Originally Published September 11, 2015 for rue-morgue.com
“You can bet that prying strangers ain’t welcome around Innsmouth. I’ve heard personally of more’n one business or government man that’s disappeared there…”
H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth
When one thinks of the works of H.P. Lovecraft, “erotica” and “full-frontal” aren’t the first words that spring immediately to mind. Despite Lovecraft’s fabled aversion (and apparent squeamishness) to humanity’s most basic of instincts, sex and nudity have long been front-and-center in cinematic adaptations of his stories, especially in Stuart Gordon’s now classic triad of RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DAGON.
You can now add Izzy Lee’s INNSMOUTH to the list of films that put the “Love” in “Lovecraft”.
Lee has been making waves on the festival circuit with her brand of transgressive and politically-charged short films for some time now. Tackling such issues as the religious right (PICKET) and the battle over female reproductive rights (LEGITIMATE), Lee’s horror is filtered through a definitive (and unabashedly so) feminist perspective, something that makes INNSMOUTH’s take on Lovecraft’s mythos that much more subversive.
The plot is pulp-simplicity: Homicide Detective Olmstead (Diana Porter) is investigating a mysterious and gruesome homicide in Arkham, a case that will take her to the nearby coastal town of Innsmouth. It isn’t long before Olmstead finds herself on the receiving end of the town’s fabled “hospitality” for outsiders, and the attention of town matriarch, Alice Marsh (Tristan Risk).
At ten minutes long, there’s not much more that can be said without spoiling its surprises – and rest assured, they’re there. What can be said is that it’s a rebellious and erotic take on Lovecraft’s fabled coastal town. Faithful to its history, yet unconventional in every other way. The female protagonist, lesbian erotica and hints of Marsh’s ambisexual proclivities are as far removed from Lovercraft’s sexless and somewhat misogynist prose as can be, but the mood keeps it tethered to its literary roots.
And in what will come as no surprise to anyone, Tristan Risk owns this. While her screen time is minimal, she makes every second that she’s onscreen hers for the taking. She has seductive evil down pat – vampy, but not campy. More importantly, though, the girl is fearless. In keeping with the “no spoilers” vibe, Risk cements her reputation as one of horror’s bravest, giving us a 100% NSFW moment that serves as the film’s climax and confirmation that she’s well ahead of her onscreen contemporaries in destroying boundaries.
INNSMOUTH does exactly what the best of short films should do: teases at a much bigger picture waiting in the wings and leaves you wanting more.
INNSMOUTH will be screened at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland on the weekend of Oct 2 – 4, with other screenings lined up for festivals and conventions going into 2016. Check out Nihil Noctem’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates as they become available.