Boston Underground Film Festival Short Review: AN ELDRITCH PLACE (2016)

That AN ELDRITCH PLACE, a new cinematic flick-of-the-lighter from Belgian director and visual effects artist Julien Jauniaux, bears great affection for the Cthulhu mythos is palpable in just the production’s logo card: Carkosa Films. And indeed, the film delivers in its 16 minutes a solid tour of the twilit ground familiar to any fan of weird fiction. That it doesn’t seem to transcend the familiar, however, may be its largest conceptual shortcoming. Those happy for a less ambitious, more linear ride through the Hall of Lovecraftian Elements will find here a warm, if slimy, blanket.

In addition to slices of “The Color Out of Space” and “Call of Cthulhu”, the premise offers also a pinch of “Five Nights at Freddy’s”, in which a nervous archeologist hires as night watchman for his facility a rather expressionless young man, the only one, we learn, who responded to the ad. People have been sneaking into the garage of his facility, says the archeologist, and hewants to deter them. What seems an Earthly concern quickly becomes an extradimensional terror.

A cold murk dominates the film’s aesthetic. While aspects of the film – the cinematography, the eerie music, the pacing, the climax’s impressive and refreshingly practical visual effects – work well toward establishing mood and tension, these efforts are undermined (though not fatally) by the somewhat drowsy performance of lead actor Habib Ben Tanfous, whose stoicism leads us initially to believe he’s due for a sanity-shattering run-in with the Elders. It must also be noted that our sympathy for his character Abdel is not encouraged when he blatantly disregards some very clear warnings to open what is no less than an automotive Pandora’s box; the script gives little precedence, dimension or clear motivation to sell his actions. This is a fun, competently executed homage, but Cthulhu deserves a more appreciative victim.

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