Cthulu (2000)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Damian Heffernan Reviewer :
Writers Damian Heffernan
Starring Paul Douglas, Melissa Georgiou, Malcolm Miller, James Payne, Adam Somes
Genre Cthulu Mythos
Tagline None Listed
15 second cap Students delve into dark arts, become involved in cultist activities, and met the shoggoth in the ACT hinterland


"No thanks, I may be researching it but it doesn't mean I have to like it" - Dan Upton

Dan Upton and Edward Derby are students at Miskatonic University studying strange religions and cults. They spend their time hitting class and hunting out hard to find texts to get a step up on their fellow students. When Edward hooks up with Asenath Waite, whose father Ephraim is a notorious practitioner of the dark arts, things head into strange territory. Asenath returns home to Innsmouth to be with her dying father, but when she returns she seems totally different and has a far greater influence on Edward.

Meanwhile Inspector LeGrasse is investigating a string of strange murders, where dismembered bodies have been found drained of blood. Everything points to cult activity and the Police aren't backward in going Victorian Armed Offender squad on Cultist arses, read multiple fatalities resulting. When the Police pick up Edward, wandering the streets of Dunwich naked, the topic of shoggoths and other dimensions enters the picture. I was going to mention Roos bounding around in the top paddock but it looks like a shoggoth has eaten them all. With the help of esoteric arts expert Professor Armitage, Dan Upton and LeGrasse need to fight off an incursion of the old gods, can they save us all?

So anyone who has hung in the dark genre for more than 15 minutes, and who is serious about things, has probably run across the name of writer H.P. Lovecraft. The baroque Prince of darkness is chiefly responsible for the Cthulu Mythos, a series of novels and stories about the elder gods who want nothing more than to awake from their slumbers and enter our reality. Naturally Cultists, various lunatics, and the Young Liberals have tried to help out, as ultimate eee-vil preys on the minds of the weak or something. Anyways numerous adaptations have been made of Lovecraft's body of work to varying degrees of success. Australian effort Cthulu, which seems to be a weird amalgamation of the Lovecraftian yarns The Thing on the Doorstep and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, is perhaps one of the lesser attempts at interpretation that largely fails due to trying to shoehorn too many ideas into it's running time.

Cthulu was shoot in Canberra, Australia's capital, during the winter of 1996, had additional scenes inserted in 1997, before finally being completed in 1998. Failing to gain anything like a cinema release, the movie finally found it's way to DVD in 2000. Naturally it remains unavailable in its home Country, sucks to be us, but can be imported via sites such as amazon.com. Foreign readers might find the Canberra settings and Aussie accents strange, but the budget was used up in blowing up a car, so actually hitting the mooted locations of Innsmouth, Dunwich, and Miskatonic University was off the agenda. Just view it as an exotic excursion, which is the first time that "Canberra" and "exotic" have ever been used in the same paragraph folks, another win for ScaryMInds or at least a warped perception of reality.

Paging Mr Gordon, do we have a Mr Stuart Gordon in the lobby?
Clearly Cthulu was shot on a low budget and unfortunately Director Damian Heffernan doesn't make that work, he's trying to shot the sort of epic that demands a lot of cash in post-production or at least the requirement of multiple cameras and the sort of kit Kiwi Directors seem capable of knocking up in their back sheds. Shot entirely in grainy 16mm, and it would appear from a single camera, the movie was later transferred to digital betacam for the final touches. This simply gives things a washout over exposed look that once again might have worked for the right Director, but Heffernan singularly fails to build any atmosphere. Maybe some dry ice and more claustrophobic exterior settings might have helped? The special effects reach the dizzying heights of what one could be expected to achieve if that aspect of the movie was thrown over to a particular un-savvy computer user labouring away in a basement on a bargain netbook. We get this sort of 1980s Euro-Pop thing going down that at least had me rushing to youtube.com to check if they didn't have some new wave clips available. I was actually quite impressed with the unveiling of the shoggoth late in the movie, I haven't seen that sort of effect since Forbidden Planet introduced us to Robbie the Robot! Atrocious film making comes to mind, let's not beat a slumbering dreamer to death here.

I'm not even going to labour the various problems with the script, Damian Heffernan really should have got someone to check what he had come up with, it would have avoided tears at least. Things are confused, convoluted, and way too many ideas are mixed in for the movie's own good. Maybe Heffernan should have stuck with one of his two main story arcs? About the only half decent idea that had me nodding my head in approval was Edward Derby showing a sudden ability to drive a car. Nice plot point without being belaboured like some left field lunacy from a Rob Zombie shambles. The movie is bookended with a Dan Upton suicide note, opps thin spoilers, this might have worked if you actually cared what went down beyond the first couple of scenes, unfortunately no one does, so it falls flat somehow as an unforgiving audience turn their lonely heads to ... sorry slipped into folk music mode there.

Acting ranges from the phone it in from the dark side of the moon during the day to simply wooden, you could have solved any erosion problems the ACT is suffering from with the amount of stoic do nothing method going in here. Either we had a bunch of people who leapt at the idea of being in a feature film or the next generation of Australian actors is going to be without talent. The leads were more irritating than sympathetic, and did someone tell the extras they were playing zombies rather than Cultists? I get what Heffernan was going for here, but dear god in heaven it was heavy handed!

Having said all the above, and I believe we have a requirement to be brutally honest here, I still managed to jive on through to the end credits, albeit while doing a couple of household chores during the lagging bits of the movie. I probably didn't mention the pace in this movie is almost as bad as the attempts at humour. Heffernan clearly loves his source material but simply doesn't have the budget the pull the movie off. But you can't blame the bloke for giving it a go, how many of us can claim the same? As a movie experience I'm not about to recommended Cthulu to anyone, but I sort of ended up being entertained, don't know how, but hey horses for courses. Guess if you are a Lovecraft nut or simply dig bad movies then this one might work on some level for you, I got through the film without undue trauma, so no foul being called.

For those who might strangely want to catch a screening you are going to have to import from amazon.com, though I guess if residing in North America then not so much the import, you get what I mean stop bloody interrupting. The flick is going to set you back $18 USD which works out to about $1.50 Australian or something, maths not our strong suite in the ScaryMinds bunker. Sorry Mr Norman, but yes we are for once promoting the import path, maybe if you stocked something we might actually want to purchase rather than cheap imports, hang about frack you Harvey Norman retailers! Sorry, local Retailers demanding Aussie consumers purchase imported stuff through their stores rather than importing direct going down, comment made, note no one is pushing the "buy Australian made" line.

[Editor's Note: Translation, no local purchase options, amazon.com is your best bet for a copy of the DVD. ]

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Lovecraft deserves a better interpretation than this movie offers.