Gamera's short review of 'The Whisperer in Darkness' or 'Yes, There is a Fungus Among Us...'
Just out from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society my Blu-Ray copy came Saturday. After ripping the cellophane off and shoving it in the DVD player (the disk not the cellophane) I have to say I am very favorably impressed.
The movie version is a very good translation of the original story to the big screen. Thankfully, rather than having our protagonist Professor Alfred Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) reading a series of letters from Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch) we instead start with Wilmarth in a debate where he attempts to debunk the rumors of monsters in the Vermont hills (and fails pretty badly) journeying there to investigate matters himself. Like the story Akeley after being very frightened by the alien Mi-Go in his letters when Wilmarth arrives is suddenly quite protective of them even taking their side claiming their intentions were misunderstood. I think anyone here won't be surprised to find Akeley has come under the control of the aliens and Wilmarth is walking into a very nasty trap. Unlike the original story here Wilmarth sets out to interfere with the alien plot. I normally am not a fan of big changes to novels but it works here, at least for me and frankly adds a much more interesting end to the film than the original ending which works for the story but I believe would have come off as a cheat in the film.
This film could serve as an example of how to do a quality movie on the cheap. Check out the extras to see how they used a soldering iron holder and piles of background paper to bring the movie to life. The film is in black and white and deliberately made as a '20s film in the mood of the old classic Universal monster films. Other than one odd shot of a modern diesel locomotive the props, clothing, etc are spot on even down to a beautiful vintage '20s Rolls Royce. The Mi-Go are CGI but very nicely done, moving realistically as if they had actual weight unlike too many monsters in much higher budget films.
Acting is too much better than I expected with Foyer as Wilmarth carrying most of the film, his attitude to the monsters going from resolute disbeliever to skeptical to perplexed to terrified to finally desperate as he attempts to shut down the alien plot. Not a traditional hero Wilmarth as a thin somewhat studious looking guy with thick glasses looks much like what I'd imagine a Lovecraft protagonist would. Foyer slumps though most of the movie looking miserable (perhaps due to Foyer being drenched in rain in almost every scene) but has it where it counts as he takes on the Mi-Go in his own bumbling sort of way even though it probably means his death.
Barry Lynch as Akeley has a much smaller role, like the story he spends most of the film sitting in a chair. Still he does a great job with his bizarre and eerie laugh being one of the major things that tip us and Wilmarth off that 'something is not quite right' here. The film again does divulge somewhat from Lovecraft in having a female character in the young girl Hannah (Autumn Wendel) who ends up caught up in the whole chain of events.
The movie does have one rather nasty death and does break one major horror trope in another. Still most of the horror here is in the Lovecraftian mold - more a sense of despair and humans being pawns of cosmic forces beyond our comprehension rather than the more modern guts and gore.
Personally I'd recommend it whole-heartedly. Excellent film and one of the best Lovecraft translations I've seen. If you like Lovecraft you should give this movie a look.
You might check out the credits too- Brain Cylinder Test Subject- some guy named Sandy Petersen.....
H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society's Site: