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Old 12-29-2007   #1
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Necronomicon (DTV 1993)

Before I say anything about the movie, let me talk about the book. Despite anything you have ever heard or seen to the contrary, there is no such thing as the Necronomicon! H.P. Lovecraft invented the book as a tool to make his stories more realistic. He did influence and encourage other writers to create their own fictitious books for the purpose of beefing up the power of their own stories, hence Ludwig Prinn - De Vermis Mysteriis (Robert Bloch), The Book Of Eibon (Clark Ashton Smith), and Friedrich von Junzt - Unaussprechlichen Kulten (Robert E. Howard). I know it's lots of fun to pretend such tomes of pure evil exist but they do not. Period.

OK, now that we got that out of the way, let's talk about the movie.

Necronomicon has a rather checkered history in that although it was originally intended for release in 1991 as a full-blown theatrical release, friction between the various production teams and disputes over the actual rights of the stories as well as the use of the movie's title delayed release so it was decided to bypass all that and it ended up being released direct to video in 1993. .

Hardcore splatter horror fans will find much to enjoy in this incredibly gruesome offering. Where nearly every horror film I've ever seen has an element of tongue-in-cheek "we're all just kidding here boys and girls " attitude ( with the exception of The Shining, and- crappy acting, casting and script aside- Pet Sematary), Necronomicon has none of that.

The special effects were so numerous and complex that not one or two, but at least five different SFX firms had a hand in various sequences seen in the film including:
>Bart Mixon's Monster Fixins
>Screaming Mad George
>Optic Nerve Studios
>Todd Masters Company
and others. There were a couple of (rather poorly done) CGI scenes, but the rest of the monster effects were old-school rubber and slime applied to real actors or articulated models. To me, the sculpted rubber SFX are better than full CGI monsters because no matter how well the CGI is done, there is still something fake and obvious about a fully CGI image... too crisp, too clean, too real. Give me a well crafted, well lit, well filmed rubber monster anytime.

As to the story/plot, here's where it gets a little complicated. First of all, it seems that this film was aimed at Lovecraft fans who were very familiar with Lovecraft's work in toto because many reviews I've read by people who are not familiar with HPL's work found themselves more than a little confused, and those who are fans of HPL were appalled at how far the filmed stories (yes, plural) the filmmakers got from the source material. Being one of the latter group, I can see why many folks hated this film, but I enjoyed it immensely because HPL has a certain...atmosphere...flavor... feel to his works which was utterly and completely captured by this film. It was as if HPL himself had been given control of casting, art direction, scoring, creature design, editing, cinematography etc... but someone else wrote the screenplay and grabbed a bit of this, and a portion of that and a little of this, too- jumping from story to story and assembling three very Lovecraftian stories that Lovecraft himself never wrote. The film is an anthology of three separate and freestanding stories linked together by a "wraparound" story which takes place in a library. Each story had a different director and the overall film had several executive producers. With Samuel Hadida and Brian Yuzna (two drooling Lovecraft fans responsible for several other more successful HPL film adaptations including the Re-Animator series, From Beyond and Dagon), it was the supervision of these two which I feel was responsible for the so well captured atmosphere I referred to. And yet, it was also partly this multiple director/producer situation which damned Necronomicon to a DTV release instead of getting a chance on the big screen.

Jeff Combs plays H.P. Lovecraft himself, who learns that a copy of the Necronomicon is in the US, kept under lock and key in a creepy library. He visits the library, steals the key to the room where the Book is kept and gets his hands on it. As he reads, he writes...writes a story apparently inspired/suggested by that which he is reading and that is where the camera pans away from the notebook and we dissolve to the first story:
The Drowned
Dir: Christophe Gans
W: Christophe Gans, Brent V Friedman

