Saturday, March 25, 2017

BUFF ’17: An Eldritch Place (short)

Which is scarier, the Lovecraftian Dreamlands or the Paris suburbs? An immigrant security guard will have a chance to compare and contrast in Julien Jauniaux’s short film An Eldritch Place (trailer here), which screens tonight during the 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival.

A reputable scientist should never look as haggard and stressed out as Francis Wayland. Even though his apartment complex is in the city outskirts, it is still considered a reasonably quiet neighborhood, so he really shouldn’t be so concerned about security. However, he has some rather specialized gear in his garage and a malfunctioning door. Frankly, it sounds like a dull but easy temp job to Abdel Alhazred, who is perfectly willing to accept.

Of course, it will be more complicated than he anticipates. First, a catty neighbor tells him malicious gossip about the disappearance of Wayland’s wife. Then he starts to hear strange noises over the walkie-talkie—real strange. When he investigates, Wayland is nowhere to be found, but the scene he left behind is decidedly ominous. Yes, there are references to Cthulhu and the Dreamlands.

Eldritch is one of at least two impressively produced Lovecraftian short films at this year’s BUFF, but its tone is radically different from Nick Spooner’s The Call of Charlie. Jauniaux’s film is thoroughly eerie and loaded with foreboding. Frankly, he makes the earthly glass and concrete housing complex just as spooky as the realm of the Elder Gods, if not more so. Yet, the eldritch dimension looks surprisingly real, but still appropriately malevolent.

As Wayland, Ludovic Philips follows in the tradition of Jeffrey Combs’ Dr. Herbert West, creating another creepy Lovecraft-associated mad doctor. Thanks to cinematographer Elodie Drion, it all looks stylishly sinister, while sound designer Jeremy Bocquet and composer Sarah Bloom further underscore the unsettling vibe, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of vintage John Carpenter. It is a terrific horror short that proves the Lovecraftian themes and motifs are still yielding rich new interpretations. Highly recommended for genre fans, An Eldritch Place screens tonight (3/25) as part of BUFF ’17.