Movie Review: Lovecraft’s “The Deep Ones” done on the cheap

If you’ve ever made a movie titled “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet” you get to label yourself “a cult director.” It’s the law.

Sure, it’s a way of finessing the fact that virtually nobody saw that, or “Parasite” or “The Chair.” But a niche is a niche, and let’s not get hung up on how Chad Ferrin describes himself. Because Ferrin has taken his shot at…bomm bomm BOMM…H.P. Lovecraft!

The writer whose name is incantatory to horror filmmaker fans such as Jordan Peele (“Lovecraft Country”) and Roger Corman (“The Haunted Palace”) and legions of lesser lights, Lovecraft’s tentacled, reptilian monsters of the sea who love mating with humans and infiltrating humanity provide the foundation for “The Deep Ones.”

If that isn’t the definition of “instant cult film,” the definition needs to be re-written. Forget that it’s barely creepy enough to merit the adjective, that it’s as odd and goofy as most Lovecraft adaptations that aren’t titled “Color Out of Space,” and embrace it for what it is and maybe you won’t cringe.

Making a drinking game out of “Deep Ones” might help.

It’s a modest-budget California-set thriller that may give veteran Hollywood watchers a start. Why, here’s “Cindy” (Kelli Maroney) from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and there’s this or that star from a long running soap opera, back when they were a thing.

Hell, here’s 80something Nicolas Coster, who’s done so many soaps, TV series and movies, from “All the President’s Men” to “The Facts of Life” to “Santa Barbara” and “The Bay” that he’s one of the most recognizable character actors in big or small screen history.

Our “unsuspecting couple” (Gina La Piana, Jonathan Urb) have rented an AirBnB on the beach at the Solar Beach Colony. Their hosts are somewhat weirder and only slightly more underfoot than your average rent-my-house-to-strangers types.

Russell (Robert Miano, a mugger in the original “Death Wish”) and Ingrid (Silvia Spross of “The Two Pamelas”) are pregnant and rapturous as they sing the praises of “the colony,” which makes its own wine and has other self-sufficient touches.

But the wine is drugged, and it allows them to get the Finnish Petri (Urb) away from Alex so that he can “look into the light” and see what Russell wants him to see, under hypnosis. It’s the light of the Cthulhu Mythos, and next thing we know, tentacles are crawling out from Ingrid’s uterus and down Petri’s throat.

Alex suspects something is up, what with the local law enforcer not knowing her “Andy Griffith Show” reference and the crazy lady (Maroney) who urges her to “run away.”

A visit by pal Deb (Jackie Debatin) seems to confirm Alex’s fears from the “house call” she gets from the transgender doc (Timothy Muskatell) and vibe Russell gives off, with his “an old world is dying and a new one is about to be born” prophesies.

Deb checks out “the weirdos,” notes “I’ve been to Burning Man twice” and she’s never seen the likes of this colony’s freak-show.

And we get glimpses of monsters, the nightmares of our “unsuspecting couple,” and struggle to lose ourselves in the loopy, druggy and dopey “universe” this claptrap is anchored in.

The opening credits float over a dark, silent-movie homage introduction to this world of cowled capes, cults and blood rituals. Ferrin shoots a lot of this in dreamy, diffuse extreme closeups — but not nearly enough. Just eyeballing the variations of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” costumes is enough to break the “spell” and send one into giggling fits.

But that’s a cult film for you. If only the unintentional laughs, and the intentional ones, added up to something more than a vaguely canonical Lovecraft spoof.

MPA Rating: unrated, violence, sex, lots of nudity

Cast:  Gina La Piana, Robert Miano, Johann Urb, Silvia Spross, Jackie Debatin, Timothy Muskatell and Nicolas Coster

Credits: Scripted and directed by Chad Ferrin, based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. A 123 Go release.

Running time: 1:22

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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