The Whisperer in Darkness
'The Whisperer in Darkness' tells the tale of folklorist and professor, Albert Wilmarth, who is skeptical of tall tales detailing strange creatures living in the deep hills of rural Vermont. After losing a public debate with Charles Forte (colorful editor of The Fortean Times, a journal devoted to bizarre theories and cryptozoological investigations) Wilmarth decides to investigate the stories by visiting a colleague who lives in the Vermont backcountry.
The HPLHS (H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society), who brought a faithful adaptation of 'The Call of Cthulhu' to the big screen has now brought another classic Lovecraft tale to life. Presented in black and white on what was likely a shoestring budget, the producers of Whisperer hit all the right notes in terms of design. As was the case with Cthulhu everything on the DVD recalls early period filmmaking. Although unlike Cthulhu, Whisperer does have sound, instead of just a soundtrack. Whisperer has a great orchestral soundtrack throughtout, but there's actual dialog in this outing.
Wilmarth (played perfectly by Matt Foyer) is openly skeptical of the reports of strange creatures being washed down out of the hills by a record rainfall. He is asked to debate Charles Forte, but warned by a colleague to avoid the debate at all costs. Wilmarth pushes the facts, but his friend reminds him that people aren't going to be swayed by the minutiae -- by mere facts. During the debate (moderated by a toothpaste salesman named Bradbury!) Forte elicts a frank denial from Wilmarth -- that the corpses discovered were not beings from another world, despite his never having seen one of the corpses, or even having visited Vermont!
Hemmed in by his own closeminded incredulity, Wilmarth is then met by George Akeley, the son of Henry Akeley. George's father maintained a longstanding correspondence with Wilmarth concerning the strange sounds and footprints found in the vicinity of their Vermont farmhouse -- and now his father is worried. George has brought physical proof that the creatures are real. The photo is of his father, shotgun in hand, kneeling over a blur. The assembled scientists laugh when George explains that his father said that the beings' physical matter is of such a different composition that they don't show up on photographic film.
Another scientist examines the photo using a primitive stereoscopic viewer (which separates each eye) and suddenly the blur resolves into a strange looking creature! George begs Wilmarth to visit his father. Prodded by his skepticism and his own curiosity, Wilmarth heads out to the hills of Vermont to visit Akeley and examine the evidence for himself.
Before long, things get weird -- and creepy and ominous and worrisome. There's no outright gore, but much is suggested, and when the truth is finally revealed to Wilmarth it's great filmmaking. This is not a scary film by any stretch of the imagination, but it manages to horrify and thrill rather well in my opinion. Whisperer captures what I consider the essence of Lovecraftian horror; the terrifying abyss of the unknown is forever worrying the edges of reality hoping to unravel it just enough to make it tear. Right from the start the viewer knows that Wilmarth is headed into the unknown, but it doesn't detract from the tension.
Also, there's not a single bad performance by any of the actors, and the ending is great -- and unexpected. Foyer is great here as Wilmarth -- a brave academic willing to discover the truth, only to have the truth discover him. The creatures are interesting as well -- not shown very often or in great detail, but they don't stay in the shadows forever. It's not about terror, it's about revelations of horror -- which Foyer portrays brilliantly.
If you're a Lovecraft fan you'll love this film. If you're looking for a break from torture porn and jump out scares, and looking for something that's atmospheric and creepy, then you might like this little gem. The production values looked a little bit better than Cthulhu, and hopefully HPLHS will produce more films giving Lovecraft's stories their due. The film doesn't follow the original story verbatim, but what changes the filmmakers made support the story and make it infinitely more watchable.