H.P. LOVECRAFT'S WITCH HOUSE movie poster | ©2022 Horror Wasteland Pictures International

H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE movie poster | ©2022 Horror Wasteland Pictures International

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Portia Chellelynn, Michelle Morris, Julie Anne Prescott, Erin Trimble, Shonda Laverty, Andie Noir, John Johnson, Joe Padgett, Solon Tsangaras
Writers: Bobby Easley & Ken Wallace
Director: Bobby Easley
Distributor: Horror Wasteland Pictures International
Release Date: July 5, 2022 (digital/DVD)

Fun fact: H.P. Lovecraft’s 1932 short story “The Dreams in the Witch House” really is partly about geometry. Lovecraft’s protagonist, Walter Gilman, is a mathematician trying to prove that certain shapes and planes, in relation to one another, can create gateways to other universes.

That angle (pardon the pun) has been adopted in H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE, the most recent adaptation of the story. It was previously made as the MASTERS OF HORROR episode “Dreams in the Witch-House,” directed by the late Stuart Gordon – cited in this film’s “thank you” section – and scripted by Dennis Paoli. Before that, without credit to Lovecraft or his work, it was the basis for the feature THE CRIMSON CULT, featuring Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, directed by Vernon Sewell, written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, from a screen story by Jerry Sohl. Additionally, there’s a video game version.

For H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE, director Bobby Easley and his co-writer Ken Wallace update the narrative to the present and give the protagonist, now a woman, some life outside of her predicament.

Alice (listed in a Lovecraft-worthy paradox as Michelle Morris in the onscreen credits, but as Portia Chellelynn on IMDB and in the publicity materials) is a grad student in hiding from her physically battering ex-boyfriend.

After staying with her friend Kelly (Erin Trimble) for several months, Alice feels it’s time to get a place of her own. Her professor (John Johnson) suggests that Alice room at a storied old house near campus.

Alice is delighted, exclaiming over the uniqueness of the house’s design. She’s not thrown off by the brusqueness of homeowner Edda (Shonda Laverty), nor the fact that she’s given a very messy albeit huge attic room.

Edda’s niece Tommi (Julie Anne Prescott) is exceedingly friendly, and helps Alice tidy up in no time. But there are rats, and nightmares about those other dimensions Alice is trying to access …

What works about H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE is the overall sense of chaos, that anything could happen at any moment. Alice reaches a point where she cannot tell waking state from dreams, and we’re pulled along with her in this.

Part of the action also takes place at Lovecraft’s famous (fictional) Miskatonic University, which works as pleasing homage. We are made to understand enough about “sacred geometry” to think it’s a solid basis for this kind of storytelling.

The spirit and colors of the blacklight-esque cinematography by d.p. James Brenton also feel in keeping with Lovecraft’s descriptions.

Unfortunately, this last also makes sections of the film so dark that it’s a bit difficult to make out what’s happening. This may be intentional, in keeping with the source material – Lovecraft often described images that are only partially seen – but it’s frustrating.

H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE in some ways looks and feels like it might have been made in the ‘70s. Specifically, the film demonstrates that era’s disregard as to how disparate elements do or don’t fit together.

Supernatural orgies and discussions of “horrors and pleasures” seem more Clive Barker than H.P. Lovecraft, and the concept of the Antichrist is distinctly anti-Lovecraftian. Women showing up to professional meetings wearing camisoles, and there’s plain old self-reference in the form of Alice actually reading a Lovecraft book. None of this seems meant to be amusing, but it’s not thought-provoking or scary, either.

The house looks like a solid nineteenth-century mansion, which has its possibilities. However, it doesn’t have any interesting architectural properties that we can see, despite Alice’s enthusiasm for its construction. (It’s too bad the filmmakers didn’t have access to the primary location for INCARNATION, which seems to have been built with “sacred geometry” in mind.)

H.P. LOVECRAFT’S WITCH HOUSE is an indie fever dream horror movie. It’s best quality may be that it will make older viewers nostalgic for the good old days of grab bag fare at the grindhouse.

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