Unfilmable! It’s an adage that often applies itself to literary works of the most profoundly obscure order. A rallying cry around which the prose of authors as divisive as William Burroughs, Franz Kafka and Hunter Thompson has congregated. Horror and Fantasy scribes are often saddled with this derogatory moniker for the simple fact that their works are either too epic or too extreme. Yet, despite this charge filmmakers have overcome a berth of obstacles to bring Frank Herbert, J.R.R. Tolkien and even Ed Lee and Jack Ketchum to the celluloid landscape. The compendium of Howard Phillips Lovecraft also creates a notable difficulty in translation. With a breadth of lore so steeped inside it’s own universe the hardest part—aside from interpreting the often stream of conscience narrative—is in encapsulating the totality of Lovecraft’s world without the need to explain the entire thing away.
Biff Juggernaut productions thinks they have the solution to getting inside the mind of H.P. Lovecraft and doing so with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It’s hard to argue that Lovecraft doesn’t need a good ribbing; his work is poured over by legions of fans with a reverence usually reserved for massive tomes of onion-paper-printed scripture. The Juggernaut crew takes aim and—at least tries—to both love the mythos and laugh at it too.
LOVECRACKED—which titled as such, should give viewers a kind of lesser-Mad-Magazine-vibe—gives us nine short films encompassing both direct and indirect relations of the works of the early 20th century genre author. The make or break in almost all anthology films is the wraparound. The smart money says you don’t need one if the entries flow. From the opening credits, it seemed that Biff Juggernaut planned on a CREEPSHOW like segmentation of the Lovecraftian countryside. Sadly, this is not the case and instead the filmmakers have opted for a lowest-common-denominator schlockfest featuring Biff Juggernaut founder Elias acting as a put upon investigative journalist seeking out the “truth” surrounding the Lovecraft hype.
The wrap is jarring and unnecessarily juvenile as Elias jaunts from man-on-the-street interviews to the offices of Troma Entertainment for little purpose other than to pad out the 87-minute running time. Had the filmmakers focused on the grab bag of assorted shorts and ignored the stupidly that creeps on the screen every 15-minutes, LOVECRACKED might have offered a more completely satisfying package. But, that’s not the case and rather than dwell on that failure, let’s move forward and address the sometimes imaginative, sometimes disturbing and sometimes brilliant amalgamation of shorts that make up this interesting offering.
The project begins with THE STATEMENT OF RANDOLPH CARTER, a promising short that does well in capturing on a miniscule budget both the visual and verbal textures of Lovecraft’s writing. THE HISTORY OF THE LURKERS is DIY filmmaking aesthetic taken to its signature subject matter—following the adventures of a young punk who uses music to summon the dead. REMAIN is a brilliant visual delight shot in a stop-motion/live-action style, focuses on an artist’s canvas that comes alive. If REMAIN is the first sit-up-and-take-notice film of the collection, BUGBOY is the one that makes the whole thing worth watching. Like some bastard child of Kafka, Lynch and Lovecraft, BUGBOY redefines horror in the same way David Cronenberg did in NAKED LUNCH. This one will leave you scratching your head for days. WITCHES SPRING is too straightforward and uninspired to make any real mark; it also suffers from following two inspired shorts as it attempts to relate a tale of Internet dating gone wild. The next section ALECTO—which nods to the Lovecraft tale The Music of Erich Zann—further proves that some talented filmmakers are displaying work in this set. ALECTO is a visually layered dream about a musician who touches the past through the stings of a violin. CHAOS OF THE FLESH arrives with no fanfare and is over almost as quickly—only passing interest is in the film’s similarity to Dario Argento’s Master of Horror episode JENIFER. Internet porn fans and fetishists of an undead sort will get a kick out of BurningAngel.com’s inclusion of the infamous RE-PENETRATOR short (mercifully edited into a softer X-rated version). Replete with decidedly excessive images, the short seems wholly out of place in the collection not only because it seems jarring in the context of the film, but because it has already had a semi-legitimate release of its own. The final segment is AND THIS WAS ON A GOOD DAY—an experimental animation short that adds Terry Gilliam-esque license to images of Lovecraft and spins a surrealistically sexual premise. I was no fan of the final—almost—disrespectful take on the author and his cache. I also don’t feel like the last segment was representational of the—overall—good work that came before it.
As I said before, anthology releases are burdened with the need to make the films within flow. LOVECRACKED weighs down under the burden and could, or perhaps, should have lost a few of the films for a more-even 60-minute version that would have better suited the material and not taken its audience on unnecessary (RE-PENETRATOR) or unfunny (THE WRAP) journeys into the source work of one of the 20th century literatures most beloved cult icons.