I had the pleasure the attending the 5th Annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro on Saturday, September 27. I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s works and have seen a few films based on his works, and I decided to check it out. It’s a three day event, with the first day featuring a Q & A with the filmmakers and a 3D showing of the classic universal film The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The final day featured a CthulhuCon experience and a Cthulhu Smash-Up Tournament. I attended the second day. The festival opened at noon, but I didn’t arrive until 1:30. There was free parking for the event and I was pleased by this immensely. The event was at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro. The theater opened in January of 1931 and was designed in the Art Deco style, making it a time period appropriate venue for the festival.
Entering the lobby I encountered a concessions stand selling the expected popcorn, candy, and beverages of an adult nature. There were a few venders selling their wares at the lobby level. There were fezzes, DVDS, posters, artifact replicas, CDs, games, books, tee-shirts and other apparel. Downstairs, in a much, much smaller space were a few other vendors selling the same, but also original artwork and prints. Having never been to a film festival like this before, I was expecting a few more vendors and more books, but I admit to not leaving empty handed, purchasing two tees and two CDs.
When I went into the theater the special guests authors were on the stage giving fifteen minute readings from one of their works. Authors included John Shirley (Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side), Nancy Holder (Dead in the Water), Leslie Klinger (The New Annotated Dracula and the upcoming The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft), Ross E. Lockhart (The Book of Cthulhu), Gary Myers (The Country of the Worm), Cody Goodfellow (Ravenous Dusk), Michael Tice (“Inlibration”), and Scott Virtes (So many works, you have to Google him!). I was able to hear the last three readings, and they made me wish I had gotten there earlier to hear all of them. After the readings the authors had a discussion, moderated excellently by Goodfellow, on Lovecraft’s writing style, alienation, and racism. It was so nice to hear people having a mature discussion on Lovecraft as the Internet all too frequently digresses into the mire. With this discussion finished, the authors went downstairs for signings. This was an extremely small space for such a large number of writers and an even larger number of fans. I wish space in the lobby had been devoted to the writers.
Photographer Joshua Hoffine then made a presentation in the theater of his Lovecraft work, another he is working on, and then a showing of his short film. His sequential photographs were on a scale of film stills, they were that well done.
The films shown were Leviathan Ages, Strange Aeons, Stasis, Transcendent, Miasma, The 1000 Colors, Invectum, MADGOD, Grave Shivers, August Heat, Invasion!, Horizonte, Memory, Je Ne Suis Pas Samuel Krohm (I Am Not Samuel Krohm), The Well, The Heebie-Jebbies, Whispers, and Vomica. My favorites among these were Miasma (a trippy little film), MADGOD (by science fiction effects legend Phil Tippett), Grave Shivers (a trio of fun E.C. comic book-like short stories), Invasion! (a cool black and white alien invasion story), Je Ne Suis Pas Krohm (the most Lovecraftian feature), and The Heebie-Jebbies, which had the audience roaring in laughter. There was also a showing of the full length film 2011’s Die Farbe (The Colour), but it wouldn’t end until midnight, and that would have gotten me home too late with my drive, so I had to sadly pass on this.
In between film blocks and after a dinner break, Dark Adventure Radio Theater presented a live reading of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” This was a ninety minute production and it was outstanding. This adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories was a creepy tale of terror that had a strong audience participation: instead of the typical radio “APPLAUSE” sign used from the 1930s there was a “CROAK” sign that lit up and flashed when the audience was supposed to make croaking sounds as the horrific throng of Innsmouth citizens chasing after the protagonist. There was much croaking and laughing during this production, and even the actors were smiling at the enthusiasm of the transformed audience.
I left the festival enthused about Lovecraft and happy to have attended. I recommend this experience to anyone slightly to greatly interested in H.P. Lovecraft to see his influence on filmmakers from around the world and to be around those who feel as you do.
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyen wgah’nagl fhtagn! A recommended experience.
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!”, he reviewed comics for TrekWeb, and he currently reviews Trek comics at TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for two years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.