I love Lovecraft. His prose, concepts, plots and horror creep me out more than any other writer’s. ‘The Whisperer in the Dark,’ ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ ‘The Festival’ and ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ are all among my favourite short stories. Lovecraft’s writing is mystifying and alien, he excels at describing the weird and the set-ups to his plots are always exciting, even when the conclusion is anticlimactic. In spite of my fondness for Lovecraft, though, I’ve never watched films his work has inspired. This series will look at direct and indirect adaptions of Lovecraft, one by one, reviewing them on their own terms and comparing them to Lovecraft’s stories. Today: In the Mouth of Madness.
Alien has been a victim of its success: the fantastic 1979 movie is now almost impossible to detach from the wildly popular brand it spawned. Despite the fact that the alien doesn’t appear in the first third of the film and even thereafter is rarely seen, we’re tempted as viewers to unduly focus to the sections with the alien or project the alien’s ‘lore’ (mostly established in Aliens and subsequent material) on to the film’s monster. Alien’s greatness doesn’t lie solely or even mostly in its monster, though. Much of its eeriness is due to the message which pervades the film: space is empty and humans are small.
(Note: I wrote this some time ago, close to the film’s release and since then the worst aspect of this film, product placement, has been written about in great length and depth. You won’t struggle to find articles exploring the topic if you search for them.)
Jurassic World is an atrocious film. Qualified defences which rely on ignoring the ‘Jurassic’ title are insufficient for a movie as willfully loathsome as this, where almost every line in almost every scene is an agony to sit through. The film contrasts its thoughtless dialogue, plot, characters and even structure with shrewd, cynical calculation about what will sell toys and a level of product placement which will hopefully live in infamy. The only mild relief is the abysmal attention paid to the film itself at least undercuts it as a vehicle to sell things to its audience. In one early scene which cuts between a central character Claire holding a Starbucks coffee cup and an assistant drinking Coca-Cola, the assistant remarks that dinosaurs should not have corporate sponsors since it undermines their educational and entertainment value. The utter lack of self-awareness elsewhere in the film and the continued, awful product placement thereafter confirms this as a happy accident of bad film making (or rather bad marketing) rather than a subversion on the film’s part.