H.P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Jun 11, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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H.P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones (Blu-ray Review)


Chad Ferrin

Release Date(s)

2024 (June 25, 2024)


Crappy World Films/Laurelwood Pictures (Dark Star Pictures/Vinegar Syndrome)
  • Film/Program Grade: D+
  • Video Grade: B
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B-

H.P. Lovecraft's the Old Ones (Blu-ray)

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Stories by H.P. Lovecraft, an author whose literary output brought forth nightmarish images of horrific entities, have often been adapted into movies, among them the Re-Animator series, The Dunwich Horror, The Shuttered Room, Color Out of Space, and Die, Monster, Die! The low-budget H.P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones takes its turn conjuring Lovecraftian monsters and offering graphic scenes of gore.

An animated credits sequence shows chanting, robed cultists on a high cliff throwing a body into the ocean. Soon, Dan (Scott Vogel, Night Caller) and his son Gideon (Benjamin Philip) on a fishing trip snag a body they believe to be a corpse. But he’s not dead. His name is Russell Marsh (Robert Miano, Donnie Brasco) and his last recollection is that he was stabbed to death and tossed into the sea. He claims to have been the captain of the Chase, a ship that sank in 1930, after he witnessed a mysterious light and became possessed by the Old Ones.

Skeptical of his tale and thinking he’s insane, father and son get a shock when a monster appears out of nowhere. The creature kills Dan, leaving Gideon no choice but to cope with Captain Marsh. The apparently crazy captain has a plan to bend time and undo his past actions, a side benefit being that the attack on Dan would never have occurred. Motivated by the desire to have his father back alive, Gideon becomes Marsh’s companion on an excursion into the supernatural. But the Old Ones lurk everywhere and will stop at nothing to prevent the duo from altering the past.

Writer/producer/director Chad Ferrin starts with characters and themes from Lovecraft’s works and combines them into an original story. The director piles on a plethora of grotesque creatures to enhance the terror factor, but the masks and costumes are strictly bargain basement and look like repurposed costumes from early Roger Corman movies. One costume in particular looks like a Saturday Night Live parody of the Creature from the Black Lagoon—a hashed-together, dopey-looking, big-headed, lumbering thing more suitable for trick-or-treating than a horror flick.

Another major problem is that Ferrin stuffs too much into an 84-minute film, and no scene—except the discovery of the body—is fully developed. The director has cherry-picked the juicy elements of Lovecraft and the result is merely a hodgepodge of weirdness. Exposition is left primarily to Captain Marsh as he explains what’s going on to Gideon (and the viewer). With the sub-par costumes and even shoddier special effects, there’s virtually no real horror and a near absence of the creepiness factor. Ferrin abandons the scenes that call out for a build-up of suspense before they can engender much tension.

Miano, the lead actor, is game to forge ahead with this ludicrous tale and tries his best to invest it with gravitas, but his performance is terribly uneven. Going from fits of temper to level-headed decision making without transition makes him look and sound crazy. Is that the point? I don’t know. In any case, his performance is spirited though inconsistent, and his willingness to be immersed in and dragged repeatedly from a muddy river is commendable.

Benjamin Philip, in his screen debut as Gideon, is hampered by an underwritten role and inadequate direction. His reaction to the death of his character’s father is so matter-of-fact that he seems merely annoyed by the inconvenience. The dialogue tells us Gideon formed a stronger bond with his dad after the death of his mother, so his non-emotional response to sudden death—of anyone, but especially his father—completely strains credibility. In other scenes, he never seems connected to the action.

Rico E. Anderson, as the netherworld demon Nyarlathotep, is fun to watch playing a role in which there’s no such thing as “too much.” He bellows, rants, and pontificates as his chest opens up like a maw with teeth-like claws inviting Marsh and Gideon to enter. This is an actor totally into his role. It’s just a shame he’s not in a better picture.

The Old Ones is needlessly complex. Ferrin might have been more successful making an original horror film had he not had to worry about using Lovecraft as a basis. My guess is that Lovecraft’s name was intended to get the attention of horror fans. A scene of full frontal female nudity is hardly essential and might similarly have been included to attract notice and lend an air of edginess. Despite these efforts, the film is, unfortunately, a disappointment.

