It's Howard!
ARCANO. 2004
Directors: Patricia Kenny
& Max Muller

Directors: Doug Simon
& Sean Kearney

Director: Simon Larner

Director: Biggs Trek

Director: George Mylonas

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Arcano A 16 mm film from Uraguay, under eight minutes, Arcano (2004) is based on H. P. Lovecraft's "The Terrible Old Man."

Lovecraft published the tale in an amateur magazine in 1921. It was his first tale set to be set in the fishing village of Kingsport.

At only 1,200 words it's very slight & appeals to amateur filmmakers for already being synoptic enough for a micromovie, not demanding much thought for adaptation. It'd be much harder to adapt, say, "The Strange High House in the Mist" in which the terrible old man reappears with much more personality.

This was by no means one of Lovecraft's better stories, & it doesn't generally make much of a micromovie. But HPL's prose is so thrilling even at the low end of his achievement, "The Terrible Old Man" works as a short story in ways that are rarely carried over into adaptations that only scrape the surface of an already shallow tale.

In Arcano, three thugs plan to rob a run-down mansion, convinced the crazy hermit therein has a fortune. They go to the isolated location at night. The guy who remains in the battered old car begins to worry & sets out to check on the break-in.

Wandering about the dismal clutter of the sprawling house with just a flashlight, he encounters the recluse's artwork (a point taken from another Lovecraft tale, "Pickman's Model"). The creepiy artwork seems to depict the demise of three robbers!

This is a good enough mood piece, but ends without any satisfactory event, so feels incomplete. The terrible old man's collection of bottles has been deleted in favor of the Pickman's Model allusion, which isn't a bad idea but it leads nowhere.

The Terrible Old Man A bit over four minutes, an animated version of H. P. Lovecrafts The Terrible Old Man (2006), is exceedingly well drawn & designed as to environment, but is a lot less impressive as to the human characters.

It is narrated well by an effective vocal actor, whose text is derived from HPL's story, so sentence for sentence it's entirely effective.

The tall lean terrible old man has in his forboding garden amidst gnarled trees large stones arranged in groups & painted to resemble oriental divinities.

He keeps also a collection of jars within which each has a small piece of lead suspended from a string attached to the underside of the lid. These are each labeled with names, & he speaks to them from time to time, the suspended metal swinging to his voice.

The Terrible Old ManTwo housebreakers intend to rob the old man who is rumored to be as wealthy as he is feeble.

A third robber sits in the getaway car & hears screaming from the house, feeling mildly upset that his companions must have injured the old man as they had promised not to do.

The little town of Kingsport long after spoke of the three mutilated bodies that washed onto the beach. But none but the terrible old man knew of the three new labeled jars of his collection.

Had the design for the robbers & especially for the terrible old man been a bit less abjectly cartoony, this adaptation might've been brilliant. As it stands, it's a nice wee entertainment.

The Terrible Old Man With the look of a video game, the partially 3D entirely computer-animated version of The Terrible Old Man (2008) was made in Scotland by Simon Larner.

It's a mixed bag as to design, as it definitely has that generic computer-generated look that so many cartoons have after a would-be filmmaker follows all the pre-arranged moves provided by the same old home-animation computer programs. An effort to "age" the animation (using another common program for it) didn't give it the antique look intended, but just made it out of focus.

With a dashed-together look, Simon Larner made it specifically as an entry into the Lovecraft Film Festival which occurs each year in the Pacific Northwest. This festival has caused the generation of many bad Lovecraft computer-cartoons, undistinguished to the highest degree. Even the crummiest ones will find an audience on youtube if not at the festival.

The Terrible Old ManThe terrible old man, who looks like an aging hippy with a stoner's hangover rather than someone scary, has a collection of lab jars rather with a carpenter's plumb-bob suspended inside each. Looks silly.

