Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Necronomicon: Book of Dead – review

Director: Shûsuke Kaneko (second segment)

Release date: 1993

Contains spoilers

I was contacted by Leila to ask what I thought of the film Necronomicon – or more specifically if I thought the portmanteau film’s second segment was Vamp. Clearly, as I’m reviewing it, the answer is “yes” – though at the point of asking I hadn’t seen the film. Luckily someone had uploaded it to YouTube.

Jeffrey Combs as Lovecraft
Of course, the fact that I was asked means that it is on the unusual end of Vamp. Given the title I’m sure you can guess that this was a Lovecraft based film. The wraparound features H P Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs, Dark House) in an arcane library trying, and succeeding, in getting his hands on the Necronomicon. The book features in all three sections. Tale one is a tale of supposed resurrection and monstrous tentacled eldritchness. Tale three is a trip through hell and madness.

a journalist calls
The one we are bothered about is based on the short story by Lovecraft called Cool Air and, whilst the vampiric aspect never appeared in the original story, it is recognisably that short expanded. It begins with a reporter, Dale Porkel (Dennis Christopher, Angel), turning up at a house to question tenant Annie Osterman (Bess Meyer) about bodies found in the vicinity, strange deaths that have occurred over the years. All in all there have been 11 bodies he knows of. She invites him in and has her mother make some tea.

David Warner as Madden
The house is freezing and she wears shades. She explains that she has a rare disease that makes her susceptible to sunlight and heat. He asks about Dr Richard Madden (David Warner) , who is down on the house deeds as the owner – some eighty years previously and there is no record of his death. He pressures Annie into telling her mother’s tale or he will print and be damned.

Bess Meyer as Emily
Her mother Emily (also played by Bess Meyer) ran away to study and came to the house as there was a room to rent. She was given a room by Lena (Millie Perkins) who tells her not to disturb Dr Madden on the top floor. Emily showers and, when back in her room, notices some substance dripping from the ceiling onto her music stand. She is suddenly grabbed by Sam (Gary Graham, Universal Dead) – her abusive step-father who has tracked her down. She manages to get away but is caught on the stairs heading up and bashes her head. She is saved by Madden who asks her not to be a stranger.

mad scientist
The next night she is woken by a bloody liquid dripping on her. She goes upstairs to see Lena and Madden operating on Sam’s still living body, drilling holes in his spine. She passes out and wakes in her bed, the liquid has gone from the ceiling and she is all too willing to believe it a dream. The dream shatters, however, when she tries to get a job in the diner over the road. The owner (Curt Lowens) mentions that Madden must be over 100 and two cop patrons have photos of Sam, which they are showing around. She confronts Madden.

revitalising a rose
He has told her that he suffers from a condition but now suggests that the key is the Necronomicon (which he has in his possession), holding within its pages the means to preserving life. He clearly used that key and shows her how he can revitalise a rose with an injection (presumably of a serum). He then explains that the rose will remain intact if kept out of sunlight and further explains that, to ensure he survives, he needs spinal fluid taken from his victims. Emily isn’t too bothered, apparently, as she sleeps with him and watches him go to sleep in a refrigerating unit – however when a jealous Lena tells her that she will kill her, or Emily must kill Lena, she runs away.

She returns when she realises she is pregnant to find Lena and Madden attacking the diner owner. She tries to save him and causes a fire in the process. The heat damages Madden so badly that he starts to melt (in a visceral disintegration scene). Lena shoots Emily… The story ended it is clear that the reporter has seen through things; he realises that, although twenty years have passed, Annie is in fact Emily and must have caught the condition from Madden when they slept together (and then realises he’s been drugged). Emily admits it, saying that the shooting killed her but she stayed alive and is still pregnant. Lena, now aged, poses as "Annie's mother".

the Necronomicon
So we have immortality and youth bestowed by something – was it a scientifically created serum or a spell from the Necronomicon, the film is vague and also suggests that it is a disease passed as an STD. That state of being is then maintained by staying cold, avoiding sunlight and through spinal fluid. The spinal fluid concept is not dissimilar to the Leech Woman and Brand upon the Brain! where the vampirism involves fluids from the brain. Having died from the gunshot, Emily is apparently undead and heat/sunlight causes dissolution.

The entire film is great fun in that way that 1980/1990s Lovecraft films often are and this segment is a satisfying yarn, even if there are some vague moments in the plot. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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