Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Necronomicon:The Book of the Dead

Film: Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead
Format: Internet video on laptop.

One problem with one of my horror lists is that it goes for the obscure. Actually, that’s sort of the point of that list—it’s worthwhile horror movies that most people have managed to miss. What this means is that some of these are a bitch to find, so when I locate one online, it’s generally a good thing, because that’s the only way I get to see it. With Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead (sometimes known as just Necronomicon), finding a copy online was exciting; this is a film I’ve been looking for since I added that list to my site.

I didn’t realize, but should have based on the name, that Necronomicon is an anthology. There’s naturally a framing story and three other shorts that combine into a film just a touch longer than 90 minutes. The framing story consists of H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs, who is sporting a fake chin a la Bruce Campbell) entering an ancient library and sneaking off to a forbidden room to read through the Necronomicon. Each of the three stories all take place in more or less the present despite Lovecraft’s story being in the past. Evidently, this means that the stories in the book are either predestined or somehow prescient. Anyway, the framing story appears briefly between the stories as well and then comes up at the end to close the film.

The first story, called “The Drowned,” takes place in an old hotel. A man named Edward De Lapoer (Bruce Payne) has inherited the old hotel and has been finally tracked down to claim it. The hotel has an ugly history; several generations previous, Jethro De Lapoer (Richard Lynch) and his family suffered a shipwreck off the coast. Both his wife and son were killed. Forsaking his religion, Jethro uses the Necronomicon to raise his wife and child from the dead, but they return as monsters, forcing Jethro to kill himself. Undaunted by this story, Edward finds the book and uses it to reanimate his wife, who was killed in a car accident some time previous.

The middle story, “The Cold,” has a surface resemblance to Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” A reporter (Dennis Christopher) comes to an old house looking for a story on the mysterious deaths of a number of people in the neighborhood. He is told a bizarre tale by the resident of the house (Bess Meyer) about the former resident. This man, Dr. Madden (David Warner), conducted a series of bizarre experiments in life extension that involved both extreme cold and the use of spinal fluid from his victims. This story gets fairly weird and a bit nasty in places, and is perhaps a bit more predictable than the other two.

The final story is called “Whispers” and has a plot that defies easy summarizing. Suffice to say that a pair of police officers (Signy Coleman and Obba Babatunde) respond to a call and get considerably more than they bargained for. This story involves weird bat-like creatures, an extremely disturbing couple (Don Calfa and Judith Drake), and a craving for bone marrow.

Necronomicon is mildly frustrating in the sense that while the stories get progressively more disturbing and much gorier, the effects get progressively worse and worse. Some of the effects in the third story and the final bit of the framing are barely qualified as amateur while some of the earlier effects are actually pretty good. But as the gore increases, the quality of what is happening on screen gets worse and worse, which is kind of a shame. By the time we get to the third story, the gore becomes almost an environment. This also has the most disturbing ending of the three tales.

Necronomicon is not the sort of film that wins a lot of awards, and it’s not meant to. It’s meant to be gross and disturbing, and parts of it manage one or the other. A few parts manage to be both. It’s hard to take too seriously, though, which is precisely what makes it an entertaining horror film. Little kids will certainly wind up with nightmares here. Others will find parts of the film to be particularly memorable and/or disgusting, but not terribly frightening.

If you can find this and you like low-budget horror, you could do a lot worse than spend your time with Necronomicon.

Why to watch Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead: Gory, goofy fun based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Why not to watch: Some of the special effects are damn ridiculous.

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