H.P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones was captured by director of photography Jeff Billings digitally with Red Komodo cameras and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Clarity and contrast are good, with most scenes shot outdoors with overcast skies, adding to the film’s atmosphere. Details are well-delineated in monster costumes (perhaps too sharp, making them look phony), ripples in the water, bloody effects, and Dan and Gideon’s camp site. Color palette tends toward darker tones except for the bright red robe worn by the demon Nyarlathotep. Camera work is basic, with most scenes shot at chest level. A number of scenes are shot with a steadicam, likely to speed up filming and save time setting up separate shots. There’s an occasional optical effect in which characters appear to dissolve into nothingness.

There are 3 soundtrack options: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; English 5.1 Dolby Digital; and English 2.0 Dolby Stereo. English subtitles are an available option. Dialogue is clear and distinct. The musical score by Richard Band is quite good and adds enormous atmosphere to a film that’s so lacking in other areas. The stereo separation truly surrounds the on-screen action and peps up sluggish scenes.

Bonus materials on the Region A Blu-ray release from Dark Star Pictures include the following:

  • Director’s Commentary
  • Behind the Scenes (18:18)
  • Effects of the Old Ones (6:07)
  • Deleted Scenes (8:46)
  • Trailer (1:40)
  • Fest Trailers (2:25)
  • Photo Gallery

Director’s Commentary – Director Chad Ferrin notes that the Old Ones is a sequel to 2020’s The Deep One. Ferrin worked with essentially the same crew on both films. The original setting of the Old Ones was a fishing boat, but it proved impossible to rent a boat on a limited budget, so the setting was changed to the secluded wooded area and stream in Simi Valley, California. Three days were spent filming in the woods, with rain making things “a little mucky.” Ferrin cast Benjamin Philip because he had good chemistry with Robert Miano. Only one or two takes were made for each shot, so special effects had to look right immediately. There are touches of humor in the film that clicked with an early screening audience. The way an actor delivers a line can give dialogue and the overall film a different tone from what was intended. The film’s budget was $100,000 and its shooting schedule was ten days, so both speed and economy were vital. Ferrin checked musical material that was in the public domain in order to save money for the rights to copyrighted material. Ferrin wonders why the Old Ones was not chosen to be shown at an H.P. Lovecraft film festival. Since the film already had a distribution deal, not being shown at the festival didn’t hurt the film. The underwater scenes, shot in a swimming pool, took a long time and the actual on-screen footage was just a few seconds. Ferrin talks about the film in a stream-of-consciousness manner, meandering from one topic to the next, often with long pauses. More details about problems of filming, anecdotes about the actors, and pre- and post-production stories would have enlivened the commentary and made it more informative.

Behind the Scenes – Several cast and crew members are shown filming scenes from the Old Ones. Special effects artists are shown creating the masks and visual effects. The shoot is documented day by day, with rain slowing filming. A historical Victorian mansion—the Harris House in Glendale—was one of the film’s locations and was chosen because the place is filled with antiques and unusual items, giving it a creepy vibe.

Effects of the Old Ones – Clay models—the basis for the masks used in the film—are shown in various stages. Several still photos of the creative process illustrate the artistry and care involved in making movie monsters and staging gruesome special effects. In behind-the-scenes footage, the effects team demonstrate how their creations work and explain how they will take on a life of their own on film.

Deleted Scenes – Scenes that would slow the pace of the film and others that were deemed unnecessary or repetitive are shown.

Fest Trailers – Three separate trailers used to promote the Old Ones at film festivals are shown back to back.

Photo Gallery – Several production and behind-the-scenes color stills are presented without explanatory narration and show in-front-of and behind-the-camera moments during the making of the Old Ones.

At its heart, H.P. Lovecraft’s the Old Ones is a road movie, as Marsh and Gideon set out together to alter the past. Because their ages are so diverse, the film takes on a father/son vibe, especially since Gideon has lost his actual father. But the film is so immersed in gobbledygook explanations and hampered by budget limitations that it never lives up to its potential.

- Dennis Seuling