Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Dreaming God

Dreams of Cthulhu - The Rough Magik Initiative (2004? sources differ, directed by Bob Fugger and Christian Matzke) was originally shot circa 1999 as a pilot for a BBC series. The story follows a shadowy organization called "The Night Scholars," led by the aggressive Mr. Moon, as they investigate a ritual murder in which a mother killed her children as an offering to the dreaming god, Cthulhu. Toward this end, they recruit one Kenneth Warren, a gallery owner and former combat psychologist with considerable psychic trauma from a stint in the Falklands war (though the source of that trauma came from another source). Under the influence of a special drug, he recounts that event, in which he came face to face with the reality of the sleeping god.

This looks more or less like what you might expect a failed BBC pilot might look; it plays like an ur-Torchwood on a much lower budget. It's better than eighties or nineties-era Dr. Who, but it has that feel, the nods to Lovecraft and his vast cosmic horrors not withstanding. It also has a tendency to wander off the point. After starting with the scene where a woman murders her children after reciting a prayer to Cthulhu, it utterly fails to connect it with the main narrative of Warren's ordeal in the Falklands. Presumably, this might have been resolved in future episodes, which is the implication of the final scene documenting all the dreaming cultists The Night Scholars have rounded up. I imagine that a series might have been fun, but lacking one, this standalone doesn't really stand alone, if you know what I mean.

Visually, this makes good use of its shot on video production values, but it seems weirdly de-populated (presumably for budgetary reasons). Maybe it's just me, but video seems antithetical to creating the mood for horror. There's something about film that enhances an ambiance of menace. Maybe it's just familiarity from decades of television. I don't know. In any event, I felt that visual disconnect while watching this. The actors are mostly good, though they tend to overplay things a bit. Certainly, Mr. Moon is a big ball of testiness. It does manage to hint at the horrors of its literary pedigree, too, especially with a grisly tableau late in the film, but this could have dispensed with the Lovecraftian associations to similar effect had it wanted to.

For the most part, this is a mixed bag.

Current Challenge tally:

Total Viewings: 26

First Time Viewings: 26

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