Friday, March 25, 2016

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993)

Directed by: Christophe Gans, Shûsuke Kaneko, and Brian Yuzna
Run time: 96 minutes

This movie is an adaptation of three H.P. Lovecraft short stories, Rats in the Walls, Cold Air, and The Whisperer in Darkness. Though the word adaption does not describe what was done with the source material.  It's a loosely inspired interpretation of three Lovecraft stories to sell to a mainstream horror audience. Adaption just sounds better and is less cynical.

The wrap around story is inspired by Lovecraft's writing life.  In the wrap around,  H.P. Lovecraft goes to visit an esoteric middle east themed cult who have the Necronomicon in their possession.  Lovecraft steals the keys to the locked room where the infamous evil book is kept and starts reading the forbidden book. This leads into the first story.

The Drowned is about a heir to a creepy estate with his own personal demons goes to New England to claim the estate.  As he tours the estate with the exposition real estate agent it's revealed that his great uncle lost his wife and child. In despair, he cast God out of his home and invited any deity that could return his family into his home. Something evil heard him and sent a servant with the Necronomicon so he can bring his family back. Desperately wanting his family back, the great uncle preformed a ritual from the Necronomicon and then killed himself shortly after succeeding.

Before killing himself, the great uncle left a letter explaining everything that happened and that the Necronomicon should not be used to raise the dead.  His heir skipped everything but where the book was hidden and how to raise the dead. Being an idiot,  he raises a loved one that he lost and learns the hard way not to use the Necronomicon.

He next story is The Cold.  It opens with an investigative reporter paying a visit to the home of a doctor who no one has seen in over a hundred years.  The reporter confronts the doctor's daughter about the doctor's absence and the numerous missing people connected to the doctor's residence. Reluctantly explains in flashback how her mother was fleeing an abusive step father by hiding in the rooming house where the doctor in question also lived. The abusive step father finds the daughter and the doctor helps by making the step father disappear.

This evolves into a love triangle between the woman, the doctor, and the land lady that owns the rooming house. Things get worse when the woman become pregnant with the doctor's child. The situation gets worse and the doctor ends up dying in a gory fashion. Oh and the Necronomicon plays a role in this story because it has information on how to keep people alive cryogenics. As all texts written almost three thousand years ago have information about such things.

The Whisper opens with a high speed chase and a relationship argument. The two police officers chasing the serial killer known as The Butcher are also arguing about how sleeping together was a bad idea. Also, debating the future of their yet unborn child. This argument is put on hold when The Butcher sets up a easy avoidable trap and the police officers crash right into it. Seeing that these cops are easy prey, The Butcher pulls the male officer out of the car and drags him away.

The female officer, though injured, gets out of the wreck and follows The Butcher into an seemingly abandoned horror movie warehouse. On her search for The Butcher, she finds a weird couple who lead her into a vaguely Aztec temple that no one noticed or thought was odd that the Aztec built a temple in New England.

Overall this movie does a good job of being faithful to H.P. Lovecraft and being watchable to a mainstream horror audience. The only people I can think of who would not want to see this film are fans of the cgi heavy, PG-13 horror films with a jump scare every two minutes. It is a sold rental for anyone who wants to see a weird and gory horror film.

MVT: The attention to theme in this movie is impressive. The wrap around story is taken from Lovecraft's love Arabian Nights and middle eastern culture. The Drowned had a gothic feel and The Cold and The Whisper had the weird science fiction horror feel.

Make or Break: Yes the Necronomicon is a book full of evil and forbidden knowledge but they really did not need to shoe horn the bloody thing in every story. I am willing to believe the book has rituals for raising the dead but weird science, stories from the future and being in scene because they ran out of ideas is too much.

Score: 7.3 out of 10

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