Cthulhu: Seattle Monorail Enthusiast Turns to the Dark(er) Side

Written and produced by local ex-politico Grant Cogswell, who once championed the monorail, Cthulhu is a no less quixotic endeavor. It's also a better, worthier endeavor, one he also recently documented in a nice essay for, yes, The Stranger. Despite that affiliation, I am pleased to report that his movie, directed by Dan Gildark, is not about smug, insular, self-flattering Cap Hill residents who ride fixed-gear bicycles back and forth to appear in, and review, one another's stage and film productions. Seattle barely figures in the plot: A gay history professor (Jason Cottle) wakes in his Belltown apartment to a call informing him his mother has died. Returning to the weirdly cloistered island off the Oregon coast where he grew up, presumably an outcast (being gay and all), he intends only to attend the funeral, sell his mother's house, and get the hell back to civilization. No wonder—his father is a burning-eyed New Age priest, and he also observes a mysterious procession of robed cultists marching to a warehouse where the names of missing locals—human sacrifices, maybe?—are engraved in the briny old wood. But I digress. What is "Cthulhu"? A figuration of ancient evil, a word made up by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, an acknowledged influence here. Well shot by local lenser Sean Kirby along the gorgeous coastline near Astoria, Cthulhu never becomes the gore-fest that some viewers might anticipate. The presence of Tori Spelling as the town siren suggests B-movie snickers that the movie is also too tasteful to encourage. As the solemn professor receives hints about his odd family history, as local legends and flashbacks illuminate his quest, Cthulhu glides past the mere paganism of The Wicker Man (the original, of course) to suggest deeper disturbances. News of global warming blares in the background; the seas are rising, we're warned. Tectonic violence may be surging upward. Although murky in its storytelling, Cthulhu isn't stifled by its artiness (notwithstanding the Yeats quotes). But neither does the movie ever achieve the clarity of good, honest bloodletting. Smartly creepy, if not quite compelling, it communicates best the prodigal's horror of homecoming and the dread of family.

 
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