Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

Anthology films by design are almost always uneven affairs, and Necronomicon is no exception; however, which of the three tales herein a viewer finds the weakest (or strongest) may well depend upon his or her familiarity with or fondness for H.P. Lovecraft, whose works are the film's inspiration. Lovecraft was an obsessive writer, drawn to writing about unnamable and indescribable horrors of a mystical nature; tension runs high in Lovecraft and the characters experience extreme horror and revulsion, but actual gore is kept to a minimum. In Necronomicon, the most Lovecraftian sequence is the first, which is directed with great care and precision by Christophe Gans. The author's fans will find this far and away the highlight of the film, even though, like the other segments, it takes significant liberties with the tale that is its basis. The middle sequence is the "tamest" of the lot and is somewhat lacking in surprise, but it's still rather enjoyable. The final sequence strays the farthest from Lovecraft, although it does a fine job of creating the sense of disorientation being thrust upon a person that Lovecraft favored. Unfortunately, it is far and away the grisliest, as well as the most predictable. The writing is strongest in the first, and progressively weaker in the two remaining; but the middle contains a particularly fine performance from David Warner and the last contains a couple of macabre turns from Don Calfa and Judith Drake. Jeffrey Combs scores as Lovecraft in the wraparound sequence. The makeup and effects throughout are impressive, if sometimes excessive. The end result is a hit-and-miss affair, but a good bet for fans of the genre.