[14 March 2011]
Jeff (Kyle Davis) is going nowhere, stuck in a dead end cubicle job, and too insecure and socially inept to even ask out hot girl in his office who is obviously into him. That is until the followers of the cult of Cthulhu discover an ancient relic in the middle of the Egyptian desert that threatens the very future of humanity. It turns out that Jeff is the last descendent of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, who it seems wasn’t writing fiction at all, he was documenting a shadowy, hidden history of the world, at least as The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu explains it in an incredible animated sequence where a cartoon Cthulhu tears a T-Rex in half. That’s the kind of movie this is.
Horror comedy is a tricky genre, or subgenre, or classification, or whatever it is. For every Shaun of the Dead and Slither there are 50 half-assed attempts that fail to be either funny or horrific. The Last Lovecraft, however, is not one of these failures, and is both a gore-soaked monster movie and hilarious from end to end.
With Charlie (writer/producer Devin McGinn), his best friend, roommate, and requisite slacker companion in tow, Jeff sets out to save the day, if only he can figure out what the hell is going on. This is where Paul (Barak Hardley), the Lovecraft obsessed super nerd that Jeff used to pick on in high school, comes in. Paul lives with his grandmother, where the two spend most of their time fighting about peanut butter, and she is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Cthulhu.
The Last Lovecraft is an ultra-geeky love poem to all things Lovecraft, as well as drive-in grade creature features. There is a frenetic glee to the characters running around name-dropping the Great Old Ones, the Mountains of Madness, and R’lyeh, and the monster costumes, while cheesy and ridiculous, are also a perfect match for the absurdist script that is silly and strange, but still finds the time to be witty. This is a movie that is completely self-aware, but in a way that works without being obnoxious or narcissistic about how smart it thinks it is.
Fans of the titular author will be pleased with the obvious knowledge and affection McGinn has for the source material; there are references big and small all over the landscape of the film. On the other side of the coin, an in-depth understanding of the sprawling Lovecraftian mythos isn’t necessary to enjoy The Last Lovecraft, either.
Jeff, Charlie, and Paul have a great onscreen chemistry, full of snappy give and take, like Charlie and Paul debating that timeless question, “What if dolphins were robots?” and hashing out the details of a comic book about a “monkey-fish army”. This is definitely a case where a microscopic budget actually helps the movie rather than hindering it. Instead of simply throwing money at problems, director Henry Saine and a crew made up of friends and well wishers had to come up with creative solutions.
So many movies that try to be scary and funny start out with promise only to abandon the things that worked early on. Or they feel like a good idea that is not fully developed, and when the initial joke runs out, the filmmakers are left scrambling to fill the rest of a feature-length movie. The Last Lovecraft is a complete work, with characters, plot, and a story arc, as well as an awesome concept. It’s short, clocking in at 79-minutes, but it’s definitely a finished product.
The DVD release comes with an extended early scene, a gallery of stills from the set, and a pencil test of the animated sequence narrated by Saine. The real selling point is the commentary with Saine, McGinn, and Davis. In keeping with the miniscule production values of the film, the trio recorded the bonus track on a PC using GarageBand and a single small mic. Listening to their tinny banter is almost as much fun as the movie. You can almost see them bouncing up and down as they discuss their baby. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and since this is the kind of film where everyone did a bit of everything (Davis ran cable and did some sound stuff when not in the scenes that were shooting, and McGinn wrote, acted, and produced, among other things), they each have an endless supply of stories from set. This is a situation where the bonus material adds another level of enjoyment to a film that is already a lot of fun.