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January 6, 2015

H. P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon: Book of the DeadHoff’s Horrorfest is a monthly show featuring stand-up comedy from me (Hoff Matthews) and a guest performer, followed by a horror movie screening. It’s free and there is free beer and free popcorn. This month’s installment will be at 9:30pm, Saturday, January 17th, at Brit Pack (3rd floor, 153 Lafayette, Manhattan).

This month’s guest performer: Charla Lauriston (Clench and Release, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

This month’s movie: H. P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993)

Adapting the works of horror writer H. P. Lovecraft for the screen is supposed to be incredibly difficult, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Lovecraft movie adaptation that I haven’t enjoyed.

It’s true that his focus on otherworldly experiences too alien to be described or imagined wouldn’t seem to gel that well with a visual medium like film, where monsters are expected to be not just described but presented in full view onscreen. But while few movies have captured the essence of Lovecraft’s prose, the ones that try tend to have a foolhardy ambition that makes them entertaining even if they’re not entirely successful.

H. P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon: Book of the Dead is a good example of this. It’s a 1993 anthology film in which Lovecraft himself (played by Re-Animator‘s Jeffrey Combs) visits a monastic library to sneak a peek at the titular book, discovering three stories adapted from the real Lovecraft’s short fiction. (At least some of the stories seem to take place during the present day, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the framing device is set in 1932, but whatever.)

Jeffrey Combs as H. P. Lovecraft

Jeffrey Combs as H. P. Lovecraft

These adaptations are as loose as they come in terms of both their content and their approach: They generally take nothing more than a broad plot point (a man’s ancestral home has a dark secret, a mad scientist has to refrigerate himself to stay alive, etc.) from their source material, and the garish explicitness of the visuals is more reminiscent of old EC comics like Tales from the Crypt than of Lovecraft’s hallucinatory primness. This is very much a B-movie, with un-subtle writing and un-subtle acting and one of the most gratuitously unnecessary boob shots in the history of non-pornographic cinema.

But I think most of us still have an inner 10-year-old who just wants to see some cool monsters and people getting turned inside out and shit. And on that level, Necronomicon is pretty great.

Necronomicon fish monster

This movie has never been released on DVD in the US, but I’ve gotten ahold of a German import copy (with English audio and no subtitles, don’t worry). So if you’re around Saturday night you’ve got the uncommon opportunity to see Necronomicon not just in widescreen but with an audience of fellow horror fans, and a free beer in your hand to boot.

My guest comedian this month will be Charla Lauriston, whom I matched up with this collection of Lovecraft shorts partly because I’ve worked with her on another batch of shorts: Her webseries Clench and Release, which I edited. She’s also a writer on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which will be hitting Netflix soon and which has been getting damn good advance reviews.

Gonna be a good time overall, as always! Don’t miss it!


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