To paraphrase Tony Anthony in BLINDMAN; being an H.P. Lovecraft fan ain’t easy. Being a Lovecraft fan and a movie fan? Well that’s a bitch!
Everybody has their favorite Lovecraft stories and one of mine is “Cool Air”. I think it’s a story that, however brief, is not only creepy and atmospheric as it stands, but provides a great premise for a movie or short film. It’s a great idea, but it also doesn’t feature the “unfilmable” elements of many of his other stories. This one is about people, one of whom has a horrible secret. You can read the story in its entirety here.
ROD SERLING'S NIGHT GALLERY: COOL AIR (1971)
“Steve?” “Steve?” “Steve!” “Steve?”
“Bob?” “Bob?” “Bob!” “Bob?”
In 1981 Lucio Fulci finished off his quadrilogy of E.A. Poe and H.P. Lovecraft inspired films with THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. Out of the four films that included THE BEYOND (1981) and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980), Fulci wisely avoiding any direct adaptation of Poe or Lovecraft with the exception of THE BLACK CAT (1981) which is loosely based on the Poe story. If you do a direct adaptation, you open yourself up to a hail of negative criticism because it wasn’t done exactly the way each individual reader imagined it would when reading the story. Instead, if you do not point fingers at your literary sources, you gain praise for being influenced by great authors. Whether this was a conscious decision on Fulci’s part is debatable, but it made for some classic exploitation filmmaking. Seeming to start life as a modern reworking of Mary Shelly's “Frankenstein,” a plan perhaps scuttled by flaky backers, the finished film, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, is a gothic, very loose adaptation of “Cool Air”.
Bryan Yuzna made his name by producing Stuart Gordon’s seminal onslaught of black humor and bloody carnage RE-ANIMATOR (1985), something that both of them have been trying to cash-in on ever since (RE-ANIMATOR the musical? Ummmm… yeah).
In a weird twist, writers Kazunori Ito and Brent V. Friedman (who is also credited with writing Dan O’Bannon’s superlative 1992 Lovecraft film THE RESURRECTED) decide to remake Rod Serling’s take on the story with a female protagonist who is romantically involved with Dr. Munoz (David Warner). It’s basically a NIGHT GALLERY remake with RE-ANIMATOR sensibility. Again told in flashback by the female lead, the story tells of a teenage girl, Emily, who has run away from her drunken mother and sexually abusive step-father, answering the ad for a room to rent in an old Victorian. Once there the landlady (who turns out to be Munoz’s assistant) tells Emily of the elusive Munoz and his strange condition.
I guess it should be noted that the other two stories and the wrap-around segment are not actually based on any Lovecraft stories at all. The final one, WHISPERS, about two police officers following a serial killer and discovering subterranean aliens, is actually a reasonable facsimile of Clive Barker's short story “The Midnight Meat Train”.
A Contrast in Cool... Next!