From director Sean Patrick O’Reilly and starring Kiefer O’Reilly, Michelle O’Reilly, Summer O’Reilly, Phoenix O’Reilly, Harmony O’Reilly and Christopher Plummer O’Reilly (okay, fine, that last one is actually the well known actor Christopher Plummer) this is an adaptation of a graphic novel that Sean Patrick O’Reilly was also involved in, I’ve not managed to track that down but if the film is a faithful adaptation it’s definitely worth avoiding, if not actively running from if you see it in a shop.
Taking a real life horror writer / horrendous racist as its main character and making a children’s film about his antics was always going to take skilled hands if it was to work effectively, especially one as famous as Lovecraft and his fondness for body horror and all round weirdness, but the way this is so hilariously bad is quite surprising, even if you’re forgiving of the animation that sometimes is vaguely acceptable but which mostly looks like a PlayStation 2 cut scene.
Part of the problem is that the plot is very slight as Howard’s father has gone mad and is in the local sanitorium, and after a brief visit (where Christopher Plummer cameos as Doctor Herbert West, but sadly doesn’t do any reanimating at all) Howard is given his father’s diaries to read and which lead to him travelling in to a different world, one that’s very cold and snowy, not that Howard seems bothered by this and doesn’t even shiver, presumably as they couldn’t afford to animate him looking chilly. Early on he meets Cthulhu (a tentacle covered winged monster, for those not in the know) who tries to eat him, then Cthulhu falls in to a hole, and when Howard helps him out he says Howard is now his master and the two bond with Howard giving him the nickname Spot for the rest of the movie. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cthulhu having a snowball fight and building a SnowCthulhu you’ve come to the right movie, though it is at least intentionally amusing seeing such idiocy.
Then Howard meets the film’s villain Algid Bunk (Jane Curtin) who controls an army of what look like Minions who have had their DNA spliced with a bat, and she asks Howard to find a long lost book which will help restore the world to its previously sunny disposition. He gets the book remarkably easily, Bunk turns out to be evil, some characters Howard briefly met earlier on help him save the day, and then it’s all over with, bar the threat of a forthcoming sequel, which they did indeed deliver upon, also making a third film just to be mean.
Apart from the weak plot, another issue is that the dialogue is beyond clumsy to the point that it’s like hearing a “Run, Spot, Run” book being read aloud, which may go some way to explain why Cthulhu is given that nickname. There’s lots of references to Lovecraft’s various creations but we rarely actually see them, and it almost comes across as an educational effort as Howard explains the nature of loneliness, what being playful is, and the importance of friendship and family. Spot is on hand to come out with the occasionally naïve question, and sometimes is a bit moany, but otherwise he and Howard get on like a house on fire and boy is it weird to see. The big finale is over with with ridiculous ease and here more than anywhere it seems like they were running out of budget as it’s so poorly animated, and Howard’s return to Earth is rushed as well.
Given how negative I’ve been this could have been a candidate for Oh, The Humanity! series covering the worst films but it just about escapes such a fate as it’s genuinely bizarre seeing Lovecraft and his creations portrayed in such a way, and due to this it kept my interest the whole way through. Anyone expecting Lovecraftian thrills and spills, even in a U rated manner, will walk away disappointed of course, bar Cthulhu and a brief appearance from an oddly polite Shoggoth there’s nothing even vaguely horrible. Compare it to Pixar, Disney and Dreamworks and it’s painfully weak material too, lacking anything close to the wit and invention found in even their poorer works, but because it’s such an absurd, preposterous creation I can’t help being oddly fond of it, to the extent that I look forward to watching / mocking the other two films in the series.