That established, this movie is a pretty good attempt to make a "Lovecraftian" movie, in that it wasn't an abject failure. Instead of trying to film a single story, Carpenter and De Luca crafted a synthetic work that deals with most of Lovecraft's major themes in a manner that misses the mark but makes a good effort. Sam Neill plays John Trent, an expert insurance investigator hired by publisher Jackson Harglow (played by Charlton Heston) to track down a missing author. That author, named Sutter Cane (played by Jurgen Prochnow) in a poke at Stephen King, writes nasty little books about lurking demons that are searching for a way into our world (much like Lovecraft's fiction). His rabid fans are prone to fits of violence, prompting some to believe that his words have more truth to them than it would seem. Harglow sends editor Linda Styles (Julie Carmen) along on the trip to find the author. Their search leads them to the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire, the site of a fictional town where Crane bases his stories. After a freaky nighttime drive, they seemingly end up in Hobbs End, that very fictional town. The place is empty, but they quickly learn that every detail in the novels is there in reality, including a demonic church where the demons are supposed to escape from. Trent is convinced the whole thing is a publicity stunt, but ensuing events shake his belief in his opinion and in reality.
So, why doesn't it work? Well, it relies a little too much on shock techniques, including rapid shots of prosthetic monsters to establish a nightmare quality that doesn't really take hold. Carpenter can't establish the kind of welling dread that Lovecraft conjured, so he shifts to makeup and pyrotechnics. That was his problem with "The Thing", too, now that I think of it. The story idea is wonderful, but it, like most of Lovecraft's work, just works better on paper. I know critics claim that the written word is necessarily different than film, and that one shouldn't try to compare them. The problem is, I agree with them. However, I think my knowledge of the source made me enjoy the film more than someone coming to it cold. I could see what they were trying to do, and appreciated the things that worked.
Basically, go read some Lovecraft. Start with "Pickman's Model," one of his best short stories. It's the best short introduction to his world.
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