Cast a Deadly Spell (1991 IMDb)

Viewing

Seen in 2016.

Categorization

Noir fantasy comedy. As stated in a USA Today review quoted on the VHS cover, it's Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) with “witches and zombies instead of toons.”

Subject

A private eye named H. Philip Lovecraft prevents apocalypse in 1948. But it starts with a dame.

Commentary

As a shallow noir pastiche it's pleasant enough, just too clean, but it shits all over Lovecraft. The creature effects are knowingly terrible, including a dancing actor in a rubber gargoyle suit. The magic is in the style of anthropocentric medieval superstition, all mugwort and virgin sacrifice. The basic premiss is that a wizard tries to let the Old Ones into our world, which is D&D's view of them as outsiders rather than Lovecraft's view of them as natural and pervasive or dormant. The wizard's motivation is that he'll be elevated to the status of a god, which also doesn't match HPL's themes. There are no cultists here, no nihilism. The moralism of this lazy rehash comes complete with a Bible quote passed off as if it described the Necronomicon. The writer should probably have braved the fundamentalists and gone with a straight Satanic premiss. Abandoning references to Lovecraft is better than massively distorting his work like this. The other solution, a more faithful adaptation, might actually have helped the comedy.

H. P. Lovecraft movie