The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

The HP Lovecraft Historical Society put this one together: a fan-film adaptation of the late author's most famous story executed in the style of a 1920s silent film. The idea was to imagine what might've resulted had a movie version been commissioned the same year as the original story's publication.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, it concerns investigation into a series of cryptic writings alleging the discovery of a lost civilization on an uncharted island, whereupon a ship's crew was decimated by a gigantic monster believed to be worshipped as a god by pockets of underground occultists. The film is a curiosity overall - most of Lovecraft's work doesn't lend itself well to cinema without substantial revision, and this is very much a "look what we pulled off!" work rather than a fully functioning narrative film. But if you're into silent movies or the Cthulhu mythos, it's probably a must-watch.


The present-day poster child for this sort of thing, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up for a double feature built around a pair of loving-reconstructed genre imitations that were so spot-on they even wound up replicating the box office performance of actual cult-classics - i.e. an indifferent mainstream audience and rediscovery later on DVD.

I'm a tremendous fan of both projects, though it must be said that the two filmmakers both slip up by letting their finished product be too good to truly replicate the junk they're aiming for. Rodriguez' Planet Terror nails the look and tone of a mid-80s John Carpenter opus, save that it's entirely too big and sprawling to look as cheap as it does otherwise; while Tarantino's Death Proof deftly understands the "endless-dialogue-padding-with-one-notorious-scene" vibe of 70s drive-in thrillers, except his dialogue is actually good.

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Okay, this is kind of a cheat, but this movie deserves the extra attention. One part mockumentary, one part 80s slasher movie homage, this 2006 indie is set in a world where killers like Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees (or, at least, their crimes) actually exist. Our "heroes" are a documentary film crew invited to tag along with a would-be masked murderer named Leslie Vernon as he meticulously lays the groundwork for the teenager-slaying rampage that will make him the next big "star" of the slasher circuit. Along the way, Vernon dryly exposits on the pop-cultural symbolism of his chosen "profession," including who gets to survive and why. So, yeah, it's like a Scream movie, only good.

I'm including on this list because, unlike most put-on documentary flicks, this one occasionally breaks away from the docu-cam and lets us see the events unfolding from a conventional third-person narrative perspective. Amusingly, whenever it does so the tone, cinematography, music and acting styles immediately switch from doc-style banality to hypperreal, oversaturated kitsch that would be right at home in a higher-end "Jason" adventure.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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