Andrew H. Leman's The Call of Cthulu, made in 2005, was deliberately designed to resemble -- in style, look, and approach -- a release of 80 years earlier vintage. A modern silent movie, it revels in visual styles and acting of a type that most audiences gave up for dead with the coming of sound at the end of the 1920s. And what makes this occult horror film such a marvel is that it succeeds precisely in revitalizing both those archaic styles and the emotional resonances that they carried, in modern terms. This is the kind of production that the late writer-director-producer Michael Powell would have adored -- Powell, who entered the movie business during the silent era but never directed a silent movie, used to describe the silents, when seen and shown properly, as existing in a continuum and reality that was all their own, akin to the total-immersion experience of opera (and the nearest that he got to making a silent was his adaptation of the opera The Tales of Hoffmann). Cthulu director Andre H. Leman and writer/producer Sean Branney have successfully created a modern-day entre into that other-worldly experience. Much of the movie owes a lot to German expressionism, as one would expect, and such touchstones of the horror/fantasy genre as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis -- they haven't pushed the envelope too far in terms of anything new, just followed all of the rules to the letter and told an eerie and ominous story about madness and horror in the process. Watching the movie, one may forget, at times, that it is a twenty-first century creation -- David Robertson's cinematography has a way of making even the most innocuous-looking building fronts look threatening and somehow off-balance and eerie. The performances take an approach that hasn't been seen too often in movies since the days of John Gilbert, but within that context, it is all effective, and some of the performers, in their nuances and makeup, recall specific actors of the silent era such as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Louis Wolheim.
by Bruce Eder review