A guilt-wracked man who recently lost his wife in an auto accident which he blames himself for is contacted by a law firm to take possession of an old decrepit hotel left to him by his uncle some 60 years prior. As she leaves, the lawyer hands Edward De La Poer a letter his uncle wrote, describing the odd and terrifying series of events leading to his own suicide. Eddy opens the letter and reads which leads the viewer to a flashback where we see Jethro De La Poer learning that his young wife and son were killed in a shipwreck where he was the only survivor. He verbally casts God from his house (as well as all the townspeople mourning the deaths) and is promptly visited by a creature which seemed to be taken from HPL's story The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This humanoid/fish/frog walks into the lobby with the words "In this time of need, You Are Not Alone!" and leaves... but not without dropping off a bit of reading material...yep, the Necronomicon. A spectral wind flips the book open and flaps the pages until they stop on the chapter titled "Towards The Remedy Of Untimely Loss". Jethro is grief-ridden enough to actually conduct the ceremony (complete with a pentagram on the floor with candles at each point, a blood sacrifice and chanting spells from the book) which does, indeed work... but not as he would have liked it to.
Eddie decides to do the same and after finally locating the Necronomicon which was hidden in the house, he also conducts the spell and is visited by... an image of his dead wife who was not his wife at all. This leads to an all-out battle between a creature who was supposed to be Cthulhu it/himself (but couldn't possibly have actually been; Lovecraft described Cthulhu in his story as being "a mountain which walked or lumbered"... in other words very large, indeed) which rose up from caverns beneath the hotel's ground floor...

Now we dissolve back to HPL in the library gasping and shuddering- partly from just having read whatever he just read, but also from the biting cold which seems to be pouring from the opened wall safe where the Necronomicon was kept- with another door on the rear of the safe which unbeknownst to Lovecraft, was slowly opening to reveal...(something we don't see for a while)
Lovecraft goes back to the Book and begins to write again and we fade to the second story:
The Cold
Dir: Shusuke Kaneko
W: Kazunori Itô

During a mean-ass heat wave in Boston, a reporter visits a young woman living in an old boarding house (which is kept at a freezing temperature) asking rather embarrassing questions about a certain Dr. Madden which local records don't seem to have a record of his death... and further, a series of unusual murders with a similar MO seem to be somehow connected with the house. The reporter ends up basically threatening the young woman with printing the story as he sees it which would incriminate her in the murders so she begins to talk as the reporter has a cup of tea. We again flash back some 22 years when this young woman's mother first arrives at the very same house to escape the unwanted attentions of her abusive stepfather. The landlady takes her in and tells her that she has the run of the house, but must never disturb the 3rd floor tenant Dr. Madden. The young woman, Emily, ends up getting tracked down by Sam (her stepfather) who tries to drag her out of the house and back to his own but after a rather violent confrontation, Dr. Madden steps in and causes Sam to take a nasty fall down the stairs. Emily and Dr. Madden end up having an affair but Emily decides it has no future so she leaves, only to return a couple of months later when she discovers she's carrying Dr. Madden's child. When she goes into the house, she finds her ex-boss being detained by Lena the landlady and Dr. Madden who have him in Madden's lab, about to cut him open for reasons soon to be disclosed. Turns out Dr. Madden actually died a number of years ago, but a combination of formulae and spells taken from the Necronomicon, as well as living in an extremely cold environment allows the dead-but-not-dead Dr. Madden to continue "living" but with no senses unless he receives regular injections of fresh spinal fluid (hence the strange deaths around the house with that similar MO). The wrestling between Emily's boss, Madden and Lena end up spilling a mess of chemicals which bursts aflame, sharply raising the temperature of Madden's apartment and undoing the years of being dead-but-not in a very well-done cinematic meltdown/disintegration... We now fade back to the present where the reporter suddenly realizes that the young woman isn't Emily's daughter, but Emily herself who caught whatever weird disease Dr. Madden had during their tryst, and also realizes he'd been drugged in the tea he'd drunk because Emily also needs fresh spinal fluid to feel the baby inside her... the baby who also gets no older...
fade back to Lovecraft in the library even more disturbed (and cold; that back-of-the-safe door is still opening), but he can't stop reading so he returns to the Book and we fade to the third and last story:

