What I'm Watching: HP Lovecraft's Cool Air
Always a treat to get a new Lovecraft adaptation in my hands! Sadly, they tend to be not very good. Lovecraft always seems to work best in movies that aren't his. Lovecraftian ideas and themes are much better than ACTUAL Lovecraft adaptations, more often than not.
This is an issue I struggle with, even though I know the answer, I think. Lovecraft was very atmospheric, a lot of the brilliance comes from the use of language, and that tends to be lost in visual adaptations. And when he comes up with SUCH unique visuals in his writing that defy description, often literally for the sake of sanity, it's understandable why that stuff is hard to translate.
It's the sort of things almost all book adaptations deal with, but Lovecraft's style makes it 1000 times more difficult.
And Cool Air is no exception.
This version of the story follows struggling screenwriter Charlie Baxter (A reference to Charles Dexter Ward?) finding a place to stay while he tries to get his life together, and having things get very weird, very quickly, when he has a heart attack and a stroke. He is drawn into a world of mystical forces, a scientist who needs the cold, and a poor autistic girl.
The story unfolds well enough over the next 70 minutes, and the short runtime is a blessing. The movie is not bloated, and since there is a LOT of narration and sitting around, the pace actually doesn't feel too bad. Considering.
But when the movie takes long moments of Charlie narrating, as if he's writing his next script, and the movie shows him sitting next to Doctor Shcokner while you see the printed script pages of what he's saying floating behind them...you can't help but go, "...Really?"
The acting is decent, at least from Charlie and Shockner. He has a bit of a deadpan, but it works, and he gets in the emotion when he needs it while recounting his tale. And Shockner really sells her tale of her life and the terror she lives through every day, and the dire consequences awaiting Charlie.
Less successful is the autistic daughter of their landlord. Her lines sound VERY forced and over rehearsed, which becomes increasingly obvious because they're halting and stuttering. Every pauses feels perfectly planned, like she's remembering exactly how it was written on the page. Which is a shame, because I can still see the raw talent beneath all that, and if she was just allowed to speak, and be awkward in her mannerisms in a more natural manner, it would be a standout performance here.
So, ultimately, the movie is not great, because of the limitations of Lovecraft's work for source material, and the low budget, sometimes amateurish nature of the production. But since the movie doesn't overstay it's welcome and gets to the point in a short runtime, I can almost forgive it's flaws, and accept it as a decent short story. If they had gone for a full 90 minute movie, or more? This would be interminable. But 70 minutes is just about right to get in and do its thing, and not feel like I wasted my time on slow, annoying sitting.
If you're a Lovecraft fan, it's worth checking out, if you can do so on the cheap, but definitely not anything you need to rush around and see right this second.