Lovecraftian animated filmmaker Michele Botticelli impressed me a great deal with a strange, marvelous little b/w film called A Lovecraft Dream (2008), which induced me to see what else I could find of his.
As I was a more disappointed than ever I expected, I shan't review all of the animated shorts I encountered. But two demand attention because of my broad coverage of films based on tales by H. P. Lovecraft.
The twenty minute color cartoon Dagon (2007) opens with a winged tentacle-faced Cthulhu rising above a box-house city, this being a "logo" for Cthulhu Productions, & sets the unfortunately correct mood of a kiddy-cartoon.
As the film proper begins, we see a brilliantly designed atmospheric portrait of a New England house in a rainstorm. We pan through a window to a figure seated at a table in an otherwise unfurnished room. The figure is hunched over writing his tale. A narration begins, in Italian, without subtitles.
A flashback begins, set on the high seas, the narration continuing as computer animation unfolds a supernatural sea adventure.
The design work is a mixed bad, some of it not too bad whenever there are no human characters involved. But when people appear, it takes a severe nose-dive & looks dreadfully like an amateur film dashed together on one's home computer.
On board a gunship, sailors stand around as the narrator continues importantly on the soundtrack. Visuals remain generic. Then we see one badly drawn buff dude in a wooden boat, alone without survival gear for the open sea.
This survivor of some dreadful event at sea is dehydrated & apparently hallucinates or has a nightmare of red teeth, an ancient shrine, a spinning head. It's so badly done at this point, it's hard to believe this is the same animator who helped create A Lovecraft Dream which I greatly enjoyed.
On an island of pointy hills our guy, probably still hallucinating, wanders about looking startled. He finds the place of ancient fish-worship. More uninteresting crap happens but the only thing cool was an underwater sequence, after which the scene cuts to a battle in World War I, & a massively childish drawing of the sinister god Dagon rising over the battlefield.
If this had been the first Botticelli film I'd seen, I doubt I'd've ever gone on to find others by him. But knowing he's capable of better, I bore on.
Nyarlathotep (2007) opens on a computer-generated ocean interchangeable with water scenes in Dagon.
We're about to enter fifteen minutes of cartoon fun, based on the horror tale or prose-poem of the elder gods by H. P. Lovecraft.
Cut to a city of boxy buildings, with poorly designed people moving through the night as the narrator rambles on in Italian, without subtitles.
Soon we're introduced to the badly drawn Egyptian magician Nyarlathotep. He does tricks so lame he might as well have been plucking quarters from behind a child's ear. Even so, his machinations will result in doom for the city.
The tentacles-of-the-monster scenes are totally laughable, four wiggly appendages appearing in the animation, with all the fright-value of a bowl of jello. Lacking is any sense of mood or dark aestheticism on which the success of this story hinges.
By the time we reach the pit into the heart of the world, the only possible responses are boredom or a fit of the giggles that the animators actually meant it seriously.
It ends with a few Dali-esque landscapes that are quite nice, but they don't save the film from overall failure. In total this all closely resembles in manner & design Botticelli's worst film Dagon, & comes close to being just that bad.
For more animated Lovecraft, continue to:
The House of Dame Street (2000)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl