Normally I love anthology films, so given that I’ve enjoyed all the films based on H.P. Lovecraft’s works so far I figured this one would be a blast. But it wasn’t, for a number of reasons. But mainly it just couldn’t manage to hold my interest. The stories just felt too drawn out, which is strange since they’re loosely based on some of Lovecraft’s novellas and short stories. Well except for the wrap around story that end caps the film, Jeffery Combs as H.P. Lovecraft did a great job and I found myself a couple of time looking forward to the end of segments in favor of Combs sections. I feel the filmmakers should have either trimmed down the stories they went with an added a fourth or simply spent more time polishing the scripts for the three shorts. Which when put side by side, some (The wrap around and The Cold) are markedly better than the other parts, most notably The Drowned which felt the weakest of the stories to me.
Necronomicon is broken in four separate stories, the first story “The Library” serves as a wrap around for the rest of the film, tying the stories together in a more cohesive whole. In this story H.P. Lovecraft (Jeffery Combs) learns of a copy of the Necronomicon existing within the sealed vaults a monastery that he frequents, doing research for his stories from their old texts. Under the pretense of looking for another volume, Lovecraft steals a key from the head monk and sneaks down the vault to acquire the Necronomicon. Once inside the vault the door closes behind him, causing him to become startled and drop the key. Which falls through the floor into the water underneath, also unlocking a seal behind where the book is stored. He then reads the Necronomicon, which knows of events that come have yet to pass, as for the book they already have. The monks find out about the stolen key and of Lovecraft’s intentions and rush to the vaults…
The first of the story’s read by Lovecraft is “The Drowned” features a story within a story, which gets a bit annoying given that this already one. Edward De LaPoer (Bruce Payne) inherits a hotel from his now deceased Uncle Jethro De LaPoer (Richard Lynch). He also receives a letter which tells his uncle’s story. That how after the death of his wife and child, he renounced god and stated that no god that takes from him is welcome in his home. That night a strange fisherman arrives and gives him a copy of Necromonicon. Jethro wastes no time in using its secrets to bring back his dead wife and son. Who return as inhuman monsters with glowing green eyes and tentacles in their mouths. Jethro ends up taking his own life casting himself from a window. Edward using clues left in his uncle’s letter finds the copy of Necromonicon and uses it to return his own wife, who had died years before in a car accident that Edward was responsible for. When she returns Edward is disgusted and pushes her away, which leads to Edward confronting both his returned wife and the monster that dwells below…
The second story “The Cold” is again a story within a story. Reporter Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher) is looking into a string of serial murders in Boston that have stretched over the last seventy years. His investigations bring him to the home of Emily (Bess Meyer) and finds her home to be incredibly cold. She claims she has a rare disease that forces her to keep her house almost unbearably cold. Living with Emily is her mother. Emily tells the story of her conception, that her mother moved into the hotel that Emily now lives and fell in love with a mad doctor, Madden (David Warner). Who in turn falls for her. She learns that Doctor is actually very old and has been maintaining his youth with secrets learned through the Necromonicon. Things took a turn for the worst when Emily who is now pregnant with the Doctor’s child tries to stop him from killing a man to harvest the spinal fluid he needs to retain his youth..
The final of the stories is “Whispers”, two police officers Sarah (Signy Coleman) and Paul (Obba Babatunde) are in pursuit of a suspect only known as “The Butcher” while arguing over their relationship and Sarah’s pregnancy. The car crashes, causing it to flip and Paul to be ejected from the vehicle. She witness him being dragged away before following, in an attempt to save him. She follows the blood trail to an old warehouse and witness Paul being brought down the service elevator. She falls through floor, but survives mostly unharmed. She then runs into a strange man in glasses Mr. Benedict (Don Calfa), who claims to own the building and that “The Butcher” is a tenant. Mr. Benedict along with his wife Mrs. Benedict (Judith Drake) to take her down to where he lives. Down beneath the warehouse to a buried temple, old and full of imagery of human sacrifice….
My main complaint is the story within a story being widely overused in this film. I feel that this in large part is why this film had a hard time holding my interest. Characters being swapped constantly and jumping around in narrative made it less than enjoyable to follow.
That said, as far as the technical side of things go. This film did a great job. The visuals and effects feel strong throughout the film and really make them feel more of a combined whole rather than just desperate parts. The gore scenes, with “Whispers” standing out above the others, being pretty good. Much more so than I was expecting in fact.
The acting as to be expected ranges greatly. Even within each individual story. David Warner, for example does an amazing job, being both monstrous and sympathetic. While Bess Meyer came off as just annoying to me.
Final thoughts, at best it’s OK. There are better horror anthologies out there without question. But if you enjoy the format and you happen to be a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, than this film is something you should most certainly check out. Otherwise I would recommend you just give it a pass. 5/10