The Whisperer In Darkness Reviews
I saw this film as part of the IMAGINE film festival 2011 in Amsterdam. I booked it out of curiosity, wondering how a modern film maker would treat the 1930's source. I must confess that I'm not fond of most Lovecraft's stories. Though not having read any within more than 30 years, I'm still stuck with an impression of adjective-overloaded descriptions of monsters and their attributes. Many alternative books and stories in this same genre that I've read, attracted me much more. I'm prepared to accept that my reading sample was wrong and my bad impression is just as wrong.
The film makers decided to run the film in black&white, which did not hinder me at all. It even seemed the natural way after some minutes. I'm very glad that we got sound with the film. I hate intervening text boards showing the dialog, known from silent movies. In anticipation I was a bit afraid that parts of the film would develop slowly, not unexpected given the original material, but my fear proved completely unjustified.
The director was present at the screening and answered several questions during the final Q&A. We learned about the 350K$ budget, financed by the film makers out of their own pockets. They did the same for their previous 47 min short "The Call of Cthulhu", which paid itself back eventually. Understandably that several corners were cut for reasons of costs, but their love for Lovecraft did make up the rest. The editing of the material, as well as the pace in which the story develops, were adapted to match current speed expectations. Nowadays we cannot bear to watch 15 minutes of people reading letter fragments to each other, and this part of the original story was visualized differently for good reason. The finale shows a lot of action, and even some monsters. What these aliens look like, has been described by Lovecraft in much detail. These monsters could not be left out, or it would have left us strongly disappointed (said the director).
Back at home I discovered the original story in my own book collection. It was bought a long time ago (1978), and I completely forgot having it. When re-reading the story, I saw some changes by the hands of the film makers in order to liven up the original. As mentioned above, the exchange of letters between Akeley and Wilmarth has been dramatized considerably. And with good reason, otherwise we certainly would have dozed off. Further, the final outdoor scenes don't appear as such in the original story, and has been invented by the film makers, if only to show a few alien monsters and to introduce some action scenes. Maybe somewhat detached from the original, especially the plane scene, but such liberties occur often enough when turning a static book into a motion picture.
When leaving the theater, I gave an "excellent" score for the public prize competition. I can only applaud the design decisions by the film makers, choosing for black and white (no problem) but with sound (very good), and properly pacing the story to maintain a modern tempo throughout its duration. In other words, to a reasonable extent truthful to the 1930's style of film making, but not to such an extreme that it would be tedious for viewers A.D. 2011.
The Whisperer in Darkness was nominated at Oaxaca Film Fest.
Free Spirit Award-Nominated