The H.P. Lovecraft Collection Volume 3: Out of Mind DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Lurker Films
Directed by Raymond Saint-Jean
Written by Raymond Saint-Jean based on the stories of H.P. Lovecraft
1998, Region 0 (NTSC), 56 minutes, Not rated
Christopher Heyerdahl as Howard P. Lovecraft
Peter Farbridge as Harley Warren
Art Kitching as Randolph Carter
Michael Sinelnikoff as Henry Armitage
The film opens with H.P. Lovecraft (Christopher Heyerdahl) in both live action and interview format discussing his opinions on writing then switches to the story of Randolph Carter (Art Kitching), a young man who has just found that he has inherited a box from a uncle that he never knew he had. Given strict instructions to only open the box while alone, he finds it contains a book called the Necronomicon. Within it's pages are a letter to a professor and two faded pictures, one of his uncle, the other of H.P. Lovecraft.
Speaking some of the words written on back of the picture of his uncle, Carter is then sent on a journey between dreams and reality. When dreaming he is in the past as his uncle, while retaining his own memory. The story is then intertwined with scenes of Lovecraft talking and Carter's own perilous dreams. Discovering as much as he can about his uncle and Lovecraft, Carter must wonder if he is simply a pawn in something much more sinister?
One of the biggest knocks on the works of Lovecraft is that they don't translate well to the screen. Out of Mind blows that commonly held assumption away! Only Stuart Gordon has ever succeeded in translating to the screen stories from Lovecraft and he did that by making major facelifts to the stories. Even Gordon has not always succeeded in translating Lovecraft and every other director attempting Lovecraft has, in my opinion, fallen flat on their face. Raymond Saint-Jean in what I can only call genius has taken the man himself, his words, his poems, his personality and brought Lovecraft to life in this film. Mixing an original story with bits and pieces of Lovecraft's stories, Saint-Jean has given us the best adaptation of Lovecraft ever!
During his lifetime Lovecraft was an obscure little known outside of the readers of "Weird Tales" and "Astounding Stories". There's no film or audio record of the man. However Lovecraft, through his correspondence (over 20,000 letters of his are know to exist) gives us a unique look into the man which the tandem of Saint-Jean and Heyerdahl bring to life in a way that is almost erie. While not having much of a budget (the film was funded by the Canadian government and was originally made for the Bravo TV network), Saint-Jean extracts performances from the actors that are exemplary!
This film is a perfect place for those unfamiliar with Lovecraft to start appreciating his work and for those like myself that are hard-core Lovecraft fans, this is the ultimate Lovecraft film. While most films of today rely on what you see and what is said, Out of Mind touches on the true fears that we human beings have. What we fear most is what we can't see, true horror cannot be described in mere words. If H.P Lovecraft was alive today he himself would be humbled by Saint-Jean's adaptation of his stories. Then he would dismiss it as a fluke...
Video and Audio:
Out of Mind was shot on Super 16mm film and was framed for a 16x9 presentation. However the DVD from Lurker is non-anamorphic, so that viewing on a 16x9 TV will still show the black bars and stretch the images. Also my DVD player indicated that the source for the DVD was from video not the film elements. This is the only criticism you will read from me about this DVD. Having been shot on film, it has the grainy feel that is so enjoyable from 16mm. The colors are a bit faded which works to a tee for the traveling between time. There was times when watching the film you become the camera and move with it through the story. Serge Ladouceur is a veteran cinematographer who does some amazing work on this movie.
Out of Mind is presented in a Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack. The music is a perfect companion to the visuals. While on a empty street or looking down a dark tunnel, the sound enhances the image and really make you feel like you are there with the characters. Strangely though, one of the bonus films on the DVD, The Music of Erich Zann, has a Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. Lack of 5.1 doesn't hamper Out of Mind in any way.
As usual, Lurker Films goes all out when it comes to extras with their H.P. Lovecraft collections. There's three short films, The Music of Erich Zann, The Outsider and My Necronomicon. All three are excellent short features and while they in no way rival the main title, they easily could have been the feature of a DVD of their own! S.T. Joshi is also back again for his third in a series of interviews on Lovecraft. There is two commentaries for Out of Mind and a cast interview featurette for The Music of Erich Zann. Lurker also includes some trailers for upcoming films and teasers from the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. In a business where liner notes are becoming a rare item, Lurker gives us an informative eight page booklet on Lovecraft and the films.
An interesting thing to note is the two commentary tracks for Out of Mind. The first includes director Raymond Saint-Jean and star Christopher Heyerdahl, the second has Saint-Jean, Heyerdahl and cinematographer Serge Ladouceur. Personally I like the second one better, both are good though!