Reviewed by D.W. Bostaph, Jr.
Starring Ken MacGregor, Mike Sexton
Directed by Matt Hundley
“Translation” is a word that comes up time and time again when discussing films based on Lovecraft stories. My favorite films end up being the ones that most closely follow the original tone and spirit of the story that they attempt to recreate. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to adhere word for word to the source material, but you at least have to follow the spirit.
Take for example The Whisperer in Darkness that was just released on DVD from Gravehill Productions; here is an independent feature that does a lot more right with the story than a lot of bigger, more bloated attempts. The film looks and feels like a zero budget affair, and you have to look past the chintz to see the real quality underneath, for it is the storytelling that allows Whisperer to succeed. Those involved in its production decide wisely to stay very true to the material and then allow it to play out under its own strength.
The story revolves around Albert Wilmarth, a Miskatonic University professor who is fascinated with stories of odd things seen in the woods. As his studies take him deeper into the mystery, Wilmarth is approached by a reclusive, eccentric man by the name of Henry Ackeley. Ackeley is a fountain of information and takes Wilmarth’s investigation to a new level. But, Ackeley is a man who knows a lot more than he should about these things in the woods.
Wilmarth is played by Ken MacGregor, whose strong jaw line and borderline overacting style make him a serviceable Bruce Campbell knock-off. Most of the film revolves around Wilmarth and relies heavily upon voice-over narration by MacGregor himself. MacGregror makes a good bard, and I cannot fault the film’s reliance on the voice-over, as Whisperer works best as a story being told to us as if read from a page. It’s the moments where the film tries too hard where it creaks around the edges, cracks I would attribute to directorial inexperience and a really low budget. Most notably there is a psychological meltdown that stands out like a sore thumb and could have ruined the film for me with its over-the-top approach.
The scene has Mike Sexton’s Ackeley shouting out a mad soliloquy to an unseen listener. It suffers from Sexton’s acting ability being showcased by an unflinching camera shot that forces him to struggle with the scene for all to see. This is the worst moment in the film, and it completely encompasses any problems that a person may have with Whisperer. You’re watching a Z-grade Lovecraft film with actors who are being asked to stretch their abilities to the limit. When you’re forced to watch something like this under the microscope of a director who has not yet been properly tempered, the result can be painful at times.
Please do not think that Whisperer is not without its merits. The story is immensely faithful to the source material, and where we are treated to creature effects, director Mike Hundley keeps the low-grade CGI to a minimum with quick shots of the Mi-Go. One scene happened so fast and came out of nowhere with such fury as to make this jaded reviewer jump. Sure it was a cheap jump scare, but it worked.
In the end what we have with this version of Whisperer is an experiment in storytelling that delivers based on its story alone. I cannot hate Whisperer for its faults, for in relation to other films I have seen made with the same values, Whisperer could be called a classic. I will not go that far. Lovecraft fans will appreciate the tale told and the manner in which it is done. It is this conclusion about the film that leaves me feeling Whisperer is best seen as a collector’s item for those of us completists out there. All others heed my warning and be prepared for what awaits…
3 out of 5
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