The stories of H.P. Lovecraft have been notoriously difficult to translate to film. The author's work has been adapted many times ranging from a surprisingly delightful episode of The Real Ghostbusters called "The Collect Call of Cthulhu" to the appallingly bad 2006 film version of Beyond the Wall of Sleep. Movies like Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator andFrom Beyond used Lovecraft's work as a basis, but the final products have more to do with the the film maker's vision than Lovecraft's. Not that some of these films aren't entertaining, but they are far from faithful adaptations. That's why this film based onThe Call of Cthulhu is such a revelation: someone finally got it right. The movie was produced as if it had been made in 1926, the year Lovecraft's story first saw print. In the classic style of silent film, dialog is rendered with intertitles -- of which there are 26 languages to choose from -- and an orchestral score nicely sets the mood of cosmic doom. Period costumes and old school (and I mean old school) film making techniques create a world that is so far removed from our own that the nightmares within seem all the more possible.
The main character/narrator is never given a name (he's called "The Man" in the closing credits), and the film opens with him begging his doctor to burn both his research and that of his great uncle. Years earlier, the narrator had come across a locked box containing his great uncle's work, which included several interviews with an artist named Henry Wilcox who related a series of bizarre dreams. In these dreams the young man is wandering through a strange Caligari-esque city with structures built on impossible angles, and something is calling to him. After one of these increasingly maddening dreams, Wilcox creates a clay tablet with inscriptions in an unidentifiable language, and an image of a hideous tentacle-faced beast. He eventually falls into a fevered delirium, and when he awakens has no memory of the strange dreams.