With commercially available music soundtrack increasing the generic nature of the thing, & no skill with dialogue, text cards are inserted here & there with a synopsis of HPL's tale of Angelo, Joe, & Manuel arriving in Kingsport intent on robbing an old man they perceived as helpless. They know only that he paid with old Spanish gold at the village store, so they figure he has a stash of gold ripe for the plucking.

Joe, from the car, hears screaming, assuming it's the old man. But afterward, the old man comes for him as well.

Most of these scenes could be swapped around with scenes from otehr computer-animated versions, such as that by Biggs Trek reviewed immediately below, they're so similar; & there are others just like these I've not bothered to review due to their indentical look & content.

But this one, after going through the usual moves, has a different take on the aftermath, showing partially skinned & dismembered corpses in the shallows of the bay. It should've just ended with those images, but additional poorly done character-animation spoils it.

The Terrible Old Man Another computer-animated version of The Terrible Old Man (2008) has well done sound effects. The electronic score by the animator, Biggs Trek, is quite well done.

But the overall design, alas, is indistinguishably standard amateur computer graphics, & the dialogue not only mediocre but delivered by guys who sound like small town community theater wonks convinced they can act but can't.

We are introduced to the terrible old man trudging feebly down the road. A dog behind the iron fence of the cemetery clearly distrusts him, & snarls. When the old man confronts the dog, it whines & runs off through the tombstones. This is the best part of the cartoon, which immediately afterward deteriorates into the rudiments of the familiar tale, without style or flourish.

Two thieves saunter toward the old man's house, convinced he has silver & gold hidden about the place. Cornpone dialogue is written for these guys, the vocal acting just awful, with one of them a black man who walks with a stepinfetchit shuffle & gangsta accent.

The original tale revealed HPL's xenophobia & racism (though the the thieves are probably Portuguese, Slavic, & Italian). This cartoon version whether or not intentionally perserves the racism, with a black guy & probably a Mexican.

Within the house, the old man is addressing his variously colored wine bottle collection, each bottle having something shadowy within, which he addresses by human names. Outside, the stepinfetchit thief, "Hoo wee, this is gonna be easy as pie." The Mexican growls like an animal.

Joe waited in the stolen getaway car & hears his friends screaming, but hopes it was the old man. Too bad for him, he's soon dragged bloody from the stolen getaway car, to the inapropose sound of scraping sabres.

This one's to be viewed as a minor fannish excursion only, as it's pretty bad, though by no means as bad as they come, I'm sad to report.

The Terrible Old Man A truly awful amateur video dashed together in a weekend for a class (I suspect in Junior Highschool), George Mylonas' The Terrible Old Man (2007) at least has a sense of humor. It is through haste, carelessness & ineptitude, not through lack of imagination, that it stinks so bad.

The opening scenes show a neglected suburban yard while on the soundtrack is an amusing version of "If I Only Had a Brain" sung partly by chipmunks (really by the Flaming Lips). The weird rocks of Lovecraft's story are here a few stacking stones from a garden shop.

A laughably bad bit of acting shows the terrible old man addressing his bottle collection "Jack, Scarface, Tom -- uh, I dunno," filmed through an aluminum framed window. A black kid, a fat kid, & a balding adult who hangs out with children, walk by in the street, planning the robbery.

There's a lovely Christmas wreath on the terrible old man's unlocked door. The filmmaker was too young to drive so the reason for one of the thieves to wait in the street is in case the cops come, which is to worry about since it's the middle of the day on a populace suburban street.

So fat kid Eric waits outside. Balding adult & ringleader black kid go inside, while we're left to watch Eric pace about on the lawn as if trying extra hard to attract the neighborhood's attention. He hears nothing, sees nothing, nothing happens.

Then the terrible old man looks out the door & grins. He resembles Dennis the Menace's neighbor Mr. Wilson but with caught-in-the-headlights glowing eyes.

That's it. It's over. It's forgiveable cuz it's made by a kid. See it on youtube & then say, "ahhh, ain't that a sweet try."

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]