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The H.P. Lovecraft Collection 1: Cool Air (1999)
Director: Bryan Gordon

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Founded in 1995 by Andrew Migliori, the H.P. Lovecraft film festival promotes the works of cosmic horror writer Lovecraft by showcasing film adaptations by professional and amateur filmmakers. This first collection features films screened at the festival over the past 10 years.

The collection consists of one showcase film, in this case 1999 festival winner Cool Air, as well as a series of shorts. Burdened with making or breaking the DVD, Cool Air does an admirable job, as this short film captures Lovecraft's short tale beautifully and in one fell swoop knocks aside even the best feature films that aspire to Lovecraft, even Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator and John Carpenter's In The Mouth Of Madness.

For years, filmmakers, critics, and even fans have claimed that Lovecraft's fiction could not be filmed, given his complicated storylines, first-person narratives, and preference of cosmic tension over overt gore and violence. Indeed, most writers and directors have dramatically altered Lovecraft's work for the sake of making what they termed effective films. And while some movies have worked (Gordon's Re-Animator and From Beyond are effective), none have been especially loyal to the source material (except for perhaps Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected).

Director Bryan Gordon is loyal to the story played out in Cool Air, except that he gives his narrator the name Randolph Carter (the narrator in the story goes unnamed - furthermore, because Carter is one of a few recurring Lovecraft characters, the name comes across as over the top for such a superb adaptation). Despite this quibble, Cool Air is a remarkable film shot in black and white on a shoestring budget.

The story itself is a riff on Edgar Allan Poe's The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar. The film stars Jack Donner (Star Trek and Mission: Impossible) as Dr Munoz, who through the power of the human will and the help of a strange machine has cheated death. The film's writing is deft, the direction keeps mystery and suspense going at all times, and the actors do a serviceable job, with Donner in particular dominating every scene he's in. What really drives this film is Gordon's superb handling of Lovecraft's story. It's as if the short story has come to life - Lovecraft fans will rejoice from the story's beginning to its grisly end.

Also included in this DVD are short films titled Nyarlathotep (good), The Hound (good), An Imperfect Solution (okay), and The Hapless Antiquarian (funny but mediocre). The disc also contains interviews with the cast and crew of Cool Air and an interview with author/ scholar S.T. Joshi (H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopaedia), who sheds light on Lovecraft's work and themes. Lovecraft fans need this collection in their world, as do fans of mystery-driven and atmospheric horror. Don't expect to find much gore or violence on this DVD. The stories here are for old-school horror aficionados looking to enter a world that is at once eerie, mysterious, and never dull.

H.P. Lovecraft collection 1: Cool Air



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