Review: Cthulhu (2007)

Word among my wife’s circle of friends was that the 2007 movie Cthulhu was wretchedly bad. If you are bad movie fanatics like we are, this was reason to place the movie on our Netflix queue. No question about it, Cthulhu is a stinker of a movie. However, it languishes somewhere between mediocre and abysmal. I have seen much worse than this, but certainly not recently.

Perhaps I would rate this clunker lower if it were not that some of the actors actually seem to be trying. Jason Cottle plays Russ, a reputedly brilliant university professor in the Pacific Northwest who is reluctantly drawn home because of the untimely passing of his mother. That and there is the small matter that Armageddon is at hand. While we see him driving home to the funeral, we hear on the radio all these terrible things about the end of the world, like rising sea levels and global anarchy. Not much of it is actually borne out on film though because that would, like, cost money, although the budget was big enough to include one overturned car.

Russ turns out to be gay, which is fine by him, but not so fine with his weird dysfunctional family. Russ’s domineering father is particularly unhappy with his sexual orientation but as we learn later it is not because he is particularly homophobic. Nor does he seem particularly broken up by the passing of his spouse. Russ’s sister Dannie (Cara Buono) tries to play family peacemaker, but everyone at the old homestead seems very concerned about Russ passing on his DNA to another generation. That’s pretty hard when the idea of making love to a woman gives you the hives.

Russ does find himself rather curious when one evening he sees a row of hooded priests, looking like they came out of The Da Vinci Code, climbing out of boats and into an old warehouse along the wharf. Curiosity leads him inside where he finds outlined on chalk on the floor the names of many of the townspeople. What could it possibly mean other than they were being cheap? Should we care?

For someone who seems to want to rush back to academia he seems to ask many questions and spends inordinate amounts of time in and under creepy warehouses. Part of his motivation for hanging around is to catch up with an old family friend, whom he conveniently seduces. Through his friend, he learns about a mysterious book that could explain all the weird things going on in town. A clerk at a convenience store warns him to stay away from the old warehouse by the wharf. However, if he is crazy enough to investigate the place would be please look for her younger brother who disappeared some years earlier?

It turns out what Russ really has to worry about is Tori Spelling. Tori plays Susan, the friend who allegedly harbors the old book that explains the weird things Russ is witnessing. Tori’s presence in a movie is almost an imprimatur of its badness. She is sort of like Adrienne Barbeau’s was in movies a few decades back, and she comes with Barbeau’s ample cleavage. Susan has a husband who is conveniently paraplegic and sterile. In fact, his visit is a setup because Susan is on a mission to become impregnated. Of course not just anyone will do, as we learn later. It’s got to be Russ.

So Susan plays the role of hussy. This one seduction scene is very strange and is perhaps the comic highlight of this lowlife movie, rendering what is probably the silliest scene filmed in the last decade. Fortunately for bad movie buffs, there is plenty more here to wallow over. The movie is tangentially related to H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories wherein Cthulhu apparently is a pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque scaly body with rudimentary wings. No such critter is manifested here of course, as there was no budget for that, but there is a sort of Swamp Thing scene at the very end of the movie. Russ’s father and his kind live near an island off Antarctica and spend most of their long lives in the ocean. They apparently manifest as humans from time to time, and use human females to procreate. Yeah, this is pretty convoluted but it explains why Susan is putting the moves on a gay guy.

The movie suffers from the classic symptoms of a bad movie: no budget to speak of, mostly unknown actors, an incoherent script, dialog that doesn’t make much sense and a director (Dan Gildark) that doesn’t give much of a damn. What’s puzzling is that in spite of these problems some of the actors are trying to do something with the material. It is all for naught but perhaps it somewhat immunized them from having careers completely destroyed. Every actor is entitled to at least one clunker. Unfortunately, this one sinks like deadweight.

Cthulhu then comes across as something like a Coen Brothers movie if the brothers were drunk while making the film. It is undeniably an odd little movie. Do not spend too much time trying to connect the plot points because you really cannot. Marvel instead that even though this is a really bad movie, it could still be plenty worse.

If you like an occasional bad movie though, this is definitely one to add to your list.

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