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“CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU” (Movie Review)

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You could make a drinking game out of all the in-jokes and throwaway references to H.P. Lovecraft in CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU (making its New York premiere this Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse)—but this is one campy horror flick that doesn’t require being drunk to enjoy it.

The most ambitious feature yet from up-and-coming Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina (who also wrote and produced with Jimmy George, and did the score as well), CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU finds all sorts of sexy, splattery, silly ways to riff on the eldritch author while still bearing an underlying reverence. It’s an unabashed, full-throttle exploitation film, yet one that it’s easy to imagine Lovecraft himself getting a good giggle out of.

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LaMartina frames the film with a police interrogation, which isn’t really necessary as the story proper wastes little time in getting down to business. In a world where even the Chinese restaurants and air fresheners have names derived from HPL lives Carter Wilcox (David Phillip Carollo), a young artist whose life is so pathetic that he’s reduced to fetching rubbers for his roommate, Goth musician Erica (Nicolette Le Faye). In between wanking to on-line sex bomb Missy Katonixx (Stephanie Anders), Carter becomes besotted with cynical escort Riley Whatley (Melissa O’Brien), who has a cephalopodal birthmark on her butt. That also makes her an object of desire of the sinister Sebastian Suydum (Dave Gamble) of the Church of Starry Wisdom, who is murdering his way through the local call-girl population to find the destined bride of Cthulhu. At the same time, professor Edna Curwen (Helenmary Ball), assisted by bad-ass Squid (Sabrina Taylor-Smith) and a couple of lesbians who can’t keep their hands off each other, tries to wrest a Necronomicon from Sebastian’s clutches to prevent him from unleashing a Lovecraftian hell on Earth.

All of these characters and more are swiftly introduced in the first act, and CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU keeps up a merry pace as they collide and commingle, assorted secondary players (including Baltimore fringe-cinema veteran George Stover) turn up in odd places and LaMartina bridges the scenes with a remarkably varied and sustained series of visual-pun transitions. He and his collaborators demonstrate that just because you’re going lowbrow doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about it, and there’s a cleverness amidst the blood, breasts and bodily fluids that a lot of Hollywood slummers could learn from. And though the movie may be wall-to-wall boobs in the first half, LaMartina and George take care to actually flesh out their principal female characters in the second, particularly Erica. For all of their roles’ surface snark, O’Brien and Le Faye make for a most appealing pair of heroines, and Carollo, a last-minute casting choice who had never acted before, has the right balance of likability and naiveté to carry us through this weird tale, grounded in Carter’s search for love in all the oddest places. “There are some things man was never meant to understand,” Squid says ominously. “Yeah, I call them women,” Carter replies.

The supporting cast all attack their roles with equal verve, enthusiastically throwing themselves into situations that often see them dowsed and dripping with gore and other sticky liquids. Lovecraft may have deigned to describe his unspeakable horrors in detail, but LaMartina takes the Stuart Gordon tack of visualizing them in all their tentacled, misshapen glory; kudos to Jason M. Koch and Kaleigh Brown for creating a string of gloriously grotesque sights on a very modest budget. The entirety of CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU, in fact, bespeaks a passion for creating fun, frightful fare, financial restrictions be damned. These days, B-movies in which all the effort seems to have gone into coming up with a goofy/hybrid title are almost a cottage industry; CALL GIRL OF CTHULHU is one happy occasion where it feels like the movie came first.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor, the position he holds to this day while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews.
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