"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents ... but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
-- The Call of Cthulhu, 1926
It's observations such as this which have led to H. P. Lovecraft's revival as the pop-prophet of secular twenty-first-century doom. And kids love him! They buy "Sea Creature" masks and chant "Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl ftaghn!" on the playground. When they send their ftaghn's via text message, they add emphasis with eldritch emoticons: \(;,,;)/
As they grow more sophisticated, they play diabolically complex board games – like Arkham Horror, which comes with dozens of individual decks of cards and moving markers, and which Rock, Paper, Shotgun sums up (not unaffectionately) as a "million moving parts coming together to simulate a terrible alien intelligence," or alternately, "a clockwork terror machine, designed to break you the fuck down." They begin to lament how few film adaptations have really managed to capture the artful squalor and dread of the Lovecraft mythos. Usually John Carpenter's “The Thing” is mentioned reverently, despite it not technically being based on any of the stories.
Eventually some of these kids take that challenge upon themselves. Guillermo del Toro has spent most of the last decade trying to bring At the Mountains of Madness to the silver screen (and now thanks to James Cameron, it looks like he will succeed). For those operating outside the studio system, the way is even darker and more perilous – and yet the results can be so satisfying. The silent, fan-sourced adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society in 2005 (streaming at Netflix "in genuine Mythoscope!") runs a lean, clean forty-seven minutes and has gathered a healthy following among everyday humans as well as cultists. This success has inspired the same team to tackle a much larger, broader project: a full-length talkie based on The Whisperer in Darkness, in which a professor researches the astonishing claims of a possibly deranged mountain man (trailer above).
Another very creepy trailer here. The team's production blog suggests that Whisperer is imminent, and director Sean Branney had this news to share with Word&Film: "Our composer is working his fingers to the bone ... Barring serious setbacks, the film should be in its final state in about three weeks. We're finalizing the preliminary poster design and will have new Whisperer shirt available in the next week or so. We can't tell you how excited we are to be so very close to the finish line. We're pleased with the film and are eager to share it with the world. It's been a long time in the making."
Could be just the thing to tide fans over until del Toro's big-budget 3-D monstrosity is unveiled. Keep an eye out for Whisperer at festivals in 2011 – or if you aren't "out" as a Lovecraftian yet, screen at home with a few carefully chosen friends, a seafood buffet, and some green Charteuse. Sea creature masks optional.