My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.

This week focuses on two TV movies made about the Lovecraft detective character.



Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I barely knew this film existed. And I certainly didn’t know it would be a fun, inventive gem from the early 90s.

CAST A DEADLY SPELL, one of two TV ventures that features detective Lovecraft, charmed the hell out of me with its noir vibes, crazy creatures, and comedic tone. One reason the movie works is that it’s not constantly winking at the camera, showing off what it’s done. The characters own the world they’re in completely instead of constantly reminding us how different and fantastical this alternate Los Angeles is. The world is a blast to be in and the whole time I kept thinking, “I wish they’d made a bunch of these movies just to explore the universe more.”

Sadly, they only made one more (thoughts on that soon) and it didn’t feature Fred Ward. He brought something to his roles that is entirely unique. Sometimes it worked (here) and sometimes it didn’t. But I can’t think of another performer like him.

Watched on YouTube.



Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I probably would have enjoyed Paul Schrader’s take on the Lovecraft detective character more if I hadn’t seen CAST A DEADLY SPELL first. In comparison, this sequel just isn’t fun enough to measure up.

That’s my main complaint about WITCH HUNT. Following the whacky yet sincere first film, Schrader crafts a slick, clean 50s detective mystery that has only slight touches of the first movie’s eccentricities. There are no little monsters, crazy EVIL DEAD-like demon fights, and even the magic is regulated to a few moments throughout the picture. Again, as a standalone film, that might have worked but as a follow up to the crazy SPELL, it feels lacking.

I do like the look of Schrader’s picture, taking the alternative Noir/magic L.A. into a 50s technicolor direction with a new take on detective Lovecraft from Dennis Hopper. It takes a minute to adjust to the actor, who doesn’t have a hillbilly charm of Fred Ward, but eventually I settled in and enjoyed his Lovecraft’s no-nonsense, cerebral investigator. Julian Sands and Penelope Ann Miller are other standouts in the cast.

Again, WITCH HUNT’s greatest sin is that it just doesn’t have enough fun. I wish they’d made more movies in this series, perhaps having a different actor/director pairing each time.

Watched on YouTube