Starring Lina Sunden, Patrik Karlson, Martin Jirhamn
Directed by Henrik Möller
Distributed by Severin Films
Numerous attempts have been made at adapting the works of H.P. Lovecraft for film, though few have been much of a success. Lovecraft’s material is ripe for lavish productions; the issue is typically that his writing is also too obtuse and esoteric for mainstream consumption. This is a big part of why Guillermo del Toro’s “At the Mountains of Madness” fell apart. On the complete opposite end of the budgetary spectrum, however, viewers can find director Henrik Möller’s micro-budget Feed the Light (2014). Inspired by Lovecraft’s 1927 short story, “The Colour out of Space”, Möller’s film is a tight exercise in restraint, ambition, and tension that ultimately plays more like an expertly made subtle student film than what viewers would typically expect from something Lovecraftian.
Sara (Lina Sunden) is an abused wife who is battling her soon-to-be ex, John (Patrik Karlson), for custody of their daughter, Jenny (Ingrid Torstennson). After John vanishes within an enigmatic industrial building with Jenny, Sara attempts to infiltrate the premises by taking a janitorial job amongst the hostile workers at the site. There, she is instructed to sweep up sparkling particles of dust that are falling from the rafters and lighting fixtures, being told the dust attracts “pests” that like to feed on it. During her cleaning she wanders off into another zone and meets a strong, militant employee who seems hostile at first, but later reveals himself to be helpful and knowledgeable. Sara is told to meet up with someone called “VHS-Man” because he may be able to assist in tracking down her daughter.
Sara follows his guidance and meets the VHS-Man, only to be horrified to learn it is her ex-husband, impossibly aged and not in a good state. He warns her of the light and explains how it can change a person, sometimes aging them years in the span of hours. With his instructions, Sara is able to see shadow-beings within the light, entities capable of killing, and she is also warned the light will play tricks on her, including pretending to be their daughter. Entering Floor 2 and being led by a mysterious coil of string (it’ll make sense once you see the film) Sara must not only avoid the shadow demons but also Chefen (Jenny Lampa), the on-site boss who keeps a masked male as a sort of dog in her office. The journey is difficult and fraught with confusion, but Sara soldiers on for the sake of her child.
What this film lacks in budget it manages to make up for in acting talent and desire. Lina Sunden delivers a powerful performance as a rough-around-the-edges mother who so desperately wants to get her daughter back in her arms. She becomes singular in thought and action once she learns her ex has absconded with their kid to some shady high rise, making it her undying mission to bring her daughter back home. Every step of the way brings with it strife, from the stern boss who hires her to work alongside gruff janitors, to the realization light is a more powerful and deadly force than she ever knew – and it has the power to do unexplainable things. Even as those around her die or are crippled, be it physically or by fear, she is undaunted in her action. Sunden is the film’s anchor and her performance, aided by a strong supporting cast, maintains viewer interest in this no-budget, Spartan affair.
Viewers may conjure up specific thoughts upon hearing this is an “H.P. Lovecraft inspired” tale – disregard those notions because this is a no frills take on arcane mysteria. Möller’s film has drawn comparisons to David Lynch, specifically Eraserhead (1977), and although I would be hesitant to apply the term “Lynchian” to describe this feature there are some parallels in terms of ambiance and sound design and, of course, the lo-fi black-and-white photography. Möller keeps his film taut, driving up any suspense he can through earned moments of tension and dramatic performance, because clearly the budget was not going to allow for much more outside of creativity and ability. Feed the Light may be atypical for a Lovecraft picture but it manages to exceed expectations by maintaining a shroud of secrecy and curiosity throughout, leaving viewers guessing while the classic tale of a mother protecting her child unfolds within an austere, otherworldly environment.
The photography of the film is largely black-and-white, although sepia and other tones creep in at times to illuminate specific parts of the image. The 1.78:1 1080p picture is stable and clean, although it is evident plenty of post-production work has been done to “dirty up” the image and grade it appropriately. As such, do not expect a squeaky clean digital picture but, rather, something rougher and lacking in cinematic polish. I am confident this is a faithful reproduction of the intended look and so in that respect this is a strong transfer.
A Swedish (not English, as the back cover suggests) LPCM 2.0 stereo track carries the droning and dissonant sound cues with ease. The sound design is definitely Lynch-inspired, filling the void of the building with low humming, clanging, repetitive noise, and only the most minimal of scoring. Some synth-y keyboard cues pop in occasionally but more often than not the sound is a disjointed landscape of various tones. Subtitles are available in English.
“Making of Feed the Light” covers the standard bases, touching upon how the project came to be, production, etc.
“The Lovecraft Influence” is an interview with co-writer/director Henrik Möller.
A trailer is also included.
- Making of Feed the Light
- The Lovecraft Influence – Interview with co-writer/director Henrik Möller