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Director Dan Gildark Answers Call, Explains His Cthulhu

last week that Dan Gildark’s Cthulhu would finally see a theatrical release on August 22. The movie has been disparaged pretty evenly by H.P. Lovecraft well-wishers and role-players (and they are legion), but most of them haven’t seen it. Their grudges, however, can be reduced to three basic points:

1. The film takes place in the gloomy Pacific Northwest, not gloomy New England.
2. The title is misleading, since film is actually based on the story The Shadow Over Innsmouth and doesn’t actually feature Old Squid-Face himself at all.
3. The biggest name in the cast is Tori Spelling.

I could see where the first two points are coming from. As for the third, get over it: Anyone who saw The House of Yes knows what our gal Tori can do with a meaty supporting role. Not having seen the film either, I decided to get in touch with Daniel Gildark himself and straighten everything out.

It’s impossible to dance around the subject of the extreme negativity Cthulhu has
inspired, so Gildark doesn’t bother. “There’s a lot of sidelong
glances… ‘Didn’t this thing die on the vine? Why the hell is it
coming up now?'” he says, mimicking reactions to news of the release.
“After a while, a lot of people had sort of let it go, but now that the
film’s finally coming out, it’s just stirring the pot again.” (One
thing these naysayers ought to consider: The version debuting in August
is a significantly different cut of the film than the one screened at
festivals, and shorter by about 15 minutes.)

Gildark strongly feels that the mythos is universal, and thus
updating the story’s setting poses no threat to the author’s original
intent. “My screenwriter, Grant Cogswell, had been reading Lovecraft as
he traveled cross-country, and seeing the desolation of strip malls and
highways everywhere really resonated with him. Because the stories are
really a radical metaphor for where we are now,” he says, “the idea of
these powers beyond our perception, that we have no control over,
trying to destroy the world.”

“The story that really stood out to me was The Shadow Over Innsmouth,”
Gildark recalls. “It had parallels to all these friends of ours who
were gay, or were artists, who had grown up in small-town America but
moved to the city to find themselves — which, in our case, was
Seattle. Later in life, though, you get pulled back; when there is a
death in the family for example. And as you know, a big theme for
Lovecraft was the inevitable horror of heredity, not being able to
escape who you are. So though I came to Lovecraft late, it really
struck a chord with me thanks to that combination of the world’s
situation and the personal connection to the people we knew.”

So what about the title? “We knew we’d get beef from the fanbase
early on when we decided to stick with that title,” he admits, “If you
take a step back though, and look at the pantheon of Lovecraft’s work
and the mythos he created, then it’s more than just a creature or a
being — for me the word Cthulhu really embodies all those
forces that operate outside our perception, the whole idea that we have
no control over our universe. I really wanted to stick with it because
of what that word represents in a larger sense. It gets to the heart of
what the movie is.” Gildark accepts his haters, but doesn’t feel they
speak for all Lovecraftians. “The fanbase that’s more into the RPG side
of things is really apprehensive about the film,” he comments. “But
then the best responses also come from the true base, and people who’ve
actually seen it. We went to the H.P. Lovecraft film festival in 2007
and won an award.”

There’s still plenty of time for purists to continue to dog the
film, but Gildark and Cogswell’s vision may be a valuable contribution
to the mythos we all know and love (and secretly dread). Considering
the dearth of interesting Lovecraft adaptations out there (remember,
he’s often referred to as “unfilmable”), isn’t there room at the table for a movie that’s interesting because it’s
a departure from the source material, not in spite of that fact? And
doesn’t Tori Spelling have more friends that can vote on IMDB and
improve the film’s ranking? Look for the answers to all these questions
later this summer when Cthulhu finally rises.

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