Monday, February 7, 2011

HP Lovecraft Review #2: Die, Monster, Die!

This month's movie, 'Die, Monster, Die!', is another product of our friends at American International Pictures (Yippee!). The opening credits reveal that it was based on Lovecraft's 'The Colour Out of Space'. Strange story to adapt, since one of the colour's main attributes is that it's a colour never before seen on Earth. How do you adapt that to screen?I suppose we'll find out. At least Boris Karloff stars, as the film's main antagonist. ...'The Colour Out of Space' never had a human antagonist. ...We may be in trouble, folks.

After the opening credits, we cut to our protagonist, Stephen Rhineheart, exiting a train to arrive in Arkham(I'm Batman!)...England (Considering how much Lovecraft loved Great Britain, I'll keep quiet about the change in setting). He's looking for the Witley place, but everyone in town laughs him off, and he ends up walking to this place, passing an enormous (obviously fake) crater along the way and being followed by some shadowy figure. It's at the Witley place, which is a mansion, that the audience meets the wheelchair-bound Nahum Witley (played by Boris Karloff) and Susan Witley, Stephen's love interest. Susan takes Stephen to meet her mother. Stephen and the mother talk; meanwhile, Nahum and his servant going into the basement (which would have been fitting for 'The Haunted Palace'). The mother finally tells Stephen to take Susan away, fearing for her life, and Stephen agrees to do so the next day. In the next scene, Nahum and his wife talk, and his wife implies that Nahum's father, Corbin, had gotten tangled up in some sort of dark magic involving the Cthulhu mythos (sidenote: as Nahum's father was never mentioned in the story, I have to ask: is 'Corbin' supposed to be a shout-out to 'Curwen'? The actors' pronunciation make 'Corbin' sound like 'Curwen', and their activities sound similar as well)(Right now I'd rather see Curwen, Vincent Price equals AWESOME!).

Getting back on track, Stephen has dinner with Susan and Nahum, we learn a bit about the family history and the mother's increasing illness but getting no answer about the crater. At this point, Susan reveals herself as entirely ignorant of everything going on with her family. However, this scene is interrupted when Nahum's servant abruptly collapses. While Susan checks in on her mother, Stephen finds a book called 'Cult of the Outer Ones'(Subtle). While examining it, Susan sees a veiled figure (earlier said to be the maid) at the window and freaks out. Stephen comforts her, and they agree to leave the next day.

I know you're all asking me to get to the point, but this is the parsed version. If I had to remove ALL the pointlessness, the summary would be maybe ten sentences and could not alone convey what this movie is like.

That night, Stephen and Susan wake up to hear a scream, and Nahum informs them that his servant has died. After Stephen takes Susan back up to her room, he goes back downstairs to see Nahum dispose of the body on foot and finds the greenhouse. The next day, instead of leaving with Susan, Stephen goes into town by himself and is attacked along the way by the maid, who is mutated beneath the veil. After getting no help from the town, he returns to the mansion and discusses the greenhouse with Susan. She helps him break in, and they find mutated animals, green rocks that seem to promote tremendous plant growth, and sentient malevolent plants. After this, Stephen goes into the cellar to see the 'radioactive' rock. He then warns Nahum to get rid of it, but then Nahum's wife escapes from her room. After a lengthy search, they find her, mutated and malevolent, and a brief chase scene leaves her to dissolve on the floor(With the cheapest effects humanly possible). Having lost his wife, Nahum reveals that the rock was a meteorite (only at one hour and seven minutes in. Movie's 79 minutes) and resolves to destroy it. He goes to the basement but is attacked by the maid and exposed to the radiation at full blast. As a result, he turns into a 'metallic' person (Oh no! The Silver Surfer is here to kill us all!) with a green glow and some inherent hatred of people. After chasing Stephen and Susan through the house, he falls to his death, and Stephen helps Susan get away.
Revenge of the Silver Surfer!

In retrospect, I think I was too harsh on 'The Haunted Palace'. Sure, it missed a lot, but it got the basic theme down: a man looks into his ancestry and is taken over by it, losing himself in the process.

This movie doesn't even try - in the original story, the meteorite that brought the color just fell onto a random plot of land, affecting a guy who didn't know any better and just thought it was interesting. I'm not sure why the screenwriter decided to try dragging in the Cthulhu mythos, but this was one of the worst possible stories it could've been done in. More irritatingly, the color really had one effect on animals and humans: it drove them mad and turned them to dust slowly. The humans would know what was going on but be powerless to get away. In the movie, the four known victims suffered no fewer than three different effects from exposure. Never mind the fact that it seems to be the rock and not the actual color, which was more gaseous. The worst sin of all? The shoehorned antagonist. Nahum was, in the story, a good man even if he couldn't help his family, not some cackling mad scientist who had tomes of eldritch lore lying about. That just changes the character's presence from 'innocent victim' to 'he had it coming'. Why the screenwriter decided to mention what this movie was 'based' on is beyond me - I wasn't fully convinced I was watching an adaptation flick until I went back to the credits and confirmed it.

As I cannot judge this fairly as a movie on its own merits, I now turn it over to KK to finish the evaluation.

Thanks. As a movie, it fails on almost every aspect. It fails in terms of storytelling, it fails in terms of effects, it fails in terms of acting, it fails in terms of entertainment. The characterization was horrendous; I mean the main character had nothing and I do mean nothing. He was underdeveloped and I cannot even think of anything that made him special. This movie has done the impossible: it's made Roger Corman look like Stanley Kubrik in terms of HP Lovecraft films. You know how sometimes a movie can be so bad it's good? There's nothing in here to give the film any of those qualities. The acting is incredibly dull, and emphasis on incredibly dull. I can be entertained by hammy acting because I can laugh at it, but the dismal performances basically bored me and caused me to fall asleep quite a few times. The effects are laughable and downright amateur. When your demonic HP Lovecraft creatures look more like the crack babies of Snuffleupagus, you really need to reconsider your career. The story drags on ad naseum and there is no tension or reason we should give a rat's ass about any of the main characters. Overall, I say stay away from this movie as much as possible and do not track it down, it will be 78 minutes of your life that you'll never get back. I am going to go out on a limb and say this is easily one of the worst things I've ever watched in my life. And for a guy who saw Epic Movie, Alone in the Dark, and Christmas with the Kranks that's saying a lot.

Long lost cousins?

For HP Lovecraft fans: This is not the same story that made you scared of a color.

For non-HP Lovecraft fans: Unless you're a horror film reviewer looking to pad out your schedule or have a bile fascination, this isn't worth looking for.

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