Whispering the Darkness

As perspicacious readers might have inferred despite my reticence in openly discussing the matter, I am not unfond of Lovecraft’s work and cosmic dread in general. So, I was most joyous to discover Matt Hundley’s film-length adaptation of The Whisperer in Darkness; while it is not perfect, it inclines strongly toward my preferred approach in key areas.

First, as with the HP Lovecraft Historical Society film adaptations, Hundley deliberately replicates the aesthetics of an old black-and-white movie. This unconsciously primed my brain to expect everything to be slightly stylised rather than “real”, so when the Mi-Go appear my mind disregarded a significant amount of fakery which made them—if not actually reason-defying—unnerving rather than comical.

Second, he replaces some of the letters describing events with actual scenes of those events. While Lovecraft’s heavy use of recounting of prior events works when reading because everything in prose is a written description provoking imagery, the intermediary effect of a character interacting with the document on screen creates an unfortunate distance (indeed the scenes in this film where the actor playing Wilmarth strives to convey the disturbing nature of the bundle of documents are the ones that worked least well for me).

Third, he minimises the amount of rubbery masks slathered with slime or gore. While the Gordon-Yuzna approach to adaptations is popular, cosmic horror is the epitome of a cerebral horror—centred not on the painfulness or brutality of the death but the undercutting of any meaning at all—so rubbery spattergore feels a little dissonant to me and would have felt doubly so here given one of the core horrors of Whisperer is absence of body.

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