The Whisperer in Darkness
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Celebrated author H.P. Lovecraft's classic tale of alien horror bursts onto the screen in the style of the classic horror films of the 1930s. Professor Albert Wilmarth investigates legends of strange creatures in the remote hills of Vermont. His inquiry reveals a terrifying glimpse of the truth that lurks behind the legends. Filmed in the style of the classic 1930s films such as Frankenstein and King Kong, The Whisperer in Darkness is a thrilling adventure of supernatural horror.
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That's not to say it won't appeal to outsiders. If you like 50's style Scifi it's right in the sweet spot. The only weak point is the monster design (which I'm not nuts about) but they did a perfectly fine job and it all fits in with the mood of the piece. Whisperer feels like a 50's style scifi monster movie, partially because the story it's based on laid the groundwork for that genre. There is some genuine suspense and plenty of atmosphere, as well as a few genuinely sad moments that surprised me. It could have been campy, but the film delivers.
This is a great example of how love and commitment can create great work that others have written off as unfilmable. The truth is Lovecraft isn't un-filmable, it just can't be achieved if you're trying to please a slasher film demographic as well as a Wierd Fiction one (although I know plenty of people who like both) and do so using only the rudimentary echoes of the original stories.
So yes I recommend it, over any Lovecraft adaptation that calls itself such. I will purchase the title if only to encourage them to make more!
With 'Whisperer', they opted to make a sound movie...in homage to the Universal 'creature features' of the 1930's. Unfortunately, when you add sound, the increased verisimilitude makes it imperative that sure-handed direction, taut editing, a compelling script, decent effects and solid acting are all present. 'Whisperer in Darkness' misses to some degree on almost all of these...especially acting. Matt Foyer as Albert Wilmarth is the biggest problem here. His entire acting range is limited to mugging, while looking sour, pensive or frightened. In 'Cluthu', that worked very well, as those were the only emotions his character was supposed to register...and, silent movies call for exaggerated facial expressions. In a sound movie, subtle body language is key, along with coordinated use of voice and facial expressions.
Martin Wately as Walter Brown is another key offender...broadcasting his vile character's intentions with all the subtlety of Snidely Whiplash. The director shares blame for this, as it was his job to keep the performances of his actors in service to the overall tale. Its a shame, because most of the supporting cast does a terrific job with their characterizations.
The script works rather well for the first two acts...when they are following Lovecraft's original tale. However, the tacked-on third act suffers from having Wilmarth suddenly transform from a clueless dick, into Dick Tracy. Suddenly, he follows clues, makes discoveries, thwarts the villains...and, even knows how to fly a bi-plane! Other than the fact that none of it jibes with his character up to that point, its just dandy. In addition, a young girl is added to the story/script as a very weak deus ex machina, to shore up the poor writing...then, quickly killed off.
Oh, about that bi-plane flight: It added nothing whatsoever to the narrative...other then padding the film's running time; and, the opening credits of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can boast much better effects. The laugh-ability of the scene was exacerbated by flaccid editing; so, what should have been the script's highlight turned into yet another 'jumped shark'.
If I sound harsh, its because there was so much to admire and enjoy in the first two acts of 'Whisperer'. Even the off-key performances were tolerable in light of the spooky tale being well-told. However, the third act took what should have been a memorable new-old spookfest, and made it merely mediocre.