Whispers
Dir: Brian Yuzna
W: Brian Yuzna

This story begins inside a police car during a high speed chase. The lady cop (Sarah) is discussing something waaay off topic to the chase, namely the fact that she is pregnant by Paul, her partner, and isn't sure she's ready to be a mother. (this one small exchange is badly written and acted-very badly actually, but I even forgive that because it's Sarah's pregnancy we are being informed of however sloppily for later use in the story) For whatever reason, Sarah, who is driving while all this "I'm scared to be a mother, Paul" speech is going on, ends up flipping the cop car on its roof, seriously injuring the both of them and knocking Sarah momentarily unconscious. She comes to just in time to see a pair of feet approach the passenger side of the car and drag her still unconscious partner out. Sarah painfully drags herself out and follows Paul's blood trail to this old and creepy building where she soon meets a weird dude who claims to own the building and who shelters a criminal called "The Butcher". Sarah- despite her injuries- demands to be taken to the basement of the building where Paul was taken by the unknown figure. The weird dude agrees, and down they go...into what amounts to a millions-of-years-old alien's belly who uses human nervous systems to reproduce and the weird dude ends up being the "Butcher" and works for Alien, providing It with humans so it can breed... This 3rd story is by far the most intense piece of horror cinema- both visceral and psychological- I've ever experienced and I'm more than willing to overlook the crappy dialog in the cop car. The hospital room sequence surprised and shocked me almost as badly as the ending sequence of Seconds, but for different reasons.

Fade back to Lovecraft in the library, where he is busted by the librarian who tries to feed Lovecraft to another creature emerging from the now fully-opened back-of-the-safe door which appears to lead to another dimension. Lovecraft manages to break free at the last moment so the Flying Mouth With Scary Teeth gets the librarian instead and Lovecraft escapes the library... with the Necronomicon!

Like I said, none of these stories bear the slightest resemblance to any single story Lovecraft wrote (well, The Cold is close) but the overall atmosphere of the film is astonishingly Lovecraftian and there are two other facets of the production which I find downright addictive: The sound design and the incredible score. The sound design was incredible. There was very convincing gargling, choking, sawing and other yucky sounds created by the ADR team that was totally different than the stock noises found in every other horror film (if the filmmakers of said films chose to use them at all).
I LOVE the music in this film. From the very first note heard in the film I heard Lovecraft. I've never really considered Lovecraft as a musical kind of thing, but the score here... all of it even the smallest incidental phrase just simply screamed Lovecraft. I don't know how these guys did it! I've rented other films which were scored by one or the other of the two guys (Daniel Licht and Joe LoDuca) responsible, but bleh! They must've been on something special when they did the score for this one because none of the music in any of the other films I saw with their names in the SCORED BY credits was any good...neither were the films themselves for that matter.

There were a couple of recognizable actors in Necronomicon- most notably Jeff Combs (who has pretty much become synonymous with "H.P. Lovecraft movie" after having appeared in The Re-Animator series, From Beyond, The Lurking Fear and Castle Freak as well as a number of various alien characters in ST-DS9, Voyager and Enterprise), but also veteran actor David Warner (probably best known as Billy Zane's assistant/bodyguard in Titanic as well as the photographer who suffered the memorable decapitation scene in the original Omen), and Bruce Payne (who played Passenger 57 in the film of the same name). Just as Lucas did in Star Wars, placing more obscure actors in principle roles, the casting here added to the authenticity of the film by not distracting the viewer with too-familiar faces from other films or TV shows. Those who were recognizable did their jobs so well that one could pretend that they were new to the business.

So, yeah. As you can probably tell, I'm a particularly strong fan of this film (I've not written any other review as long or detailed as this one) and if you are a fan of graphic horror, Necronomicon is worth a look.

