The Last Lovecraft Film Festival?

Highlights of Friday night were three short films–catch them online or from a VOD service if you can. “Frank DanCoolo, Paranormal Drug Dealer” (8 minutes, crazy and hilarious); “AM 1200” (40 minutes, reprised from an earlier festival, but worth seeing again); and “Derailed” (French, 16 minutes, very creepy).

This was the 15th year of the HPL film fest here in Portland. The guy who founded it and has run it every year has stepped down. Someone else may take up the torch and continue the event; there is also a plan to start up a yearly HPL FF in the LA area.

The sad fact is that I’ve found the festival progressively less compelling over the past couple of years. Not that my interest in HPL and all things cosmically horrific has waned–far from it. But the menu of screenings has grown smaller and less exciting. Perhaps the festival organizer worked his way through all of the earlier and obscure films that could possibly find a place in the festival, and there’s just not enough new stuff being made.

There used to be more feature films each year than I could possibly see, as well as three to five 90-minute blocks of shorts, which were usually the most fun, innovative, and exciting things on the program.

This year the handful of feature-length films included Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, which has been shown at the festival before (it premiered there a couple of years ago); Burrowers, which has been on the Syfy Channel half a dozen times; Pan’s Labyrinth, included perhaps as a nod to Guillermo del Toro, who’s supposed to be filming At the Mountains of Madness; The Whole Wide World, which a lot of Lovecraft and Howard fans have already seen; and The Unnameable and The Unnameable II, campy fun but featured at the festival in earlier years. So . . . not so much excitement about the features. The guest list was long; the festival has included more and more panels and Q&A sessions in recent years. Others may like these, but they don’t appeal to me.

The Mall of Cthulhu is always good. Vendors and booksellers from all over peddle their wares amid a sea of black-garbed browsers. It’s fun to cruise the tables and decide that yeah, you do need that Miskatonic U. parking sticker for your car, or that that collection of essays from some small press about the greater meaning of the Cthulhu Mythos looks like suitable bathtub reading.

I’m in the middle of a deadline crunch and didn’t attend the rest of this year’s fest. But I’m glad I went for one night, both to enjoy the shorts and to be part of the crowd for what may be the final HPL FF in Portland.

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