One generally has to be careful with a low budget movie described as a labor of love. Granted, you can get some really good, fun and truly enjoyable flicks, but more often than not you get something along the lines of the epic failure “The Room”. It’s always a hard lesson to learn that just because you really, really want to do something, that doesn’t mean you’ll be any good at it (best shown in the brilliant series “Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge” by Steve Coogan). I am extremely happy to say that “The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu” is a labor of love that works.
This is not so much a Lovecraft adaptation as it is a love letter to our dear friend Howard. It puts us in a world where, basically, everything H.P. Lovecraft wrote was true, that he learned these truths, wrote about them to keep from going mad and created a secret society to keep the horrors of Cthulhu and his brood from taking over the world by, among other things, keeping well hidden and guarded two halves of an old relic needed to re-animate him. Sadly, the society is getting old and their numbers are dwindling. When one half of said relic is discovered in Egypt, they know they are in trouble and the only one who can help them is the last living descendent of H.P. Lovecraft…Jeff (Kyle Davis). Naturally Jeff knows nothing of his birthright, working at a dead end job with his crass buddy, Charlie (Devin McGinn) and bemoaning his lot in life. Jeff learns of his destiny and is presented with the other half of the relic with the command to keep it safe, takes off with Charlie, enlists the help of former schoolmate and self proclaimed Lovecraft specialist Paul (Barak Hardley) and hijinks ensue.
One of the main things that make this movie work is the actors. As I’m sure we are all aware, low budget horror movies are not where we go to see great thespians. This one is the exception to the rule. From the leads to the supporting characters, they really lucked out with their cast. What is especially impressive is that, with only a couple of exceptions (Richard Riehle, one of the “That Guy” character actors we all recognize but don’t know the name of and Alexi Wasser star of “Cabin Fever 2” but probably best known for the Peppermint Patty candy commercial that causes me to take a cold shower every time I see it), you will most likely not recognize anyone in this, and the two I mention essentially have cameos. I’m not sure if it was in anyway intentional, but Kyle Davis actually looks like he could be related to Lovecraft. Knowing how movies like this are generally cast, I think that can be scratched up to good luck. He nobly played his part, which was essentially the straight man and anchor to all that happens around him. Devin McGinn (who also served as the writer/editor/producer/sell blood to get this thing made guy) played his best bud and, after a shaky start, played the part of the asinine sidekick very well and made a believable and likable character. Both of them worked well together as old chums who, while very different in temperaments and personalities, seemed natural friends and you never doubt the relationship.
Barak Hardley’s Paul is the character that stole the movie for me. I found this guy simply hilarious. Paul was in many ways the most clichéd character present (the tubby nerd with no social skills outside of a computer living with his grandma) but Barak was able to make him not only seem fresh and not tiresome, but damn funny. His line reading regarding some broken arms could not have been more perfect. I also must make mention of Gregg Lawrence who played the crusty, old seaman “Captain Olaf”… a sea captain living in the middle of the desert. Again, he took a part we’ve seen a million times and made it his own and created a real affection for him from the audience.
The toughest act the filmmakers had to realize was making a successful horror/comedy. More often than not these types of movies simply don’t work. This one succeeds. I feel that the smartest thing they did is that they went more for the “Shaun of the Dead” type of flick, where the comedy comes out of having normal, fairly clueless people, involved in a supernatural event totally outside their abilities as slackers, instead of the cheap parody of a “Scary Movie”. This is also the harder way to do it as in the writing you must straddle the worlds of reality and fantasy while making both feel natural and allowing the audience to buy into both. Devin did this and I tip my hat to him. The fact that they then made the movie on a final budget of $170,000 (including advertising and prints) is even more impressive as the lack of budget tended to not rear its head. In fact, the practical makeup, especially when it came to the creatures and mask for the Star Spawn was quite impressive, knowing what they had to work with. They also very cleverly masked the budget by including a few animated sequences, most notably during the rundown of who Cthulhu and the Old Ones were, that they simply could not have accomplished otherwise. These were done in the style of a comic book (along the lines of the Motion Comics that are becoming more and more prevalent) and were note perfect. “The Last Lovecraft” reminded me of the lesson I learned as a life-long fan of “Doctor Who”. If you have next to no budget, as long as you have something that is well written with some good actors, you can still succeed in the worlds of fantasy.
Lest you think I am blinded by the haze of low-budget horror, there were a few issues. The places the lack of budget did become painfully obvious were during a couple of action scenes that just fell a little flat as well as the grand climax. The gore tended to be of the CG variety instead of practical which really showed its limitations when compared to the few practical effects that simply had a sense of realism missing form the CGI blood. Also, some of the story and character transitions felt rushed and left me with a feeling of “Whoa, where’d that come from?” as we quickly went to the next story beat. However these did little to detract from my enjoyment of the movie.
Finally, I must throw out my respect for Devin McGinn. Here is a guy who didn’t just sit around as so many of us do (myself as guilty as anyone), thinking how he could do better than the movies he was seeing, talking a good game for those around him but instead, to paraphrase Lloyd Kaufman, decided to “Make his own damn movie”. And he succeeded and should be proud of what he did. I wholeheartedly recommend this flick, not only for fans of the world of Lovecraft, but for people who actually want to laugh while watching a horror/comedy. This is the kind of movie you bring to a party, one to share and enjoy with your friends. And maybe, just maybe, the kind of movie you remember years from now as the starting point for some great talent, much like many of us cherish our old, battered VHS copies of “Bad Taste” and “The Evil Dead,” somehow knowing then the makers were destined for greatness.
The Last Lovecraft arrives on DVD courtesy of Dark Sky Film, and features a cast commentary, stills gallery, deleted scenes, trailers, and more!