Beyond the Walls of Sleep(movie): The Complete Lovecraft #15

In a slight detour from the written word, I am going to look beyond Lovecraft’s stories to someone else’s interpretation of one of them. If you remember back to my review of Beyond the walls of sleep‘ you will remember that a 2004 movie of the same name directed by Barrett J. Leigh and Thom Maurer exists. It has somewhat woeful reviews on imdb. A movie that beyond sharing the same name, and the odd reference within it, has little to do with the Lovecraft story. Indeed was roundly pounded by fans as well as movie buffs… In a spirit of genuine inquiry though I set out to find a copy. Only to discover not only was it truly awful according to IMDB, it was also so bad it did not get a UK DVD release. It was going to cost me a small fortune relatively speaking to get an import from the US, for a movie that was going to be awful by all accounts. So I dropped the idea entirely.

However, I also discovered but did not mention, that Nathan Fisher made a short film with the same name in 2009, which draws more directly from the Lovecraft story. It also happens to be available on YouTube for nothing, which made it a far more inviting prospect than spending £25.00 plus shipping on a region 1 DVD for a movie no one had much of a good word for. As Nathan Fisher’s movie was free (he put it up on YouTube himself so I am sure he will not mind it been linked here), and had better reviews, I thought I may as well give it a shot. Besides which indie movie makers deserve a break once in a while so here goes…

I know some people are put off by black and white movies. It always seems an odd choice in this day and age of digital photography. There was a time black and white film stock was cheaper to make, these days it is purely a stylistic choice for the most part. Personally, however, I have always had a bit of a passion for black and white. Though as a die hard goth who’s wardrobe is mostly monochrome I guess this would come of little surprise to anyone who knows me. Some of my favourite movies are in black and white, Kevin Smiths ‘Clerks‘,  Coppola’s ‘Rumblefish‘, Mel Brooks ‘Young Frankenstein‘… So a bit of Monochrome does not put me off. Besides which, the monochrome in ‘Beyond the walls of sleep‘ is used to good effect because all the dream sequences are in colour. Which makes for a stunning contrast given the budget Fisher was working with here.

All the same, shoestring budgets tend to lead to shoestring acting, and so I was a little reticent going into this. Checking it out on IMDB before I watched it did not inspire me greatly either. Though it got a respectable 4.9/10 which isn’t bad for a movie like this. It was, however, the list of actors I found worrying, because the majority of them including the two leads had no picture in the cast list section, a sure sign that they had not played Hamlet on the Broadway stage…

So let’s get past the acting, shall we? It not as bad as I feared. Some of the minor roles are played by actors with more than a little ham about them ( the full pig in some cases if I am honest), and that extends in part to Jason Finley who plays the main lead, Dr Kaufman. Though the dialogue doesn’t help much at times. After a while, though Finley’s mildly wooden delivery gets better, or possibly the dialogue he is working with does. It rarely becomes cringeworthy, though slips towards it on occasion. While the bit part actors are a mixed bunch at best, some of their lines are delivered without any feeling, or way too much. But none of that really matters much. If the movie was a full length, it might jar more, but for half an hour it’s easy to lose yourself to it and just go with the story. The colour visuals in the dream sequence, with its mix of the bizarre the disturbing, stock footage flashes of war, atomic bombs exploding, the wreathing mass of humanity and starscapes, as well as a Cthulhic worshiping ritual which was filmed for the movie. These are a beautiful contrast to the black and white of the majority of the movie. It is a neat visual trick and backed up with a disturbing monologue from beyond the stars.

There are a few cringeworthy moments, the interplay between the doctor and his nurse is straight out of the 1950’s  B-movie school of misogynistic ham. The scene where Joe Slater is harassed by his fellow Catgill mountain folk is a tad painful, and almost as painful as the first scene of Slater tied to his bed screaming out in his nightmares. But if you can get past the occasionally bad dialogue, and bad acting, the movie is a small piece of joy.

It isn’t the greatest movie the world has ever seen, but it is an homage to the original Lovecraft text. It follows the story closely and is done with a genuine love for Lovecraft’s work which shines through. It’s that love for the subject matter that let me forgive the imperfections,  and I found myself carried along with it and the directors own passion for the subject. Truly I found it a joy to watch, then watch again, then a third time as I wrote this post…


Anyway, all this said, you can watch it yourself, and enjoy the madness of it. Forgive the dialogue and just enjoy it is my advice…

oh and tentacles, well I was tempted not to score it, as it’s not Lovecraft’s work, but just an interpretation of it. But it is a good interpretation and fun, so I’ll give it a respectable four.


Further Lovecraftian witterings 


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