H.P. Lovecraft's The Deep Ones Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by Crappy World Films
Directed by Chad Ferrin
Written by Chad Ferrin and H.P. Lovecraft
2020, 73 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Grimmfest European Premiere on 9th October 2020
Gina La Piana as Alex
Robert Miano as Russel Marsh
Johann Urb as Petri
Silvia Spross as Ingrid Krauer
Kelli Maroney as Ambrose Zadok
Yes, it’s a cliche that an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is very tricky to get right. The more subtle movies (hey, The Endless) generally get ignored, while exploitative schlock like Humanoids from the Deep concentrate more on his knowingly pulpy side. Director Stuart Gordon (RIP) had found a midway pitch that translated Lovecraft successfully into classic movies like Re-animator. Dagon is another great example of his talent, though it's played more seriously, and it’s a great adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth - a fishy tale of monsters, hidden ancestries and terrifying villages by the sea. This Deep Ones film bears a dedication to Gordon, and it’s probably best seen as an enthusiastic fan film tribute to him, than as a true stab at capturing Lovecraftian dread.
Drawing from The Shadow Over Innsmouth immediately draws comparison to the superior Dagon. A handsome couple have come to visit - or possibly live - at a pretty beach house with a distractingly awesome front door. Here, their landlord and his very pregnant wife greet them a bit too enthusiastically. Soon, someone is filming this couple without their knowledge. They soon get to know the community, and its inhabitants are kookier than decade of Burning Man festivals. Obviously something odd is going on here - and that’s before the glowing vaginas, creepy little girl and cross-dressing Doctor turn up. And there’s something very sinister about that overly-pregnant belly...
It becomes a forced hybrid of Rosemary’s Baby and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and at best you’re annoyed by it borrowing from these much better movies. But while Rosemary’s Baby knew exactly how much to show, there’s not much subtly here. The Deep Ones is a typical pulp horror comic book brought to life. There are tentacles everywhere, spurting from unexpected orifices, gushing with unsubtle rape metaphors and spattered with nudity whether you wanted it or not. Which, if you like this genre at all, are kind of what you came for. Right?
But The Deep Ones’ worst crime is inertia. There are far too many scenes of two people discussing marital issues over a glass of dodgy wine - for a really, really long time. The film just kind of… sits there, throwing Lovecraft references at you - Look! The Necronomicon! Look! A character named after the drunk in Shadow over Innsmouth! Until, thank Cthulhu, the monsters finally pop out to deliver a twist that seems inevitable, but also rather hollow.
Honestly, I really wanted to like this. It’s so close to knowing what it's doing. It looks confusingly good throughout, and the older actors and creepy little girls do have the chops to suggest an otherworldly presence from the Great Old Ones, on the verge of spilling through in an unholy manner. But it all comes to nothing. The pay off makes some sense, but leaves us with even more questions. And then there’s the much bigger monster problem. The flaccid tentacles dangle obviously from strings, and its Deep One beastie would embarrass Pertwee-era Doctor Who (the Sea Devils are far scarier). That’s the trouble with showing everything. It’s neither scary, nor shocking. It's just a let-down.
Overall, I can see what this was going for, and it’s actually not the worst Lovecraftian attempt out there - but be warned, it’s not as promising as descriptions of glowing vagina tentacles and hilariously bad monster suits might make it sound. Basically, if you’re after real Lovecraftian horror, search out Dagon or Re-animator, and toast Gordon to those instead, or at least drink heavily before imbibing this particular hybrid.
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