Well, this was unexpected.
Not the best movie I've ever seen but one of those "far better than anyone would expect of a movie on this budget" kinda movies. I think they made this for the same budget as Deep Throat
. Maybe less actually since none of the actors got paid for sex.
Of course, what makes a movie this inexpensive legitimately good is usually ideas and imagination more than execution, but the execution is pretty good here too. Despite the poor print on Amazon Prime (if some of the stills I stole from elsewhere are any indication of other existing prints), this is a good-looking movie and the people who made it had some real vision and that's worth a lot in this genre.
Ok, story. This is a non-Lovecraft Lovecraft story, fairly obviously based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth
, and fairly successful at getting what Lovecraft was going for up on onto the screen, which is not always easy. It's the seaside town that clearly has a secret, with "altered" inhabitants who seem menacing at first but actually become much worse as the story goes on, while unsuspecting visitors to the town get caught up in the madness. If you've seen Dagon
, for example, you more or less know the story, although this version is somewhat less fishy. This movie is pretty successful at what lots of other movies have failed. I think when people try to make Lovecraft they often focus too much on the wrong things and this movie focuses on the right ones and just side-steps the obvious pitfalls, which some consider hallmarks, but often just lead to bad films.
In this case, our group of strangers comprises a woman visiting the town to find her father and a sort of weird threesome hinging on a tall, eccentric character who may or may not be more than he seems. His two companions are a young girl of maybe college age (keep in mind, at my age, that constitutes "a young girl") with a troubled past and a more worldly seeming woman who gets the swing of things (ha!). Things are off right from the start and continue to become more sinister as the plot begins to unfold. Who can our heroine trust, if anyone? Are her companions what they seem? Is anybody?
One thing I can tell you, if you go to see a movie and you're basically alone in the theater one minute...
... and the next you are decidedly not...
... you may be in a Lovecraftian horror film and you are probably fucked.
This was just one of the many great little moments this movie had to offer as I found myself mostly charmed by it. There's a clear vision here and surprisingly good execution considering this was a dollar-movie on it's best day. The acting is much better that I would have expected, even from the young'un (above), and the drop-in appearances by Elisha Cook Jr. and Royal Dano don't hurt things.
There is a dreamy/nightmare quality to the film that is kinda startling to see on the budget but it's not Fulcian/Argentan/Bavan nightmare, it's a different kind of thing that I've only really seen in one other movie I can think of...
Now, before people start losing their minds, cause I know there are some Lemora
-haters and Messiah
-lovers out there, I'm not even comparing the two movies. Certainly Messiah
has better acting if nothing else. But the specific, low-budget, non-Italian, nightmare quality of the two films is really similar to me and it is what makes both films special, in my opinion.
Now I have to admit, I had a few issues with the movie. There are several refrigerator moments, like what the fuck is this very urbane swinging threesome doing in this small coastal New England (I'm assuming) town, and yes they give some reason, but come on. The way the main male character's arc progressed didn't make a ton of sense to me or maybe was just disappointing to me. Ultimately it seemed a little like they didn't know how to finish it, as the ending was kinda rote and fairly anti-climactic, although the final shot was a nice way to cap it all. By comparison, I thought Lemora got stronger as it went along, particularly the psychotic third act, while I thought this movie became more conventional.
Ultimately though, I am sort of picking nits, in that this movie is SO much better than it oughta be that even though these nits are legit, they probably should be overlooked considering what a huge overachievement the movie is. I don't know if I'd recommend it to my friends, but I'd definitely recommend it to you lot.
I'll leave you with some more nice imagery from the film that demonstrate what I mean by the dreamy/nightmare quality of the film: