dry and his series Ask Lovecraft, brings H. P. Lovecraft into the modern day, answering viewer’s questions – often in a very exasperated tone. Kessler’s Lovecraft has appeared as a guest interviewer at the H. P. Lovecarft Film Festival: San Jose, and is well known among many circles of Lovecraftian fandom. For over five years this series of Youtube shorts have twisted questions in strange and delightful ways, all while being played in perfect deadpan.
This particular episode, where Lovecraft pays homage to the (then) recently deceased Jack Chick and the overwhelming Christian nihilism put forward in his “Chick Tracts” is a fitting epitaph for Chick, and in its own way lampoons the very darkness of Lovecraft by bringing some perspective. Any of the series’ eight hundred and twenty episodes (to date) is worth watching, but this certainly is one of my favorites.
Darkest of the Hillside Thickets: Worship Me Like a God (1995)
Darkest of the Hillside Thickets has released album after album of amazing Lovecraft-themed music (the latest being The Dukes of Al-Hazred). They have played Lovecraft conventions, film festivals, and most likely a few dark sacrifices. This video, their first, was banned from Canadian television (most likely for the brief bit of male frontal nudity about two minutes in), but it lives on thanks to the internet.
Solid musicianship from Canada doesn’t surprise most folks – there is a tradition of great music coming from the Great White Wastes – but it is criminal how many fans of Lovecraft are still unfamiliar with the work of this dark musical cult.
The Investigators: The Curse of Sobek (2002)
Originally the Investigators was created as a pitch for a featured, and ongoing web series for Atom Films. The four episodes available are all that was ever released. So, viewers need to go into this series knowing that it never resolves; each episode ends with a cliffhanger and episode four is (sadly) no exception. Still, the first two episodes, form a complete (if short) story arc and they are the epitome of web animation of the period, short, concise, and loaded with eeriness that stays with the viewer.
Following the work of a trio of investigators, the Curse of Sobek begins with a death in a haunted house and quickly ramps up into a race against time as the stars are right and a cult seeks to bring about the end of the world. Seriously, how could I not like it?
Created by Chris Lackey (an associate producer for both of the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s recent films) and starring Andrew Leman (the Director of both the HPLHS’s 2005 Call of Cthulhu and 1987 The Testimony of Randolph Carter) there is so much talent crammed into these tiny episodes that it is a crime not to have seen them. Indeed, as the introduction to the Investigators says…
“To be ignorant is to be left in the light.”
Casting Call of Cthulhu (2008)
What would a casting call for a Lovecraftian film look like in a world populated by elder things as well as mankind? Joseph Nanni, director of Elder Sign and Necronomicon answers that question. While I’m a fan of the brooding darkness found within the mythos, sometimes tongue in cheek comedy like this serves as a real break from the gloom and doom. A bit of off-kilter humor can really serve as a pallet cleanser during a Halloween marathon and this quick short certainly fits the bill.
A Shoggoth on the Roof: The Documentary (2000)
I’m a music lover, and I have a soft spot for parody and filk (I was once the filk editor for Shoggoth.net and once received an email from a filk festival advertising that people would be performing some of my tunes – surreal). When I stumbled across this little gem, I was totally enthralled.
Shot in a documentary format, this traces the ill-fated production of the mysterious show, The Shoggoth on the Roof and, unlike most internet films of this nature, actually has some star power in the forms of Stuart Gordon and Chris Sarandon. Online, the documentary’s presence is pretty poor, but it is available to purchase online (along with the cast CD and the libretto) and it is totally worth it.
Watching the cast attempt to mount this cursed production (which has actually been staged since) with mysterious figures in the background and unexplained goings on, it rather reminds me of the theatrical superstition against saying “MacBeth” in a theater, but taken to the Nth degree. This short film is clever, thought provoking, and has delightful music woven throughout. Needless to say, the creators of Fiddler on the Roof are not fans, and have stopped a few attempts to stage the show in the US – but should you get a chance, I highly recommend seeing both the documentary, and any subsequent production you may come across.