NECRONOMICON (1993) – The Dungeon Review!
Hey! Hey! It’s another 90s film! You can expect a couple more before the month ends! How wrong could you go with an anthology based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft (loosely based as it might be) with Brian Yuzna directing a segment and the wraparound story and the great Jeffrey Combs playing Mr. Lovecraft? There was definitely potential for awesomeness! Well, awesome it is not, but it does have some admirable qualities. Necronomicon is three stories with three different directors. The story that connects the trilogy sees H.P. Lovecraft finding the Necronomicon and reading three of its gnarly tales. Warning SPOILERS ahead.
The Drowned is directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf, Silent Hill) and is quite impressive visually. A dilapidated old mansion is the setting for this story. Edward de Lapoer has inherited the old mansion and finds the diary of his relative that tells of how he resurrected his dead wife and son. This great opening flashback scene was promising but the rest of the film that focuses on Edward was rather tiresome. The Drowned really does lose its mojo something awful once its story returns to the present which makes up half of its runtime. Edward immediately seeks out the Necronomicon which is hiding behind a portrait and bad things happen. What saved The Drowned from being a complete wash were some pretty damn nifty creature effects. It has an awesome Cthulhu-esque sea creature thing that makes an appearance in the finale. The Drowned was definitely my least favourite of the trio but it was not without a few highlights.
The Cold is directed by Shûsuke Kaneko (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Crossfire, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) and has the most cohesive story of the three. I enjoyed this tale despite its rather obvious final twist. A reporter is sent to the home of a woman they believe is connected to several murders. The woman tells the reporter how she came to be in the former home of Dr. Madden. The story she relays is that of her mother Emily and how she came to meet and fall in love with the doctor who learned the secret of eternal life. I wasn’t super crazy about the Emily Character played by Bess Meyer but Dr. Madden played by the talented David Warner was a real highlight. I didn’t think Warner and Meyer had any chemistry and I found it hard to buy that Madden would fall for this woman. There isn’t much in the way of special effects in this segment; what little is included didn’t look too bad though. The Cold is flawed, but I enjoyed the story and Warner enough to say I found it fairly entertaining.
Whispers is directed by Brian Yuzna (Society, Bride of Re-Animator, The Dentist, Progeny, Return of the Living Dead III) and was my favourite of the three. It is definitely light on story but the visuals are something else! A pregnant cop named Sarah and her partner/lover Paul are in a car accident and Paul is pulled out of the vehicle and dragged away. Sarah frees herself and pursues the man they call The Butcher. This is definitely the nastiest and goriest of the segments. There are some really neato effects and creatures in this one. The building and its many room, halls and hidden passages are properly spooky and creepy. Nothing beats the cave scene with Sarah’s discovery of Paul and the ugly flying beasts! Oh and what a properly wonderful grim ending! Despite a flimsy story Whispers is a helluva lot of fun to watch!
Necronomicon ends with the H.P. Lovecraft connecting story. The finale did feel a bit rushed and I think they re-used the monster from the first segment, but it is energetic and Yuzna throws in some funky looking effects and a pretty cool creature! Jeffrey Combs is always some fun ain’t he?
Necronomicon is flawed all over the place but definitely has its share of memorable moments. Most anthologies have a weak link and that is certainly the case with Necronomicon’s first story The Drowned. Each of the films, even The Drowned has at least a little something to offer although I can not say any of these stories blew me away. As is the case with most Lovecraft adaptations I’ve seen they take plenty of liberties with the material and a limited budget prevents it from meeting the sheer spectacularness of Lovecraft’s written word. That said there are certainly a few Lovecraft adaptations that kick some rather serious ass; I would not call Necronomicon one of them. My feelings about Necronomicon overall are a bit lukewarm, but it is not a bad way to spend 90ish minutes. Lightly recommended.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: Christophe Gans, Shûsuke Kaneko, Brian Yuzna
Starring: Jeffrey Combs, Tony Azito, Juan Fernández, Brian Yuzna, Bruce Payne, Belinda Bauer, Richard Lynch, Maria Ford, Peter Jasienski, Denice D. Lewis, William Jess Russell, Vladimir Kulich, David Warner, Bess Meyer, Millie Perkins, Dennis Christopher, Gary Graham, Curt Lowens, James Paradise, Sebastian White, Signy Coleman, Obba Babatundé, Don Calfa, Judith Drake