Call Girl of Cthulu (2014)

Rating:

USA. 2014.

Crew

Director – Chris LaMartina, Screenplay/Producers – Jimmy George & Chris LaMartina, Photography – Nick Baldwin, Music – Chris LaMartina, Visual Effects – Michael Cheeyou, Lawrence Penn & Michael Petrick, Special Effects Supervisors – Kaleigh Bron & Jason Koch, Special Effects – Aftermath FX Studio, Production Design – Nolen Strals. Production Company – Midnight Crew Studios

Cast

David Phillip Carollo (Carter Wilcox), Melissa O’Brien (Riley Whately), Nicolette La Faye (Erica Zann), Dave Gamble (Sebastian Suydum), Helenmary Ball (Professor Edna Curwen), Sabrina Taylor-Smith (Squid), Alex Mendez (Rick “The Dick” Pickman), George Stover (Walter Delapore), Leanna Chamish (Detective Rita Lagrassi), Troy Jennings (Ashton Eibon), Stephanie Anders (Missy Katonixx), Elena Rose (Whitney), Ruby Larocca (Billie), Scarlett Storm (Georgia)


Plot

While being held under arrest, Carter Wilcox is interviewed by a police detective and asked to account for 43 dead bodies found in a church. He tells his story. He was an artist and a frustrated virgin. Picking up the card of call girl Riley Whately, who was a client of one of his neighbours, he hired her to pose for a painting. Afterwards, he asked her out to dinner where the two discovered a mutual attraction. Meanwhile, the members of the Church of Starry Wisdom led by Sebastian Suydum were searching for a call girl with a Cthulu-shaped birthmark on her ass. Determined to stop them was Professor Edna Curwen and her associates who stole the copy of the church’s Necronomicon and brought it to Carter, asking him to make a copy. When Riley, who had the birthmark, was abducted by the church to be the chosen bride of Cthulu and open the portal to another dimension so that Cthulu could be freed, Carter realised that he must go into action to save her.


H.P. (or Howard Phillips) Lovecraft only had a brief writing career (from 1916 until his death in 1937 at the young age of 46). In that time however, he managed to create a body of work that has inspired a cult following. Lovecraft’s prose brims with a unique sense of cosmic horror – of Earth existing as a tiny island surrounded by unbelievably powerful ancient gods waiting to return to this dimension, lost cities, arcane tomes and rites, scientists whose quest for forbidden knowledge has taken them too far and individuals driven insane by sights and horrors so unimaginable they can only be expressed as ‘indescribable’. It has inspired a considerable body of film work (see bottom of the page), even if most of it is a far cry away from Lovecraft’s mood of unspeakable dread.

Call Girl of Cthulu is clearly intended as a fan homage to H.P. Lovecraft. This is a surprisingly prolific field, there having previously been another feature-length parody film with The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu (2009), while Lovecraft homage short films are so legion that they have festivals of them – see The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival – North (1999) for one such. The title is a parody of one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories The Call of Cthulu (1928), which was also used as the name of a Lovecraft-based role-playing game first published by Chaosium in 1981. Beyond that, the film overspills out of every conceivable corner with some kind of Lovecraftian reference – all the characters are named after ones from Lovecraft’s stories, sometimes with amusing effect like the stripper on a porn webcam site named Missy Katonixx (after the Miskatonic University, one of the key locales that recurs throughout Lovecraft’s works).

The main problem with Call Girl of Cthulu is that it is an enthusiastic production made by fans (for which read amateurs). Certainly, director Chris LaMartina has made several other films, nevertheless the lack of professional production expertise does show through in a number of key areas. The performances are frequently ones by non-professionals, although for the most part the actors in the key roles hold up well, especially once the film contrives to get its two leads together.

This non-professionalism shows particularly when it comes to the numerous makeup effects, which are liberal with slime and gore but ultimately cheap. Sometimes painfully so – the facial appliances for the various squid people cultists merely consists of extras in hoods with strips of cloth dangling over their faces, while the opening of the doorway to the other dimension to unleash Cthulu is represented by what looks like two pieces of wobbly cardboard wall being moved apart. Ultimately though, Call Girl of Cthulu is less a homage to H.P. Lovecraft than it is to the cinematic Lovecraft that began with Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986), which took the stories away from psychological suggestion and dread and into the arena of campy 1980s creature effects driven horror. Chris LaMartina clearly aims to make a film in the vein of Re-Animator or other tongue-in-cheek splatter classics of the era such as The Evil Dead (1981) and Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste (1988) but the effects are too cheap and the film delivers the balance of comedy in far too broad strokes. All we get ultimately is C-budget wannabe Stuart Gordon, although the film does at least rise to an entertainingly preposterous climactic bloodbath.

The plot connecting everything together is fairly slim – and oddly enough, very similar to the one that appeared in Rob Zombie’s animated The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009). What does come through, despite quite a few rough areas, is that the filmmakers are really into making the film. It is their enthusiasm for their subject and what they are trying to make that carries the exercise over many of its rough spots.

Call Girl of Cthulu was the sixth film for director Chris LaMartina. He had previously made a number of other horror films with Book of Lore (2007), Dead Teenagers (2007), the anthology Grave Mistakes (2008), President’s Day (2010) and Witch’s Brew (2013), as well as one of the segments of WNUF Halloween Special (2013).

Other films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft include:- The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die/Monster of Terror (1965), The Shuttered Room (1966) and The Dunwich Horror (1969). The big success in the modern era was Stuart Gordon’s splattery black comedy version of Re-Animator (1985), which popularised Lovecraft on film. This led to a host of B-budget Lovecraft adaptations, including Stuart Gordon’s subsequent From Beyond (1986), The Curse (1987), The Unnameable (1988), The Resurrected (1992), Necronomicon (1993), The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993), Lurking Fear (1994), Gordon’s Dagon (2001), and other works such as The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2003), Beyond the Wall of Sleep (2006), Cool Air (2006), Chill (2007), Cthulu (2007), The Tomb (2007), Colour from the Dark (2008), The Dunwich Horror (2009), Pickman’s Muse (2010), The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) and The Haunter of the Dark (2015). Also of interest is The Manitou (1978), which features an appearance of the Great Old One; Cast a Deadly Spell (1991) and its sequel Witch Hunt (1994), a tv movie set in an alternate world where magic works and where the central character is a detective named H.P. Lovecraft; Juan Piquer Simon’s cheap and loosely inspired Cthulu Mansion (1992); John Carpenter’s Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the fan parody The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulu (2009); even an animated children’s film Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) in which a young Lovecraft encounters his own creations; while the Elder Gods turn up at the end of The Cabin in the Woods (2012) and Lovecraft (Paul Titley) appears as an imaginary companion in Ghostland (2018). Lovecraft’s key work of demonic lore The Necronomicon also makes appearances in films such as Equinox (1970), The Evil Dead II (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992), and was also borrowed as an alternate retitling for Jesus Franco’s surreal and otherwise unrelated Succubus/Necronomicon (1969) about a BDSM dancer.



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