Thursday, 17 May 2012

Review: The Whisperer in Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

In 1928, rural Vermont is struck by torrential rains and the consequent flooding washes down "things" found by the locals that spark off a minor sensation in the newspapers that draws Miskatonic University folklorist Albert Wilmarth.  Convinced that these sightings are just the result of superstition and yellow journalism, Wilmarth ends up in an embarrassing debate with real-life compiler of the weird Charles Fort.  Smarting from his defeat, he isn't too happy to be approached afterwards by the son of a man who lives in the mountain country of Vermont who claims to have not only proof of the existence of these "things", but that he's being watched by them and their human allies.  Soon, Wilmarth finds himself on a train to Vermont that will answer questions that he wished he'd never asked.

The Whisperer in Darkness is produced by the H P Lovecraft Historical Society, the same group that made The Call of Cthulhu in 2007.  Like Chtulhu, this is a amateur labour of love production by people dedicated to bringing the works of Lovecraft to the screen that are set in the period of his stories and reflect the cinema of the time.  In this case, they've gone forward from their previous silent pastiche for one more like the monochrome thrillers of the 1930s.  With obvious enthusiasm on the part of the cast and crew and a strong eye for detail, director Sean Branney comes up with a final product that has the production values and acting talent that shows that entertaining cinema is no longer reserved for the big studios with blockbuster budgets.

But what really puts Whisperer over is the strength of its script.  Though it remains much more faithful to Lovecraft than most adaptations, the screenplay acknowledges that adaption to the screen does not mean filming the book.  The character of our narrator Wilmarth is fleshed out with a back story and motives that turn him into a protagonist who is a proper character and the twist ending, which is jolting in print, but an anti-climax on video, is made the springboard for a more intense denouement.  And since it's impossible to make Lovecraft's hinted at horrors and atmospheric word pictures work here, the writers wisely decide to concentrate more on the effects of this knowledge on those it affects.

In all, a good example of a labour of loved backed by competent craftsmanship. 

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