H.P. Lovecraft created a rich mythology for the horror genre with his unique cosmic take on the genre. Plenty have drawn from that mythology over time, both in print and on the big screen, but it’s unlikely that anyone could foresee the kid-friendly take on Lovecraft that is on display in Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom.
This computer animated film, adapted from the Bruce Brown/Renzo Podesta graphic novel by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, proposes an alternative life story for the famous author. Young Howard (voiced by Kiefer O’Reilly) lives a gloomy existence, complete with a writer dad who is in an asylum. However, he discovers dad isn’t so crazy after all when accidentally uses the magic tome The Necronomican to travel to a fantasy world dominated by Lovecraftian creatures. In short order, he finds himself with a pet Cthulhu he calls “Spot” and finds himself dealing with mysterious figures like Algid Bunk (Jane Curtin) and Shoggoth (Ron Perlman).
In other words, Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom essentially grafts the Lovecraftian mythos onto a familiar “kid-grows-into-magical-hero” plotline familiar to readers of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series. O’Reilly and Brown have done their homework on Lovecraft lore and there’s a bit of amusement in seeing such things deployed in wholesome kiddie entertainment. There’s also some inspired voice work from Curtain, who creates menace with style and subtlety here, and a two-scene voice cameo from Christopher Plummer.
That said, the story is utterly predictable from start to finish and cloying in spots. Lovecraft fans are likely to be annoyed by how it waters down its inspiration and family film enthusiasts might find this a little too dark and creepy for their kids, even with the concessions. More importantly, Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom suffers from weak, cheaply done computer animation that lacks the kinetic excitement or visual grandeur that Lovecraftian flights of fancy require. The animation often looks like the cut scenes from a video game, particularly when things are moving around fast.
In short, Howard Lovecraft And The Frozen Kingdom is more of a curiosity piece than a successful attempt to translate Lovecraft into kid fare. It’s apparently the first part of a trilogy so hopefully the filmmakers will learn to make their work a little more challenging and better-animated in future installments.
Blu-Ray Notes: Shout! Factory is releasing this title on September 27th as a blu-ray/DVD combo set. The transfer offers a pristine, detailed representation of the computer animated imagery and there are 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo mixes that make good use of the film’s rousing musical score.
In terms of extras, O’Reilly contributes a commentary track that goes into detail about doing CG animation on the cheap, offers tributes to his collaborators and reveals the plan for a Howard Lovecraft trilogy. There is also a quick making-of piece (3:36) that features O’Reilly on camera as well as some snippets of footage from the voice recording sessions. A trailer rounds things out.