Movie Review: Satanism finds a home at “H.P. Lovecraft’s Witch House”

The acting is underwhelming, the sound is tinny and off-mike and the script isn’t the least bit subtle about shoving exploitive nudity and lesbian sex into the lurid Lovecraft thriller, “H.P. Lovecraft’s Witch House.”

So, amateurish? Hell yes.

But the ambition is here, and director and co-scripter Bobby Easley’s efforts to weave gloomy collages and montages of superimposed horror imagery — extreme close-ups of underlit rituals and nightmares and Satan showing off his horns as nude cultists cavort by the bonfire — almost atone for some of the worst sins of this non-quite-laughable trip to Lovecraft Country.

Lovecraft aficionados will know the story (“The Dreams of the Witch-House”), the ancient witch-villain Keziah Mason, the bizarre occult riff on academia, Miskatonic University, and the themes of the “Cthulhu Mythos” — the symbolic ancient geometry of inter-dimensional travel, “the witch’s curve” and Stonehenge and Nazi “magic castles” and what not.

It’s the execution of it all that really lets the picture down.

Portia Chellelynn plays Alice, a student-older-than-average who flees a friend’s apartment, her refuge after escaping an abusive relationship that ended in a beating that caused a miscarriage. Her new hide out, Hannah House, is a remote old mansion recommended by her Miskatonic professor and mentor (John Johnson).

In a huge, rambling brick house with many rooms, the frightening owner (Andrea Collins) tucks Alice in the unfinished attic.

“I need to be here. I can feel it!”

There’s just that owner, her creeper alcoholic old Jesus freak brother (Joe Padgett) and her too-welcoming walking-tattoo niece Tommi (Julie Anne Prescott) sharing the place.

What’s spooky about that?

Well, the rats, for starters. The loose floorboard hiding a long-rolled-up black magic altar cloth, creepy paintings of this former servant named Keziah and weird stuff happening in the woods out back are kind of red flags, too.

Alice doesn’t have dreams, she has nightmares. And the fact that infants and children are being abducted all around town should give her another clue.

Gratuitous nudity and supernatural perils encountered while the star’s in her underwear aside, this is a seriously silly movie. Its a high school dropout’s idea of what college is like, right down to the professor and his unmistakable Harley mechanic beard and grasp of Lovecraftian academics.

There’s a whiff of the whole “people who take Lovecraft WAY too seriously” about it, especially in the QAnon U. scenes.

Still, Easley manages some striking if murky and so dimly-lit you can’t follow the action ritual sequences. I could see that footage recycled in nightmare sequences of better films, with better acting and better sound, etc.

Rating: unrated, violence, sex, nudity

Cast: Portia Chellelynn, Julie Anne Prescott, John Johnson, Erin Trimble and Andrea Collins

Credits: Directed by Bobby Easley, scripted by Bobby Easley and Ken Wallace, based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dreams of the Witch-House.” A Horror Wasteland release.

Running time: 1:20

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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