NOTE: Not available on DVD yet, at least in the US. I had to look on Ebay where I found a Brazilian release on DVD. IMDB says that there is a R2 French release with 2 discs and a mess of extras which I'd really like to get my hands on but right now, I'm happy that I was able to get a DVD of it at all (even if this one is sadly short of any extras outside of a lame photo gallery of stills and Portuguese subtitles...) I think you can still find it on VHS at most of the bigger rental places and Netflix probably has it too (I don't know that for sure; I stopped worrying about it when I got my Brazilian-released DVD.)
7 stars out of 10.
Attached Files
File Type: mp3 Necronomicon intro.mp3 (215.5 KB, 1 views)
File Type: mp3 In This Time Of Need.mp3 (148.3 KB, 3 views)
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Last edited by ablethevoice; 01-01-2008 at 05:24 PM. Reason: fixed some crappy sentence structure and tweaked some other stuff
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Old 01-01-2008   #2
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Re: Necronomicon (DTV 1993)

I wanted to mention this in the original post, but as I said in another thread, I actually hit "full" in the above post and had to edit the piss out of it:

This concept of using some sort of book or document in order to make a purely fictional story seem more realistic was borrowed by none other than Michael Crichton in his first published book "THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN". He includes a bibliography at the end of the book with "scientific papers" written by characters introduced in the story which turn out to be wholly fictitious. Not only are the papers fiction, but the characters are as well but for a long time when I was much younger, I actually believed at least a part of TAS story had actually occurred and some of these scientists actually existed.
Now, if a much more sophisticated reading audience of 1969 could - at least momentarily - be fooled (or at least influenced) by such a trick, think of how much more effective it must have been to the much simpler reader of 192-something when they ran across a reference to The Necronomicon and thinking there really was a book full of occult spells which could raise the dead or open gateways to other dimensions to allow malevolent creatures into our nice tidy universe.

One last thing: Lovecraft wasn't a Satanist by any means, or even at all a religious person; in fact he was such a realist he didn't believe for a moment in souls or any kind of consciousness after human death which makes his success in creating these stories somewhat remarkable. His concept of what he called "evil" was that these creatures were so different from us that they would and could actually treat humanity with such a monumental indifference that we humans could only describe them as evil although it would be the same kind of "evil" an ant might consider us (if ants were capable of "considering" anything at all...) should we destroy an ant nest in order to build a house on the place the nest once occupied. He further considered any person who would willingly use the Book to open these gateways as the real evil, bringing destruction upon Humanity for their own selfish ends.
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"There Is No Religion Higher Than Truth." - Motto of the Theosophical Society

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein

"The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits." —Albert Einstein

“It's fortunate for governments that people don't think." - Adolph Hitler

Sturkis akidit ("shit happens") - Latin


Bent Ears Audio Laboratories - Better Music Through Chemistry

MUSIC IS LIKE CANDY. IT'S ONLY GOOD WHEN YOU GET RID OF ALL THE RAPPERS.
))#####D~~~~ (_l_)
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Old 01-02-2008   #3
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Re: Necronomicon (DTV 1993)

Tom... why do you post all of these (old) movies? Not many of them get a lot of replies... but it seems you post one every other day or so... Just wondering why you feel obligated I guess...
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Old 01-02-2008   #4
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Re: Necronomicon (DTV 1993)

Because maybe someone would like them. I don't know anyone with whom I can discuss these films. Sometimes I feel as if I'm the only one who has seen them. Especially the Lovecraft products.
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"There Is No Religion Higher Than Truth." - Motto of the Theosophical Society

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Albert Einstein

"The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits." —Albert Einstein

“It's fortunate for governments that people don't think." - Adolph Hitler

Sturkis akidit ("shit happens") - Latin


Bent Ears Audio Laboratories - Better Music Through Chemistry

MUSIC IS LIKE CANDY. IT'S ONLY GOOD WHEN YOU GET RID OF ALL THE RAPPERS.
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Last edited by ablethevoice; 07-27-2009 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 01-02-2008   #5
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Re: Necronomicon (DTV 1993)

I think your the only person here who has seem most of the movies you've posted... and me... Im not a big movie person, maybe with friends, but never by myself....
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