Review of Cast a Deadly Spell (1991)

Moving picture, 96 minutes

Seen in 2016.

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

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.” As a shallow 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 premise 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 variously 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 quote from The Bible (ca. 110 CE) passed off as if it described the Necronomicon. The writer should probably have braved the fundamentalists and gone with a straight Satanic premise. Abandoning references to Lovecraft is better than massively distorting his work like this. The other solution, a more faithful adaptation, might have helped the comedy.

moving picture fiction