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This is actually a fun anthology the uses the amusing framing story of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs) himself visiting the library of a mysterious sect of monks and sneaking a look at the forbidden book of the title and thus unleashing three stories based on actual works of the author. Now we know where he got his inspiration.
First story, The Drowned, is the best and most Lovecraftian of the three tales. It’s directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood Of The Wolf) and written by Gans and Brent V. Friedman. It tells the tragic tale of Edward De LaPoer (Bruce Payne) who has recently lost his wife in a terrible drowning accident and now has inherited a run-down, old seaside hotel from a distant uncle. He discovers the original owner of the building Jethro De La Poer (Richard Lynch) also lost his family tragically at sea and used a book called the Necronomicon to resurrect them. Not heeding how horribly Jethro’s story turned out, Edward finds where the book is hidden in the house and plots to resurrect his own lost love. This story is very well acted by Payne and has some of the best SPFX of the anthology in it’s presentation of resurrected ghouls and Cthulhu-like creatures. It has a nice atmosphere of dread and a great visual look from Gans. As far as evoking Lovecraft, this segment nails it perfectly.
Second story, The Cold, is entertaining, too as it finds nosey and obnoxious reporter Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher) confronting a woman (Bess Meyer) in an old Boston house as to the whereabouts of the original owner, a Dr. Madden (David Warner). Madden is suspected of being over 100 years-old and Porkel claims he can tie him into a series of disappearances unless the women tells him everything. Be careful what you wish for, as Porkel gets a tale of love, murder and trying to cheat death that is chilling in more ways than one. Another entertaining story, this one directed by the 90s Gamera series’ director Shusuke Kaneko and written by Friedman and Kazunori Ito. This segment combines a tragic love story with a gruesome tale of a scientist trying to cheat death while at the cost of the lives of others. It earns it’s title from the fact that Madden’s cheating of death only works at very low temperatures. The segment is well done, has some very good FX and the cast all perform well, especially David Warner as the ill-fated Madden. Christopher lays it on a little thick, but is only in the beginning and end of the segment.
Final story, Whispers is the weakest, but still provides skin-crawling entertainment. It’s written by Brent V. Friedman and Brian Yuzna, who also directed the segment. This tells the story of a cop (Signy Coleman) who is pregnant from her partner Paul (Obba Babatundé). Her overly emotional state while in pursuit of a mysterious suspect called The Butcher, causes an accident that allows the injured Paul to be taken by the suspect. She pursues them into what appears to be an abandoned building, but soon finds there is an unspeakable and otherworldly horror waiting for her and her unborn child in it’s depths. Segment is OK, but marred by some over-the-top and uneven acting and a story that’s too contemporary to fit in comfortably with the previous old-fashioned tales. What we finally find in it’s lower levels is gruesome and unnerving and well portrayed by some charming prosthetic effects and Yuzna does have a cinematic style that works well with the subject matter. The story is entertaining, but not as much as what came before and it also lacks the other stories’ charm, though it does have some of the most unsettling visuals.
Obviously, after the final tale, we finish the framing story of H.P. Lovecraft’s search and seizure of the Necronomicon and hint at possible future installments which sadly never happened. The framing segments are fun and also directed by Brian Yuzna and co-written with Brent V. Friedman. This segment has a charming old-fashioned movie serial feel and does get to have a little fun with prosthetic make-up FX in it’s last act. Too bad the film never took off enough to continue the adventures of Coombs’ H.P. Lovecraft. That might have been fun.
This is, overall, an entertaining movie. The stories may be uneven, but they do capture the flavor of the celebrated horror author’s work and the wraparound story actually involving Lovecraft is charming and fun. The FX throughout are delightful prosthetics, gore, miniatures and rubber creatures with some slightly cheesy visual FX that are all the more fun for it. The cast are fairly solid, accept for a few overdone performances, such as in the last story, but are balanced out by the strong work of Payne, Lynch, Warner and the always welcome Jeffery Combs. A fun and nostalgic anthology that deserves a decent blu-ray release!