Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

The Burrowers (Lovecraft Film Fest in words, Part II)

The ability to see H.P. Lovecraft’s influence on Ghostbusters aside, I am as yet not well-versed in the films inspired by Lovecraft. I’ve seen almost none of them. I’m friends with many people who have seen plenty of them, but I’ve yet to seek them out. I’m aware of several of them, and I’ll get to more eventually, but my big draw to go to the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival was to see author Caitlin R. Kiernan. That said, I did want to see at least some of the films. Try something different for me.

I didn’t have to see one of the headline movies this year, The Whole Wide World, because I have seen it. Wished I’d liked it, but hey, Vincent D‘Onorio (who starred as Lovecraft‘s friend Robert E. Howard) can maybe do no wrong. I only poked my head into the main screening room for a couple of the shorts, because those conflicted with other festival events I wanted to attend.

By chance, the evening’s keynote speech -- delivered by guest of honor Caitlin R. Kiernan, as I didn’t mention before -- was followed by the 2008 film The Burrowers, and I went from almost leaving to deciding to stay to watch. (Here is the film‘s trailer.) In 1879, Western settlers are either dead or kidnapped at the hands of what trackers and the cavalry first think are Indians. If that were the reason, the film wouldn‘t have been programmed at this fest; the story adds a Weird Fiction element (which I won‘t spoil) to the wide, often lovely, often dangerous plains that 19th-century Americans and American immigrants were crossing and settling.

The film looks quite good, and is fine with being quiet, in the sound effects, the dialogue, and Joseph LoDuca’s music. Good cast, too, particularly Clancy Brown of Highlander and The Shawshank Redemption, his fellow Lost alum William Mapother, and Doug Hutchinson who played such a memorably awful prison guard in the film version of The Green Mile. The special effects are subtle, take advantage of the low budget, and are edited coherently. You see enough of the actual threat, without seeing so much that you see the seams or so little that you can’t process what you’re seeing, a frequent problem in effects films lately.

But I didn’t really connect with The Burrowers. Being tired was a factor; my long week, my long Friday and my only partial recovery on Saturday had caught up with me by then. And the humor, usually a kind of humor I can appreciate, subtle and appropriate for the era and the situation, just didn’t feel subtle and appropriate for the era and the situation. Intellectually I got it, but as I generally wasn’t laughing, it wasn’t working for me. Only getting intellectually why something is funny is never enough. (“Be, because of the echo,” Shane Black says in Predator. Did you laugh THEN? No.) Ultimately I got inpatient with the film but willing to stick it out for the rest of it.

This will disappoint theloriest, but I knew I wouldn’t be awake enough to stay for the later showing of Guillermo del Toro’s deeply dark fairy tale Pan’s Labyrinth, plus getting home past 11 on a Saturday would be more complicated than getting home after 9. Buses and my legs, as they often do, were my ways home. Later and I would’ve sprung for a cab. I considered that even leaving at 9, but it was better to get home the ways I did. And I will see Pan’s Labyrinth some other time some other way.
Tags: portland

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