H.P. Lovecraft’s The Old Ones Review: A Bloody Cthulhu Mythos Delight

I have to admit, when I first heard about H.P. Lovecraft’s The Old Ones, I was incredibly intrigued by the premise. A grizzled sea captain, possessed for over nine decades by one of the ancient cosmic entities from Lovecraft’s famous Cthulhu mythos, is finally freed from its control in the modern day. Haunted by the unspeakable acts he was forced to commit under the Old One’s influence, the captain becomes obsessed with finding a way to bend the laws of space and time itself to go back and undo the horrors he wrought upon the world.

It’s a wildly ambitious setup that immediately grabbed my attention. The idea of this man being inhabited against his will for almost a century by such an evil, otherworldly force is chilling enough. But to then make his singular mission a quest to rewrite the past itself through cosmic powers? That’s reaching into some seriously mind-bending Lovecraftian territory. I was hooked from the start by such an audacious premise.

The film doesn’t waste any time either. Within the first few minutes, we meet the newly-freed Captain Russel Marsh (played by a grizzled and intense Robert Miano) as his waterlogged body washes ashore in modern-day California. He’s quickly discovered by a local father and his young son Gideon, setting into motion a twisted partnership that will propel the bulk of the story. When the father meets a grotesquely gory demise at the tentacles of one of the Old Ones’ minions, Marsh promises the traumatized Gideon that he can reverse this if they stop the cult’s plans.

From this instantly compelling start, the film charges ahead at a breakneck pace. Clearly director Chad Ferrin, a clear devotee of Lovecraft’s work, wasn’t interested in wasting time with excessive setup. The threat is established, the stakes are sky-high, and we’re plunged headfirst into a cosmic horror tale quite unlike any other Lovecraft adaptation I’ve seen.

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Let’s Review H. P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones

With that killer premise hooked firmly in place, The Old Ones doesn’t let up for a second. Ferrin’s direction is relentless, propelling the cosmic horror forward with an almost frantic intensity. He skilfully melds together elements from Lovecraft’s most iconic works like The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Call of Cthulhu into one cohesive, time-bending narrative.

Yet while beholden to the source material, Ferrin puts his own stamp on the material too. The entire film takes place not in Lovecraft’s typical New England setting, but against the unlikely backdrop of modern-day California. Through clever visual trickery like shadowy color grading, the bright sunshine state is transformed into a suitably bleak and foreboding landscape befitting an Eldritch horror tale.

This unexpected setting is one of many inspired creative choices that make The Old Ones stand apart from other Lovecraft adaptations. Ferrin has crafted a story that feels both reverential to the acclaimed author’s work while bringing some bold new ideas and aesthetics to the table. It’s clear this is a deeply passionate project made by someone intimately familiar with the source material.

That passion shines through most vividly in the film’s incredible creature designs and practical effects. From the grotesquely detailed Deep One masks to the slithering, multi-tentacled beasts, every monster on display is a glorious practical creation. The effects team has masterfully brought the indescribable horrors from Lovecraft’s imagination to life in the most viscerally unsettling ways possible.

And boy, are those effects used to full bloody effect too! Make no mistake, The Old Ones definitely earns its splatter film categorization. While not constant, the sporadic bursts of hyper-gory violence really pack a visceral punch. Ferrin doesn’t hold back on the red stuff, delivering some of the most gut-churningly glorious practical gore I’ve seen in years. For fans of extreme horror, it’s a real treat.

H. P. Lovecraft's the Old Ones

But The Old Ones is much more than just an exercise in splatter-filled creature effects. At its core, this is a character-driven cosmic horror anchored by some fantastic performances. Robert Miano completely inhabits the tormented soul of Captain Marsh, delivering a gritty and world-weary portrayal that sells every anguished moment. You can’t help but get invested in his desperate quest for redemption.

His unlikely partnership with young Benjamin Philip as Gideon provides the emotional heartbeat. Despite being thrown into unfathomable terror after his father’s death, Gideon remains steadfastly loyal to Marsh’s mission. The two share an engrossing mentor/protege dynamic, giving real stakes to their cosmic struggle beyond just battling tentacled monstrosities.

It’s this adept balance of character work and full-tilt horror spectacle that makes The Old Ones such a wildly entertaining ride. Chad Ferrin has crafted a loving tribute to Lovecraft’s most iconic creations while putting his own unique stamp on the material. From the fresh California setting to the jaw-dropping creature effects, this feels like the work of a true fan who simply wanted to put his own spin on the genre he adores.

Is it a perfect film? Of course not. There are moments where the frenzied pacing doesn’t quite gel, and some of the supporting performances are a bit hammy. But in the end, those are minor quibbles in what is otherwise a full-throttle cosmic horror experience.

For diehard Lovecraft fans and splatter aficionados, The Old Ones delivers demented practical thrills in spades. I had an absolute blast getting swept up in its deliriously unhinged tale of time-bending terrors. This is cult horror done right.

H. P. Lovecraft's the Old Ones